Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"I believe it is poor policy to recommend or to appoint a newly defeated political candidate to a public planning group."

Gerald Daugherty keeps seat on CAMPO committee


Ann Fowler
Oak Hill Gazette
Copyright 2009

Some local residents have expressed dismay at seeing the name of former Travis County Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty on the list of the Transit Working Group (TWG) Committee of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), but Daugherty calls it "much ado about nothing."

The purpose of the TWG is to study and assess the potential for rail in Central Texas as part of a wide-ranging transportation plan that includes new and toll roads, rapid and traditional buses, plus other modes of transportation. Daugherty was on the committee as a member of CAMPO, as was former Texas State Representative Mike Krusee. Both remain on the committee as private citizens.

Save Baron Creek Association board member Steve Beers noted: "It's surprising that Republican ex-officeholders like Mike Krusee and Gerald Daugherty get invited to stay on by Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson. That's very unusual."

Mayor Will Wynn, chair of the committee, calls Austin's mobility – or lack of it – its Achilles heel. "For too long we didn't make the land-use and transportation planning decisions necessary to accommodate future growth," he said. "We're paying for that now in longer drive times, lost productivity, environmental degradation and a host of other problems that come from sprawl."

Beki Halpin, an Oak Hill resident and chair of the Oak Hill Neighborhood Planning Contact Team, said, "Our new County Commissioner, Karen Huber, who now serves on the CAMPO board, ran on a platform that specifically rejected Gerald's pro-toll philosophy. She should represent Oak Hill and Southwest Austin in the Transit Working Group. Right now we have no representative in that group."

Roger Baker, a Save Barton Creek Association board member who often weighs in on Oak Hill transportation issues, told the Gazette he sided with Halpin: "I believe it is poor policy to recommend or to appoint a newly defeated political candidate to a public planning group like the Transit working group. The person the public elected to replace Daugherty, in this case our new Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber, should be offered the opportunity to replace him, assuming she is willing to serve. If not, she should still be given the opportunity to help choose his replacement."

But Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, who chairs CAMPO's Transportation Policy Board, said: "I appreciate the concerns of residents whose opinions differ from Gerald's and I encourage them to look at the balance of the TWG members. I believe they will find ample representation of their transit views among those individuals."

Sen. Watson pointed out that the TWG is a mixture of elected officials and civilians. He said, "The TWG is not exclusively elected officials, in fact there are few elected officials among the 15 individuals serving on the TWG. Individuals on the TWG were chosen to represent a broad array of views on transit."

Added Mayor Wynn, "The committee is made up of elected officials, CAMPO board members, and representatives from institutions, businesses and community groups from throughout our five-county region."

Said Sen. Watson: "Gerald Daugherty was appointed a year ago to the Transit Working Group to represent a point of view regarding transit that he shares with a portion, albeit a small portion, of the region's population. He was not appointed as an elected official."

Local resident and Fix290 member Carol Cespedes initially questioned Daugherty's appointment. She said, "My knee jerk reaction was that neither Gerald Daugherty nor Mike Krusee have any business on a current CAMPO committee charged with analyzing the potential for rail in Central Texas. [But] Reading the minutes from the last CAMPO meeting, I see that Watson announced that the Transit Working Group membership would remain the same with Daugherty and Krusee remaining on the committee as private citizens. So the argument may be for continuity and balance."

Indeed that is the explanation given by Sen. Watson: "The TWG has been working for over a year now. They developed a decision tree to be used in the review of major transit projects and are now mid-way through the testing of that tool. It would not make sense to replace an active TWG member at this juncture."

Local resident and city council candidate Sandy Baldridge, who heads both the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods and the Oak Hill Business and Professional Association, told the Gazette, "Our government bodies are set up to pass knowledge and events from one set of players to the next. They frequently utilize the experience of previous ‘voting' players as advisors to current players. Who better to serve as an advisor on any board, commission, taskforce, or working group than one who has been through the process?"

In fact, Daugherty says he brings plenty of mobility experience. "I have probably been involved with mobility and transportation longer than anybody on the committee," said Daugherty, who has been on the TWG since its inception.

Said Baldridge: "If our civilization turned on and turned off our experience like we do a faucet, we would still be recreating the wheel. Our Planning Commission, Zoning Commission, Water Quality Commission, etc. are all made up of appointed volunteers having some experience in the topic. I personally view this as just one step in the passing of the torch." -

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