Local blogger, Charles Kuffner, is focusing on the Metro referendum this week at the Houston Chronicle, with an interview with Houston Tomorrow’s David Crossley, and another with Metro Board Chair Gilbert Garcia and Board Member Christof Spieler.
During the interview, Kuffner asked Garcia and Spieler what will happen if the voters reject the Metro referendum:
Metro Board Chair Gilbert Garcia:
“If it fails, realistically, all the agreements terminate. Now I’m going to speculate a little bit, but I always am uncomfortable speculating, but realistically the multi-cities, City of Houston, and Harris County have all come to rely on a lot of those funds, and we know that road projects are supported by the community. I foresee some type of mobility type projects. I can’t really address the form or how much, but I do foresee some type of mobility projects continuing. I think it would be very difficult for the board to really look at all these decisions, which is why we are going to make sure it passes.
Keep in mind that prior to ‘88 - and ‘88 was the time that the mobility was institutionalized the way we think of it today - there were always mobility projects, and I think the mobility projects were somewhere in the 10 to 12 percent type range. So there were always mobility projects, so I can foresee going to some system very similar to that.”
Metro Board Member Christof Spieler:
“I think one of the things that’s interesting about this proposition is the ballot language, which is really simple. Its the continued dedication of up to 25% of Metro’s sales and use tax revenue for street improvements and related projects. That’s what it says. It doesn’t say anything about transit. It says the continued dedication.
It seems to me that if the voters were to vote no on it, we could not continue the General Mobility Program as we know it. The General Mobility Program as we know has two components. One is the its 25% - that’s what was set in 1988 and its been there ever since, and as Gilbert said, before 1988 it wasn’t 25%, it was 10% - maybe 15, but it was never 25. Secondly, the General Mobility Program as we know it is one in which the decisions on which projects to build are made solely by the member jurisdictions. They have to follow the rules within the Texas Transportation Code, but they decide what projects to build.
Some of those projects have been very valuable regional projects and some of them have been things like a cul-du-sac with six houses on them, because those decisions have been made by the member entities. Before 1988, what Metro actually did was basically a master plan for the region of important regional projects and that General Mobility funding went towards those projects. Maybe something like that, but I really don’t see that - if this fails - that we can in good conscience continue the program as it stands.
What that means is: for those member jurisdictions and for those people who like that money being spent on roads, they really need to vote yes on this, because what that does is it guarantees that going forward and if it doesn’t pass, I have a hard time looking at this language and then as a Metro Board Member voting to continue sending those checks for 25%.”