Monday, June 23, 2008

"The current system makes the commission entirely beholden to the governor. "

Corridor Watch: Elect our transportation leaders

June 23, 2008

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

CorridorWatch, a Fayette County-based group that has been active in opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor plan, wants to go beyond the Sunset Advisory Commission’s recommended shakeup of state transportation leadership. The group, led by David and Linda Stall, recommends that TxDOT answer to an elected six-member board led by a chairman appointed by the governor.

CorridorWatch makes it recommendation, along with various other reactions to the Sunset commission staff’s recent report on TxDOT, in written comments submitted as part of the sunset process.

TxDOT, like all state agencies, “sunsets” after 12 years unless the Legislature acts to keep it alive. As part of that process, the Sunset Advisory Commission staff studies each agency and makes recommendations, which are then accepted, rejected or amended by the Sunset board. The Legislature then passes a bill to sustain the agency, incorporating some, all or none of the recommendations. TxDOT’s turn in the 12-year rotation is next year.

The sunset staff early this month had recommended abolishing the five-member commission, all of whom are appointed to six-year terms by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate. The staff said that instead there should be a single transportation commissioner appointed by the governor and subject to Senate confirmation every two years.

CorridorWatch, in its comments, says the current system makes the commission entirely beholden to the governor. To give the public genuine input into state transportation policy, CorridorWatch recommends dividing the state into six geographic districts (their comments even include specific boundary lines) that roughly speaking encompass the Rio Grande Valley, Central Texas, Southeast Texas, North Texas, the Panhandle and West Texas.

The governor would appoint the chairman, with a four-year term and Senate confirmation. The chairman would also run the department, replacing the current executive director position.

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