No Surprise: CRTPO Approves Plan
Perhaps the biggest surprise last night was not Huntersville Commissioner Sarah McAulay voting “yes” for the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) that includes tolls, but that she made the motion to have it voted on in the first place.
Prior to the vote, in a trembling and angry voice she read part of an email she received that made rambling accusations regarding her landholdings and those of her family. (For the record, the individual is NOT associated with Widen I-77.) Perhaps her introducing the motion- let alone voting for it- was her way of showing that particular individual a bit of comeuppance.
This follows a pattern of behavior for McAulay: she ascribes one or two misguided individuals who make outlandish or threatening remarks to the entire anti-toll movement. Then, her public comments and subsequent votes are such that she appears to act out of revenge.
To no one’s surprise, CRTPO voted to approve the TIP despite historic public opposition. Charlotte Councilwoman Vi Lyles, whose vote counts for 46% of the total, stated that she was reflecting the wishes and historic support for toll lanes of the eleven member Charlotte City Council. This gave the false impression that Charlotte had voted on the topic (they had not) and that the Council’s support was unanimous. The support was not unanimous, as we explained here.
If there is a silver lining to this, it is that seven delegates voted against the TIP: Cornelius, Davidson, Fairview, Marvin, Pineville, Iredell County, and Mecklenburg County (via directed vote). Remember, with Charlotte holding a near-majority, almost every CRTPO vote is unanimous.
Davidson Commissioner Brian Jenest said that while he was in favor of the managed lanes concept he could not support this particular project. Cornelius Commissioner Woody Washam, who has long been on record saying he would vote no, said he was reflecting the wishes of his constituents and his town board (Washam got a directed vote at Monday’s Cornelius board meeting).
The most disappointing vote was Mooresville’s “yes” vote by Commissioner Eddie Dingler. Apparently Dingler was directed by the board to do so by a 3-2 vote. He was one of the two dissenting votes. He did not make any comment during the discussion period. Mooresville, at one the end of the toll lane project, stands to pay the highest tolls and suffer the greatest congestion. Perhaps recognizing this Mooresville residents had the third-most comments against the plan of any town. Yet their town board (or at least a bare majority) ignored this.
CRTPO “yes” voters cited two main reasons for ignoring public sentiment and voting the way they did. First, the timing is such that they cannot change the TIP without jeopardizing federal funding. This raising the obvious question: if no changes can be made at this point, why go through the motions of a public comment period? The answer is because they are required to by federal law. But make no mistake about it: the public comment period was a charade, a perfunctory box-checking exercise that had no bearing in determining policy.
The second reason was because one project, however awful, is not cause enough for rejecting or jeopardizing all the rest.
What we saw last night was, in stark relief, an unaccountable bureaucracy at its unresponsive worst. Clearly CRTPO is broken and must be fixed. But that’s a battle for another day.