Finally our Commissioners are starting to use their cocos. You will remember that last week Commissioner Gimenez led a well intentioned, but ill fated attempt to abolish the CITT.  Since that proposal was a bad idea (and died when put to a vote), the Commish has proposed his Plan B, a more practical approach to the Surtax problem. Here are some of the changes:

  • The Trust will have 17 members (rather than 15), and simplifies who appoints members.
  • Surtax dollars can only be used on projects in the People’s Transportation Plan (Exhibit 1).
  • Any future changes to the PTP must be approved by 2/3 of the Trust and 4/5 of the Commission. (This is a tricky one!)
  • Any Existing Contractual Obligations that were not part of the original plan, and were not executed must be approved by 2/3 of the trust and 4/5 of the Commission. Similarly, any Contract that was executed and up for re-approval,  but was not part of the original PTP must also be voted 2/3 Trust, 4/5 Commission. In either instance, if the projects are not approved the money must be reimbursed to the Trust.

This is a really good step in the right direction. It addresses how the funds are to be used from now on, and provides a mechanism for correcting the previous expenditures. My concern is that it still provides the Commission a say in the Plan. For the CITT to be a truly independent body it has to cut ties with the Commission. That is what I voted for and that is what I expect. Under Gimenez’s proposal, the Commission would choose 3 Board members, and so would the Mayor (creating an even political playing field). Beyond that the Commission should have NO say in what projects are in the PTP or how Surtax dollars are spent.

In a similar piece of legistlation, Commisioner Rebeca Sosa has proposed her own changes to the CITT. As with Commissioner Gimenez, Commissioner Sosa is off the mark with regard to the Commission’s continued control over the CITT, this time for projects more than $2 million in value (as most major expenditures will be). What she gets right, and what is lacking in the Gimenez Plan, is a mechanism by which the PTP is regularly updated and re-evaluated. She suggests every four years, but maybe this is an opportunity to put Commissioner Moss’ proposal for yearly transportation summits to work. Once a year the Trust should hold a series community charrettes that identify future transit opportunities, and evaluate the work done-to-date.

Making the Trust truly independant and providing for regular community inspired plan updates will make the plan relevant again, and push us toward a less car-dependant future.

Tagged with:
 

5 Responses to Plan B

  1. James says:

    Tony:

    With all due respect, you are supposed to be a transit expert, yet you fail to understand what happened last week. It is either that, or you are being coached by folks in County Administration, that want to see the status quo rather than good, efficient, honest government. I think Commissioner Gimenez is about the only one over the last 5 years that has used his “coco”. Let me try to explain it to you again:

    (1) The PTP and CITT are not the same thing. The PTP surtax is the .5 cents added to our sales tax in the County. Those funds were supposed to go to new transit caplital improvements, not existing system costs.

    (2) The CITT is the “trust” that overseas the expenditure of PTP funds.

    (3) For years, Commissioner Gimenez has sponsored legislation to give the CITT more independence. Some have passed, some have been rejected by the “wise” Commission as a body. Fact is, he is the biggest proponent of a truly independet CITT on that Commission, without question.

    (4) Commissioner Gimenez did NOT seek to “abolish the CITT.” That is a blatant mischaraterization of what happened. What really happened, is that he simply proferred an ordinance that would allow the VOTERS TO DECIDE whether or not the PTP should remain in existance.

    (5) Why should the voters decide, pretty simple. Back in ’01 an d’02, when the County was pushing this, promises were made. (i) The PTP surtax funds would be spent on financing 89 miles of metro rail, expansion of current bus routes, free people mover, amoung other things; (ii) a independent citizens trust would provide oversight over the expediture of these funds.

    What actually happened: While transit did expand several bus routes, and made the people mover free to ride, a majority of the promises made cannot be kept (only 2.4 miles of rail, are you kidding me???). Transit had years of hidden budget deficits, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, that had accumulated before the PTP was even passed. These deficits were carefully hidden by the Current County Manager, George Burgess, in his capacity as County Budget Director (think he has a pony in this race?).

    Transit (along with our glorious Manager) then decided to take PTP funds to supplement the general operations of the existing system. The Commission, as a body, created the CITT without the true power it needed to adequately safeguard PTP funds from the bait and switch we see today. Then, last month, after years of playing the bait and swich game, the Commission, as a Board, voted to make it official.

    This cannot stand. We cannot allow our government to lie to us, and get away with it. How are we supposed to trust these people. If you want a dedicated funding source for new construction, and expansion of our transit system, to allow for a “less car-dependent future” as you put it, we need to create just that, a true, dedicated funding source, not the aboration that the PTP has become. That will never happen when the existing PTP is a reminder to the citizens that our government cannot be trusted.

    I commend you for taking the time to blog, and discuss these important issues, however, you are clearly not basing your opinion on all the facts.

       0 likes

  2. Tony Garcia says:

    James, Thanks for your comments. Please re-read my post (and the ones that have preceded it).
    1.& 2. I understand the difference between the PTP and CITT. I don’t say anything to the contrary. In fact I make a distinction between the plan (PTP or Exhibit 1) and the body in charge of its funding (CITT) and show how the new proposed ordinances will make both better.
    3. I don’t disagree.
    4. Taking the CITT back to the voters would have meant its end, so it is not a mischaracterization to say that he sought to abolish it.
    5. Allowing the CITT to be abolished is a step back. Commissioner Gimenenez’s new proposal addresses the problem of CITT’s independence and past illegal expenditures without risking the surtax. For projects that were not part of the original PTP, and are being funded by the CITT, 2/3 of the trust and 4/5 of the commission must approve the projects, if not the money must be reimbursed by the county.

    Click the links to the two proposed pieces of legislation and read through them to understand my recommendations. These are the latest ideas on the CITT to be discussed at the next Commission meeting (May 19).

    For now (hopefully) the idea of taking the CITT back to the voters is on life support. Fixing the structure of the Trust, and addressing the projects that were not initially approved in the PTP go a long way to making the Trust/Plan relevant again. If you have any questions you can email me at atg203@nyu.edu

       0 likes

  3. Aaron says:

    I really hate to see Miami step back from a dedicated source of funding for transit, but at this point I believe the tax should be put to voters again. Addressing the breach of trust this governing body has perpetrated is even more important than the specific transit issues in play. If given the chance I will vote to abolish the tax.

    Besides, the Herald series by (Larry Leibovich??) highlighted a host of additional problems with MDT that I cannot remember right now that must be solved in my mind first. MDT with or without the tax is fundamentally broken, and with the tax, those problems are unlikely to ever be solved. They may go away for awhile, but they will surface later. What will we do down the road when we discover that tax receipts are no longer sufficient to hide the gross mismanagement?

    I’m also interested to discover what alternatives exist that haven’t been explored while we have been wasting time pursuing the ptp. What could we do without building more trains and fueling more buses? Maybe we could learn to carpool. Maybe it might dawn on us that not everyone has to arrive at work at exactly the same time every day. Maybe we might move closer to where we work or look for a job closer to where we live. Maybe the funding model for transit will never work without private partnerships. Maybe some new ideas that may only come to light in the face of disaster will pay far greater dividends than yet more money spent chasing a proven broken system. I think its possible.

       0 likes

  4. Aaron says:

    Also,

    I think transitmiami.com is an excellent blog, and I’m very glad the contributors make the effort. Thanks!! Bunches!!!!!

       0 likes

  5. Tony g. says:

    Thanks Aaron. I appreciate the anger and frustration over this issue, but I think it’s more productive to find a workable answer within the existing framework than to simply throw the entire system out. That’s cutting our nose to spite our face. Repealing the tax does nothing to redress the problem of trust in government. Abolishing the tax only creates more of a problem. Comissioner Gimenez has a workable plan to pay the trust back for projects that were not originally voted on without sacrificing the tax.
    The PTP is a good plan and needs to be implemented. Should other types of congestion managment be considered, of course, but they can’t take the place of mass transit. Making our communities more walkable is the goal, but that will not happen without transit.
    Aaron, whatever your opinion is I urge you to contact your commissioner and let your opinion be heard!

       0 likes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.