Saturday, June 6, 2015

GoHillsborough Campaign Ends: Funding Options And No Cost Options

We went to one of the last GoHillsborough meetings that was setup differently than the previous meetings. These last meetings forced you into small groups with a facilitator and a scribe to record your comments on what types of transportation projects each person in the group would like to have funded and what funding options each person would support. 

Comment forms were not handed out as you signed in. Only after you have gone through the facilitator's process were you given a comment form to fill out and submit.  

Some of the facilitators were Parsons Brinckerhoff staff and some were county staff.  The county staff certainly were not transportation experts nor trained facilitators but it did make us wonder again why the county handed Parsons the big million taxpayer bucks no bid contract.

What we noticed was there were a considerable number of people that had not been to a previous GoHillsborough meeting. This was their first meeting so they were learning and getting informed at the same time they were being facilitated toward a consensus.

Taxpayers paid Parsons to have 36 meetings to both provide information to the public and gather data back from the public. Why did GoHillsborough campaign facilitate consensus building on the critical issue of funding options with folks who never attended a previous meeting? Is that consensus building best practices?

What was glaringly missing in these discussions was anything about the cost. The small groups were being facilitated to have conversations about funding transportation from the 100,000 foot level. 

This was a meeting focused on funding options. However, the funding options discussion was being held without any discussion about cost options. The cost charts used at previous meetings were not even displayed with the rest of the charts setup around the room. 

These last meetings were attempting to gain consensus ONLY on NEW revenue sources for transportation. Small details like the cost of what these funding options may be used for was nowhere easily found. The facilitators did not even bring the subject of costs up.

In my group I brought up that we need to first prioritize our existing budget before pursuing new revenue. That wasn't even offered as a choice. Neither was impact fees or transit fares. Shouldn't  "choice" riders of transit pay a more market priced fare to cover transit's operating costs? Today transit fares only cover about 20-25% of the operating costs. 

These were the only funding options presented in the small groups:
Transportation Revenue Sources
Note the small print stating "Assumes growth will pay will an increased and equitable share and Federal and State grants". Who thinks Federal grants will continue as they have in the past?

Would any business be making decisions for how to fund projects they have no clue what  those projects cost? Would anyone in their personal life make funding decision for things they don't know the costs of? 

At least the group I was in was actually discussing transportation funding options which was supposed to be the topic of these last meetings. Other groups, like the one we caught on video below, regressed back to discussing opinions about transportation modes they wanted such as high cost light rail. One person specifically stated they would rather keep driving their car than ride a bus. Again, there was no discussion or information provided these people regarding the cost of anything. 

Thus, the GoHillsborough campaign ends attempting to gain consensus on transportation funding options, especially new revenue sources, that has no association to the costs of what is to be funded. 

These last meetings confirms that the GoHillsborough campaign has basically been a taxpayer funded opinion driven and opinion driving campaign.   

Do opinions make for good policies, especially opinions from those who are first timers to a GoHillsborough meeting and came basically uninformed? 

Maybe another sales tax referendum was already written and defined by an unelected bureaucrat and a politically well connected PR person and GoHillsborough was simply a million dollar taxpayer funded front for it.

We will find out on June 11.

1 comment:

  1. That is exactly what it is- a million dollar taxpayer funded front. This was NOT an honest effort to get citizen input, but instead was an effort to make it appear that was the case. It was obvious to those of us who attended the meetings that the decision had already been made that there would be a tax referendum on the 2016 ballot.