WPCNR ALBANY ROUNDS. From the Governor’s Press Office. ((EDITED) December 28, 2014 update Sunday, December 28, 2014 1:10 P.M. E.S.T.:
Saturday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted the comprehensive and wholesale changes recommended by the Bi-State Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority.
However, The New York Times reported Sunday morning, the two governors vetoed the bills curtailing the governors’ powers to appoint and proposing ethics reforms, which were passed by both of the two governors’ state legislatures.
The news release that glowingly told what the governors wanted to do to create “the new Port Authority” failed to mention the governors despite their praise for the proposed reformed were going to veto the bill.
No news release of the “double veto” was forthcoming Sunday morning from the Governor’s Press Office as of early afternoon.
Instead the governors proposed their vision:
Two projects envisioned by the changes will be building a new Port Authority Bus Terminal and turning the PATH system over to a “third party operator” to increase efficiency and stop financial losses.
The governors call for the new authority to supervise regional supervision of planning: the new Authority structure will be reinstating the Port Authority’s regional leadership role by initiating a comprehensive planning effort in 2015 with a strategic vision focused on expanding and developing new regional transportation capacity
They see the new authority investing in the region’s airports in a manner that ensures that these vital facilities are equipped to serve as the gateway to the region for travelers and goods from around the world
The governors plan for the new authority to get out of the real estate business and focus on the transportation business by divesting existing real estate holdings and restricting future real estate investments to those integral to the Authority’s core transportation mission that include modernizing Port Commerce facilities to increase their efficiency and maximize the potential of the ports as the premier portal for cargo entering the United States
At its core these changes endorsed by the governors Saturday call for restructuring the agency’s overall operations, including reorganizing the leadership of the Board of Commissioners and the executive management of the Port Authority with the creation of a single Chief Executive Officer and the modification of the Chairperson’s role.
The reorganization accepted by the Governors will also return the Port Authority fully to its original mission – developing and maintaining the world’s largest transportation system and infrastructure.
The structural reorganization of the Authority will create clear lines of responsibility and accountability that start with its leadership. A single Chief Executive Officer — to be hired as expeditiously as possible based on a national search directed by the Board of Commissioners — will replace the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director.
The current Chair and Vice-Chair roles will be modified in one of two ways. Either the Chair and the Vice Chair positions will be replaced with two Co-Chairs, one recommended by each Governor, for election by the Board of Commissioners, or the chairmanship will be rotated between the two states on an annual basis.
Either approach promotes a long-term balance between the policy interests of the respective states, and present a more equitable model to the public stakeholders of the Authority. The CEO and either Co-Chairs or rotating Chair and Vice-Chair will constitute the Office of the Chair, a senior operations committee.
Organizational changes to the Agency to demand increased accountability is only part of the Special Panel’s recommendations to maintain trust with the public it serves. Governors Cuomo and Christie are embracing initiatives to increase transparency of the Port Authority’s deliberations and operations.
The recommended changes will make it easier for individuals pursuing public records under the law. The Governors continue to embrace the previously announced Freedom of Information policy, which ensures access to the Port Authority’s records under both States’ laws, and the recent practice of strictly limiting the use of executive sessions for Board deliberations and using public meetings whenever possible.
Additionally, the Port Authority has been instructed to prepare a revised Code of Conduct to drive a renewed focus on ethics and compliance throughout the agency, and the Governors are calling for the creation of a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer position to ensure the highest ethical conduct.
“In May, Governor Christie and I ordered a broad review and evaluation of the Port Authority’s structure, management, operations, and governance to find ways for the Port to better serve both states and improve as a global transportation and commerce hub,” Governor Cuomo said. “The recommendations put forward by the bi-state panel include important reforms to address the Port’s inefficient and outdated governing structure and will help bring new transparency and effectiveness to the agency as it approaches its tenth decade of service. I am pleased by the work and recommendations issued by the bi-state panel, and look forward to a new era for the Port Authority.”
“These changes reflect the need for a profound and necessary reimagining of the Port Authority governing structure, operations, and transparency in its oversight of the world’s largest transportation and commerce network,” said Governor Chris Christie. “Governor Cuomo and I have remained advocates for reform at the Port Authority and are encouraged by these recommendations from the bi-state panel.”