People seem to be having a very hard time thinking clearly about this Metro referendum, which maybe is no surprise considering how “convoluted” it is, according to County Judge Ed Emmett. A few items:
• I have seen numerous arguments that buses destroy the right hand lanes of many streets, and therefore it is reasonable to ask Metro to give some money to the cities to repair those lanes. Yet all the right hand lanes in the City seem to be a wreck, even though the City has been given $1.7 billion over 35 years to repair them.
• Others, in the small cities, complain that they need to money to repair the damage done by buses and then complain that they get no service from Metro. Which is it? No buses or too many buses?
• All the political entities who cut this deal forcing Metro to campaign against its own best interests have been given a total of $2.7 billion to fix the streets. They have clearly failed to accomplish that. Now they want another $2.1 billion between now and 2025 to fix the streets. Who believes they will actually do that with the money? How many of the early “Rebuild Houston” streets are transit streets? How many are even in the dense areas that need it in the Loop or west of Uptown or along outer Bellaire??
• The current Metro board came on complaining that they had a ton of debt to deal with and so much wasted expense they had to write off as various bright ideas of the previous administration failed to come to fruition. Now this board is talking about how to write off $71 million more by basically canceling the University line, which has to date cost that much. And they want us to vote for that.
• We have a major engineering consultant telling groups that the people who keep yelling “roads, roads, roads” are facing a dead end. It’s a strategy that has nearly run its course and the transportation network, he says, is nearing “operational failure” in which peak hour congestion, or what they call Level of Service F, lasts all day, every day. He says we must have transit alternatives. Yet the Mayor of Houston and the Harris County Judge and at least one County Commissioner are asking us to vote Yes on the Metro referendum, thus bringing to a halt the region’s long, laborious attempt to produce transit alternatives.
People are starting to talk about John Culberson’s outrageous attempt to use the whole power of the federal government to squash the plans and needs of a Houston neighborhood that wants new transit service by inserting a line in the Department of Transportation appropriations bill that specifically forbids rail transit on Richmond. Houstonians tend to not like federal officials meddling in their affairs and are working with conservative Republicans in the Senate to squelch Culberson’s effort. In the meantime, it is possible that a Yes vote will do Culberson’s work for him by killing the University line for the foreseeable future.
• There is talk of a letter from some Texas House and Senate electeds – before the Metro board vote on the referendum language – urging the City and Metro to make a deal with Harris County. That letter apparently had some effect in moving Mayor Parker to give Harris County what it wanted lest the wrath of the Lege come down on Metro and do at least two things: re-constitute the Metro board to give control to Harris County and institutionalize the diversion of 25% of Metro’s transit tax to be used for “roads,” which in practice has too often been used simply to lower property tax rates in the multi-cities.
• Currently there is an imbalance on the Metro Board. City of Houston residents are slightly under-represented, Unincorporated Harris County residents are under-represented, and residents of the small cities are vastly over represented. Anyone interested in fair representation would be talking about changing a small cities seat to a Harris County seat, but leaving Houston’s as they are.
• A West University resident has calculated what the loss of transit tax funds would mean to that small city: a tax hike that could be as high as $16 per year for every household in that struggling community in need of subsidy from City of Houston residents (who pay almost twice the property tax rate of West U residents).
Houston Tomorrow’s analysis tells us that No is the correct vote for a lot of reasons. Those include health, happiness, and prosperity, and the continued forward motion of the City and region toward world status. They include a hundred details, like better air quality, less flooding, more quality development, and less destruction of the area’s natural spaces and farmlands.
Full Story: Metro confusion abounds
Source: Houston Chronicle, The List Blog, September 25, 2012