Thursday, January 29, 2009

What the Public Hearing Taught Me

On Wednesday night, J and I attended one in a series of eight public hearings on the MTA's proposed fare hikes and service reductions. Here's a snapshot of what you missed, and here are other random things yout too could have learned in the crowded and windowless splendor of the Mariott Hotel ballroom:
1. Gratitude for your work, upon seeing the jobs of "Public Hearing Staff" charged with looking helplessly on as protesters chanted and matching the names of people called up to speak with people in the audience armed with hard-to-see yellow slips of paper.
2. Vitamins can perhaps set off metal detectors.
3. David Yassky is a great straight-man to Simcha Felder's stand-up. Example: Yassky begins a dry, to-the-point speech. Felder, quite audibly: "Hey, that's what I said. Yassky is stealing my lines!"
4. Simcha Felder is wise and hilarious. Example of advice given to J and me by the man himself: "At the end of the day, you can't say the same thing over and over. You want to have one thing that they focus on. The cameras are what's important." Example of more hilarity: At 6:00 p.m. on the dot he swapped his yarmulka for a ball cap, stood up, and started clapping and chanting, "6:00 meeting! 6:00 meeting!"
5. Marty Markowitz is also hilarious. Example: "I hear they're cutting service to the G train. [Pause.] I didn't know that was possible."
6. People with disabilities should absolutely not bear the brunt of city transportation costs, by a proposed doubling of Access-A-Ride fares (potentially up to $10 for a round-trip public transportation ride). Proportionally, more people with disabilities turned out to this hearing than any other population. As one citizen speaker said, "If you were increasing fares and cutting services this much for any other minority in the city, there would be riots." Unlike other proposed budget-saving measures, thanks to Mayor Dinkins, Mayor Bloomberg must give written permission before Access-A-Ride hikes can be implemented. As one advocate, carrying a cardboard cutout of the Mayor, asked, "Where's Mike?"
7. George Patton really IS in Brooklyn! One citizen speaker invoked the General, saying, "When times were tough during the war, Patton gassed up the trucks and said, 'Let's go.' He shortened the war by six months, maybe more." While the shout-out was welcome, the parallel is murky. I think what he's trying to say is that creative solutions are never an impossibility.
7. Queens cares! John Liu spoke just after (perhaps future Brooklyn Borough President) Bill DiBlasio. While Liu represents Flushing, it makes sense that he showed up, as Chair of the Council's Transportation Committee. Or perhaps his train was out of service.
8. The MTA Board (and around 10 of them showed up, four of them saying they had ridden public transportation) probably aren't a horrible lot. Even though they did sit very, very far away from the crowd.
9. The elusive Mr. X and the Hasidic powerhouse Isaac Abraham (one of the many people running to fill the 33rd District's Council seat had Yassky been term-limited)...have exactly nothing to say to each other. (Said J, "Their small-talk was painful.")
10. The Williamsburg Courier, represented on Wednesday by Aaron C., absolutely knows that it needs to be online!

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