Long before Bridgegate, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was known as a patronage haven, where political appointees from both states are given high-paying jobs as both a reward and to ensure that the cash-rich authority serves the interests of the governor who appointed them.

After all, conflict is inevitable and mischief is easy at a loosely organized authority controlled by two separate states.

Now, as Bridgegate has made all too clear, lawmakers in both states must address the problems in the structure and culture at the Port Authority. Both states must approve identical legislation to implement any changes.

Richard Brodsky, who served as a Democratic assemblyman in New York for almost 30 years before leaving office, told The Star-Ledger in a recent story that the Port Authority is "something of a poster child for how not to run an institution in a democracy."

Gene Russianoff, an attorney for the New York Public Interest Group, told the Newark newspaper: "The Port Authority is the ultimate in unaccountability."

And while reforms at the agency were needed before Bridgegate and will be needed no matter how Bridgegate turns out, the scandal currently surrounding Gov. Chris Christie highlights the problem.

David Wildstein, the Christie appointee with no transportation experience who ordered access lanes to the George Washington Bridge closed, was the Port Authority's "director of interstate capital projects," a post created specifically for him and a title that has been eliminated in the wake of Wildstein's resignation.

How does someone with a title of director of interstate capital projects - it doesn't sound like someone with any operational role in traffic flow - get to order lanes to be closed? Simple: The fellow who had the actual authority to close the lanes told a legislative committee he was afraid to buck Wildstein, who was known as Christie's man at the agency.

So it goes at the Port Authority.

In 2009, Brodsky successfully sponsored a law to increase transparency at the authority. Under the measure, all board members of New York authorities have an explicit obligation to serve the mission of the authority itself, not the agenda of whatever politician appointed them.

That doesn't sound like much - but it goes to the core of the problems at the Port Authority, as Bridgegate makes clear.

But while the New York law now applies to all other authorities in that state, it does not apply to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - because the Garden State has not approved an identical measure. Brodsky told The Star-Ledger that Christie's office stopped returning his calls when he was lobbying for support of the bill.

But whether it's that measure or a more top-to-bottom restructuring of the Port Authority, the truth about the bi-state agency has now been laid bare. And the people of both states should demand reform.

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