Sunday, June 23, 2013

Another Obama waste of taxpayer money and his Democrat cronies

Dem council hopeful Micah Kellner scored on taxi lobbying

The federal stimulus helped at least one person keep his job — Assemblyman Micah Kellner.
The Miami-based Vehicle Production Group (VPG), with manufacturing operations in Michigan, received a $50 million federal loan as part of President Obama’s stimulus package. The company then donated more than $22,000 to Upper East Side lawmaker Kellner for the right to be an approved manufacturer of handicap-accessible taxis.
Kellner — a Democrat running for the City Council seat being vacated by Jessica Lappin — fiercely challenged the city’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” Nissan NV200 for its lack of accessibility.
CAB TAB: The wheelchair-accessible MV-1 taxi (above), which Assemblyman Micah Kellner (below) promoted, was a costly failure.
Laura Cavanaugh
CAB TAB: The wheelchair-accessible MV-1 taxi (above), which Assemblyman Micah Kellner (below) promoted, was a costly failure.
David McGlynn
Separately, he talked up VPG’s MV-1 at a Taxi & Limousine Commission hearing in October 2011.
“What really puts this vehicle over the top is the fact that riders in wheelchairs will no longer be forced to sit in the trunk of a cab like second-class citizens,” Kellner, who has cerebral palsy, testified.
“The MV-1 gives them the unique experience of being able to ride shotgun and get the same view of the Big Apple as their able-bodied friends,” he said.
A month and a half later, the TLC approved Kellner’s VPG pick as an approved model for the city’s medallion owners.
But the cab, which could be outfitted to run on natural gas, was prohibitively expensive compared to other vehicles. One cabby in the city who owns the spacious ride spent $56,000 on a natural-gas model — $13,000 more than the Bloomberg-approved Nissan hybrid.
Kellner shrugged at those financial concerns at the TLC hearing. “Gov. Cuomo has indicated that he will sign my taxi tax credit, which gives owners a $10,000 tax rebate as an incentive to purchase wheelchair-accessible vehicles like the MV-1,” Kellner said.
On Jan. 3, 2012, Kellner’s bill became law.
Both before and after his glistening endorsement, Kellner received $22,800 in donations from VPG, its co-founder Marc D. Klein and board chairman Fred Drasner, records show. Drasner also donated $2,750 to Keller’s council campaign.
VPG also sank $90,000 into Dan Klores Communications for lobbying efforts between November 2011 and April 2012, records show. And in April 2012, the p.r. firm hired Kellner’s wife, a former chief of staff to Anthony Weiner, as a vice president of governmental affairs.
Then, after spending money to promote their vans, VPG stopped producing them. The company fired its employees in Michigan when it could no longer meet payroll — and last month the Department of Energy seized $5 million it had in a bank account.
The stimulus loan to VPG had been criticized because of other failed clean-energy loans. It also faced scrutiny after published reports alleged Obama fund-raiser Jack Johnson had business ties to the group.
“Assemblyman Kellner has always favored a 100 percent accessible taxi fleet in New York City. That’s why he’s supported and testified on behalf of every equipped manufacturer who brought an accessible vehicle for use to the TLC,” a Kellner spokesman said.
He did not respond to questions regarding VPG’s campaign donations.

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