The week had its share of strange symbolism. The massive Sphere that survived 9/11 is going into mothballs in some undisclosed location for some undisclosed reason. Apparently it is just too real. It is a reminder of our collective vulnerability and our intrepid spirit. But if the survivor Sphere doesn’t “fit” the new WTC, what better proof that the new WTC doesn’t fit the people?
Michael Burke whose brother, Captain Billy Burke, lost his life in the attacks, commented in an inteview with the New York Times that the “Sphere” is not just a symbol of grief and terror, but also a monument to world peace and cooperation. “I hope they treat it with dignity and respect,” he said. “But hope is a difficult word at ground zero.”
Meanwhile, there is no shortage of wannabe symbols. The Freedom Tower may be “a symbol of our resilience” for some, but it is a symbol of our gullibility for others. To the mind’s eye the tower will be the same height as the Twin Towers, but a 408-foot spire — about fifty feet higher than the antenna on Tower One — will make it “408 feet taller than the original Twin Towers and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.” Except it won’t be.
At the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the convulsions that began with the August toll hikes continue. The guillotine has been set up to give the appearance of regime change. The Chairman of the Board said, “It’s clear that we must improve the historical financial practices of this agency and begin a new era of smart, controlled spending.”
But spending $2 million on experts to figure that out isn’t reassuring. Heads are rolling, employees pay is posted online, and the Freedom of Information policy has been liberalized — but none of those measures will transform the once impressive agency that has degenerated into a political instrument.
The only way to save it is to open its policy making executive sessions — all the other remedies are theatrical — and resistance to that is a measure of how staged the rest of the changes are. They will save some money and tighten the agency going forward, but it really still is “your father’s Oldsmobile” with a new coat of paint.
New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chairs the Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, as well as the state Democratic party, seems to be a man on a mission. Last month, New Jersey lawmakers voted themselves power to subpoena Port Authority officials — over loud protests of a “partisan sideshow.”
But whatever the motives, anything that breaks the Port Authority’s power to hide what it chooses not to disclose and gets to the bottom of the boondoggle at Ground Zero is in the public’s best interest, no matter who may be damaged by the revelations.
Why should the public care? Those who have been ripping the public off at Ground Zero didn’t give the people a thought all these years. Now that it is backfiring on them, we can’t get too disturbed. Chairman Wisniewski recently said, “Some of the individuals who have left are people the committee would have liked to hear from.”
But their departure from the agency shouldn’t be a barrier to their testimony as long as they left with publicly funded pensions.