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My Careful, Restrained Response to Reuters' Felix Salmon, Who Thinks I'm a Carpetbagger from Westchester

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felix salmon
Felix Salmon attends 'An Evening With The Guardian' at Industria Studios in New York.
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Guardian

Old pal Felix Salmon at Reuters apparently didn’t like my piece about New York’s proposed parking meter sale:

I hate to break this to Matt, but has he seen the pricing at New York’s garages recently? Drivers would kill for the opportunity to pay $5 an hour. Matt lives in Westchester and therefore doesn’t pay New York City taxes, but he still seems to think that New York City should subsidize the cost of his jaunts in to the West Village for dinner. But even if Matt were somehow deserving of such a subsidy, which he isn’t, it’s a false economy: it might feel good to be able park for cheap, but it feels much worse to be stuck in traffic all the time. And the overwhelming majority of West Village diners manage to find a way of eating there which doesn’t involve a parking spot. Why should they subsidize Matt’s parasitical suburban lifestyle?

…A huge amount of good could be done with that $11 billion, both in the West Village and in the rest of New York. Even Matt, if he puts his mind to it, could probably think of quite a few areas where New York needs to beef up its infrastructure, both in terms of transportation and in terms of everything else…

Wow. First of all (and I’m laughing as I write this), I don’t live in the suburbs in Westchester(?), I live in Jersey City. Secondly, Felix, my friend, I wasn’t complaining about the possibility of meter rates rising. My issue is that if prices do rise, some conglomerate of private investors, and not the citizens of New York, will see the benefit. The city might get $11 billion in the deal, but if that's even a dime less than the real present value of these parking meters (to say nothing of the actual amount of revenue that will be collected over the life of this arrangement), then to me that’s bad and shortsighted public policy.

If $11 billion can do a lot of good, then I’m sure $20 billion or $25 billion – or whatever the investors buying into this deal end up calculating the real value of those meters is, and it’s surely more than $11 billion, or they wouldn’t be doing the deal in the first place – would do a lot more good.

And having not lived and paid taxes in New York for a few years now, it’s probably improper for me to make an additional patriotic objection, but here it is anyway: it kind of sucks when a politician decides to reach decades into the future to sell piles of public treasure to unaccountable private (and occasionally foreign) interests in order to solve a present-day budget problem. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my elected officials, particularly my sneering, superior, billionaire public officials, to lean toward protecting and safeguarding public property, as opposed to selling off the public's future to finance their own short-term political ends.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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