Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm not always good at reading tea leaves

Not being a capitol reporter, I don't always have the back story on what the players are up to. Thankfully, Jim Galloway helps explain what Perdue's comments the other day were really about:
Keen has had a bill in his pocket that would take the power to choose member of the state transportation board out of the hands of ordinary lawmakers and hand that authority to a triumvirate: the governor, the House speaker, and the lieutenant governor.

The governor would be given the authority to appoint the agency’s top executive — the state transportation commissioner. That duty now falls to the transportation board.

But Keen said he’s backed off his initiative after conversations with Perdue, who likes the idea and intends to incorporate in a sweeping overhaul of the state’s transportation system that will be presented to the Legislature this session....

The state currently has multiple transportation agencies — GRTA, CRTA, etc. “They were all created by past governors because they couldn’t get DOT to do what they wanted them to do. I’ve had two past governors both confirm that for me. You can never really get anything out of there,” Keen said.
Pending seeing the proposal, I am actually very impressed. Sure, it's a power move to give the Governor, Speaker, and Lt. Governor more authority, but the DOT is something that the Governor should have more power over. We elect governors (and presidents, mayors, etc.) with the idea that they can bring about big changes. This may not always be fair, but it is true.

The structure of the DOT makes it very difficult to change anything, like Keen said. The commissioners treat the DOT as their fiefdom and piggy bank, and there is practically zero accountability. Consolidating all the state transportation agencies makes sense, too. I've seen good ideas die because the various agencies got into a turf war over who got to (mis)handle the funds. I can't believe I'm saying it, but if Perdue could pull of reorganizing the state's transportation it would be a huge accomplishment.

In regard to Tuesday's post, perhaps I didn't give Perdue enough credit. I still would like to see more leadership on the funding issue, and I'm not a big fan of the statewide tax vs. a regional one. I don't trust the DOT to do much for Atlanta issues, although a reorganization could be interesting. Cagle and Richardson at least come from the greater metro area (Paulding and Hall), so there could be a new dynamic on the board and in the department.

I would also support consolidating MARTA with CCT, GCT, and GRTA (if it isn't part of Perdue's plan) but I'd like to see the representatives proposing it approach things differently. Whenever they talk about it now, it seems like an excuse to withold funding, not an attempt to improve service. I can't find any bills that have been filed proposing such a consolidation, which is one way to judge how serious someone is about an idea.

UPDATE: I should not that Jill Chambers has said she would drop a bill to merge MARTA with GRTA, but to my knowledge has not done so and all reports indicate it doesn't involve CCT or GCT.

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