At RPA Assembly, Bharara Draws Link Between Corruption, Stalled Progress

Quite a few people were surprised when RPA announced this year that Preet Bharara was going to be one of the keynote speakers at the annual RPA Assembly. But we knew the U.S. Attorney would be a perfect fit for the conference in April, where we wanted to examine whether and how governing institutions need to change in order to address some of the region’s big challenges, from income inequality to decaying infrastructure to protracted housing shortages.

At the Assembly on April 24, Mr. Bharara made a powerful case that corruption and the resulting loss in public confidence in government has had a corrosive effect on the region’s ability to solve big problems. “Even in a dynamic and transparent and honest system, it is supremely difficult to get action on long‐term, hard things,” he told an audience of nearly 1,000 at the Waldorf-Astoria. “Now think about how much that difficulty is compounded if a culture of corruption is allowed to take root.”

Corruption had become a draining distraction that was preventing us from fixing the very problems that we had gathered to discuss at the Assembly. A cultural change that begins with public awareness of ineffective or tainted government is crucial to creating focus, resolve and lasting change, he said.
Mr. Bharara’s speech was one of many high points at the 25th annual RPA Assembly. The day’s proceedings began with an update on RPA’s research for the Fourth Regional Plan, including new projections for population and job growth in the tri-state area. New York City First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris delivered an overview of the newly unveiled OneNYC sustainability plan. And over a series of nine discussions and debates, policy makers and other experts tackled difficult questions that RPA has been grappling with in our Fourth Plan work -- ones where we have found very little consensus. Those issues, including whether vulnerable coastal communities should be encouraged to retreat from flood zones, or whether  the accelerating pace of gentrification has been good or bad for low-income communities, produced some pointed disagreements, but also a great deal of insight that will help shape the research and recommendations of the Fourth Regional Plan.

You can see video of all the speeches and debates at the Assembly below or on RPA's Assembly Vimeo page, and photos from the day on our Flickr page

Thank you to all our presenters and attendees for a great conference.

Video clips of main stage speeches and debates:

Preet Bharara Keynote  [Transcript]

Anthony Shorris Keynote

Tough Decisions: Lunch Panel Discussion

Tough Decisions: Introduction by Tom Wright

Remarks by Joe Stettinius of DTZ

How Should the Region Grow?: Morning Presentation by Chris Jones

Status Quo Isn't Good Enough: Morning Presentation by Juliette Michaelson

Video clips of breakout debate sessions:

Are Public Subsidies for Corporate Relocations a Good Idea? 

Is Gentrification Good or Bad for Neighborhoods?

Is There a Future for Manufacturing in the Region? 

Is the Environmental Review Process Failing the Environment? 

 What Should the Region's Energy Future Look Like?

Should Government Encourage Retreat From Areas at Risk to Flooding and Sea-Level Rise?

What Can New York Do to Catch Up to Its Global Peers? 

Will New Vehicle Technologies Improve Commutes and Quality of Life?