Port Authority overhaul bill passes state assembly
Several bills that would increase revenues to municipalities and enhance accountability by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey passed the state Assembly last week.
An Assembly Democratic bill package aimed at enhancing legislative oversight and public transparency at the Port Authority.
The bills were inspired by a series of increasingly alarming news reports in recent months, which have prompted sharp criticisms about how the multi-billion dollar agency conducts its business. Concerns have been raised over overtime costs in excess of $90 million, contradicting statements about where the majority of the money raised by the agency’s September toll hike was being spent; $4 million in Christie administration patronage hires; and borderline-ridiculous levels of perks for authority members and retirees.
One bill co-sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos would push for the Port Authority to become more transparent.
“This is an agency that annually spends billions of dollars in taxpayer money,” said Ramos. “The New Jersey taxpayers and commuters who provide this funding have a right to know that their money is being spent on projects and salaries that are appropriate and fiscally sound.”
Specifically the act would create specific requirements for: an independent auditing of the Port Authority; open public meetings and the publication of minutes of the meetings of the authority’s Board of Commissioners; public hearings to be held in the port district of New York and New Jersey to discuss any proposed fee, toll, charge or fare increase; the establishment of audit, finance and governance committees; financial disclosures and training for commissioners; financial reports certified by the chair and vice-chair of the board of Commissioners of the Port Authority and the executive director, deputy executive director and chief financial officer of the authority; and the creation of a fiduciary responsibility for commissioners.
The second bill, also co-sponsored by Ramos, would require the Port Authority, a tax-exempt entity, to make payments to municipalities on properties it owns in New Jersey in the amount that would have otherwise been paid in property taxes on those properties. The bi-state agency owns properties in 15 counties in New York and New Jersey and, according to the sponsors the measure would attempt to mitigate the loss of tax revenue faced by towns where the Port Authority owns property.
“We’ve had conflicting reports about what the Port Authority has been doing with its extra revenue since raising PATH fares by almost 14.5 percent,” said Ramos, a member of the Assembly transportation panel. “Since the authority can’t seem to tell us what, if anything, the extra money is going to. It should be used to reimburse towns for their lost property tax revenue.”
Beeman, Bannon & Parrott to play Networking Café on June 2
Beeman, Bannon & Parrott will be playing music at the Networking Café, 418 Broadway, on June 2 at 7:30 p.m.
The Beeman, Bannon & Parrott band members have known each other since the Hoboken Saturday Nite folk music days. While Beeman and Bannon continuously played together as a duo and with other bands, Parrott has worked with a variety of musicians, all play a kind of jazz and folk style, as well as standards.
“My singing is featured (in a very small way) on a song written by the late pop artist Tom Wesselmann in the Artworks magazine,” Beeman said. “I recorded ‘Pictures on the Wall of Your Heart’ in 1986 with Tom Wesselmann who plays harmonica on the song which he wrote for his wife. Tom is having his first major retrospective in May at the Beaux Arts Museum in Montreal. He was a good friend of mine and it is a good country song.”
Mayor’s Office announces summer schedule
Mayor Mark A. Smith will hold evening office hours on the second Tuesday of each month, on June 12, July 10, and Aug. 14, at 5:30 p.m. Anyone unable to come maybe call Business Administrator Steve Gallo at (201) 858-6046 to make an appointment. The regular schedule of Tuesday evening office hours will resume in September.