MTA Board Should Reject Unaffordable Expansion of MTA Police Force and Revise Debarment Regulations

     

Testimony of Reinvent Albany
Before MTA Board
Re: MTA Board Should Reject Unaffordable, Unnecessary Expansion of Police
and Revise Debarment Regulations

December 18, 2019

Good morning. I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government, including state authorities like the MTA.

First, we would like to thank Board Member Veronica Vanterpool for her independent, thoughtful service.

We continue to oppose the expansion of the MTA police force. We ask that the MTA Board reject this unaffordable and unnecessary $249M expenditure. We still have not seen facts or a coherent rationale to support using scarce transit dollars for more police, and are very concerned about the long-term budget implications, which will likely force future service cuts. Again, major felony numbers from New York City Transit show fewer crimes committee in 2019, with a 3.7% decrease over the same period, from January to November, compared to 2018. Additionally, new independent research from the Brennan Center shows that misdemeanors on the subway are also decreasing.

We are also concerned about the workforce implications of expanding the police force, and ask that the MTA board carefully examine the overtime and employee availability issues for the MTA police officers specifically. The overtime analysis the MTA paid for that was released in August by Morrison Foerster neglected to review overtime issues related to MTA police, stating that it was “functionally too different” from other agencies. However, with a 500 person expansion – nearly doubling the size of the force – this becomes a much more significant issue. As fiduciaries of the MTA, you should be concerned about the use of scarce transit dollars, given the MTA’s estimated $426M deficit by 2023, which assumes very optimistic savings from the reorganization plan.

We also would like to follow up on a letter we sent you last week with Citizens Budget Commission, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC), Riders Alliance, TransitCenter, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign opposing mandatory debarment as bad policy. We ask that the MTA Board revise the emergency regulations to no longer require mandatory debarment, but rather institute a fair process that affords the MTA staff discretion to consider the circumstances of each project and the pool of vendors able to perform the particular work.

Lastly, per the independent forensic audit, we support advanced public review of the draft capital plan and 20-year needs assessment, and again ask the MTA to release the 20-year needs assessment to the public that was used to prepare the 2020-2024 capital plan ASAP. We do not support creating a new governing body to review and approve the 20-year needs assessment, as asset management does not need to be politicized with additional bureaucracy, but rather should be an independent, fact-based, professional determination by MTA staff that is made public.

Thank you for your consideration.