Tuesday, November 01, 2005

PROPOSITION 9: "Very anti-open government."

Transportation issues on ballot

November 1, 2005

McKinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2005

Early voting is in effect for nine amendments to the Texas constitution, including one which allows regional mobility authority members organized under the Texas Department of Transportation to serve six-year terms.

Proposition 9, if passed, authorizes “the legislature to provide for a six-year term for a board member of a regional mobility authority,” according to sample ballots.

In 2003, the legislature set RMA Terms at six years, but the Texas Constitution limits regional board terms to two years. The amendment would allow board members to constitutionally serve their six-year terms.

Supporters say the six-year staggered terms would provide for consistency and stability in RMA leadership.

According to informational literature provided by

“Regional mobility authority transportation projects require years of planning and construction, and longer terms for regional mobility authority board members would ensure more experienced boards and greater continuity in the planning and construction of authority projects. Authorizing six-year terms for the boards would maintain the institutional knowledge necessary to carry out the functions of an authority.”

According to that same document, opponents say “a six-year term of office may decrease the accountability of the persons appointed to the board of directors of a regional mobility authority. A two-year term of office requires more frequent assessments of the board members' job performances. Six-year terms for regional mobility authority board members are not necessary to carry out the functions of the authority. The staff or employees of an authority will carry out those functions regardless of the length of directors' terms.”

And those opponents mainly are Austin-based anti-toll road groups like the Texas Toll Party, People for Efficient Transportation and their local counterparts, like Stop 121tolls in Collin County.

Randy Jennings, founder of Stop121tolls.com said the amendment is “very anti-open government.”

“RMAs basically exist for the purpose of converting our state highway system to toll roads. We don't elect these board members, and we can't recall them,” he said. “Even if we get the appointers out of office, the appointees get to stay. There's no way to hold these guys accountable.”

The governor appoints the chair of an RMA and county commissioners appoint the other members.

In July, People for Efficient Transportation won a lawsuit against the state that blocked a bond sale for an RMA in Austin because six-year term limits were unconstitutional. The anti-toll organizations say that Proposition 9 is the legislature's attempt to circumvent that ruling.

“It's essentially to violate the spirit of term limits,” said Linda Curtis of the Texas Toll Party. “These guys on the RMAs are going to set and enforce the tolls.”

Though no RMAs currently exist in Collin County, county commissioners are attempting to organize something similar to an RMA to ensure that revenue generated from tolls on S.H. 121 through Collin County stays in the county.

Commissioner Jack Hatchell said the proposition establishes “continuity of leadership” among RMAs because road-building projects are long-term endeavors.

“By the time you form the RMA and get the board together, the term is up, and you have to go through the appointments again,” he said. “This allows the RMA members to see a project through fruition.”

He added there is little possibility of TxDOT forming an RMA in Collin County.

“We don't need an RMA because we have the NTTA, which serves as a sort of RMA,” he said.

The entitiy Collin County is looking to organize to set and collect S.H. 121 tolls is a local government corporation, which, unlike RMAs, has members appointed by the governor or legislature.

Collin County voters may cast their ballots from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at either the Collin County Courthouse, 210 S. McDonald, or the Collin County Elections Office, 2010 Redbud Dr., in McKinney.

Other early voting locations are:

Allen City Hall, 305 Century Pkwy in Allen

Carpenter Park Recreation Center, 6701 Coit Road in Plano

CCCCD-Preston Ridge Campus, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco

CCCCD-Spring Creek Campus, 2800 E. Spring Creek Pkwy in Plano

Harrington Library, 1501 18th St. in Plano

Murphy City Hall, 206 N. Murphy Road in Murphy

PISD Administration Center, 2700 W. 15th St. in Plano

Parr Library, 6200 Windhaven Parkway in Plano

Renner Frankford Library, 6400 Frankford

Wylie Municipal Building, 2000 N. Hwy 78 in Wylie

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