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Phoenix Citizens Transportation Commission: Don’t Be a Rubber Stamp

January 19, 2016

We recently had the second meeting of the Phoenix Citizens Transportation Commission (CTC) and it turned out to be a disappointment. The commission was formed in the wake of Proposition 104, the thirty-billion-dollar spending plan for Phoenix transportation for the next 35 years. The CTC was supposed to be an “oversight” group to insure that the extremely large amount of money approved by the earlier Phoenix Committee on the Future of Phoenix Transportation (CCFPT), and voted on by Phoenix citizens in the form of Prop 104 would be spent wisely. (I was on the original CCFPT and am also serving on the CTC.)
There have been two meetings of the CTC and, so far, I have observed very little “oversight.” The CTC is simply serving as a rubber stamp for Phoenix City Staff. (Sadly, this is exactly the same role that the CCFPT performed). We are spending Phoenix taxpayer dollars on whatever is most politically popular rather than what will most efficiently get people to their destination. Here are two examples: At the first meeting the Phoenix City staff announced that they planned to hire a management consultant to help us. Staff did not even have the courtesy to put the item on our agenda for action; they simply told us that this million dollar per year expenditure had to be done quickly. I strongly objected in the first meeting and CTC Chair Ed Pastor offered to speak with Phoenix Council Transportation and Infrastructure Sub-Committee Chair Thelda Williams. In spite of that, the sub-Committee went ahead with the proposal and the Council approved it with no input from our CTC oversight group.
At our second meeting I again objected to the hiring of this consultant without our input. At one point in our CTC meeting another commissioner asked for an example of a specific need that staff would have in the upcoming year for the consultant’s services. Staff could not list even one specific, even though the need to hire the consultant was, supposedly, so great that it had to be done without CTC approval. At one point I requested that, because our commission was dealing with such large amounts of spending, and because our commission is going to around for 35 years, I thought it was reasonable to ask for one meeting between City staff requests for money and our approval. A majority of the CTC did not seem to need such additional time.
Another rash decision (my opinion) followed immediately thereafter with the next agenda item, our first proposed construction project; $23 million for a new light rail station at 48th Street and Washington. I stated that it was very difficult for me to imagine that this could be the most important first construction project since it did not add any new track, nor add even one bus, nor fill one pothole (and it may not even add any riders to the light rail); and it will delay the train. How can this possibly be more important than even completing our promises that were made in the Transit 2000 vote and are yet unfulfilled. The answer is politics;……..even though this station does not seem to create a more efficient system……..it is obviously a very popular item politically because of several human service agencies located near the proposed station.
If the CTC has any usefulness (a point I am beginning to question), surely it must be to resist political pressure and insure that Prop 104 money is spent first on the projects that will help people move most efficiently to their destination. If we are only going to be a rubber stamp for the City staff, then there is no need for the Commission.

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