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Panel to Port Authority: Limit Governors’ Power [AUDIO]

A panel of independent observers told a Port Authority committee on Monday that too much power lies in the hands of New Jersey and New York’s governors.

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Carol Kellerman, president of Citizens Budget Commission
Carol Kellerman, president of Citizens Budget Commission, discusses potential reform measures with Port Authority commissioners (Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)

The experts and academics were convened for a discussion of potential reform measures in light of the Bridgegate scandal and other controversial decisions.

A general consensus among the panel was that the bi-state agency’s sense of independence was getting lost in the presence of political influence.

“The Port Authority sits within the gravitational pull of two very powerful institutions — the governorships of New York and New Jersey,” Martin Robins, founding director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, told the Special Oversight Committee. “So much power resides in the governors of our states.”

It has been the governors’ duties to choose the agency’s executive director and deputy executive director, as well as the agency’s commissioners, including chair and vice chair.

Carol Kellerman, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, said the governors can also dictate any actions by their appointed commissioners.

“The governor can veto the action of any commissioner,” she said. “It takes extreme restraint for the governors not to basically be tempted to just operate the Port out of their own offices.”

Kellerman also pointed to term limits for commissioners as a possible agency reform. A few experts suggested the Port Authority has been dabbling in certain projects that don’t meet its business model.

As head of the oversight committee, Scott Rechler said “everything should be on the table” when considering changes.

“A creeping dysfunction has infiltrated the governance and organizational structure of the Port Authority,” he told the public session.

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