The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Transportation Advisory Board Meeting June 8
Divisions appearing already
What is the role of the Board?Marc Knapp
The Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) had it second meeting on Wednesday and already divisions are beginning to occur. The first was minor perhaps. One of the members read a note that had been sent to the Board asking that political differences be set aside and that only the common interest of the County should be considered. This was greeted by nodding heads and solemn affirmation. Perhaps only a minute or so thereafter when the subject of proxies was being discussed, Board member Pena, representing the City of Charleston adamantly proclaimed the need that not only should there be proxy voting, but that a board member should have the right to appoint a person to attend Board meetings if the member were indisposed.
Chorus of agreement on proxies
Initially there was a chorus of agreement with a theme that members' districts had the right to always be represented. Your's truly was conspicuous as the only member of the Board to vote against the need for proxies. Proxies are not used in by the City or County of Charleston, the Greenbelt Advisory Board and most other municipal bodies so why the TAB? If board members feel they will miss many meetings then they should not have accepted a position on the Board. And besides, if there is a particularly important issue and a crucial vote, they should find the time to attend. Further, it does not help deliberations of the Board if a proxy attends and is not fully aware as to what has transpired at previous meetings. Board Chairman Knott probably made the right decision when he said let's leave the matter to just voting at this stage and address the issue of individuals standing in for members until a later day and when we have better measure of what we are about.
So much for all the nodding and clucking about eschewing political considerations! Despite the affirmation, most members are not about to trust their fellow members in making the right decisions.
More important, what is role of the TAB?
The second issue is more important. It is over the role of the TAB. At the first meeting, the Administrator of the County, Mr. Roland Windham addressed the Board. He left the strong impression, on the writer at least, that the TAB had only a minor role to play and was certainly subordinate to the Charleston Transportation Committee (CTC). It was the first meeting and fearing a misunderstanding, I did not take issue with him. But the issue surfaced again last night. Board Member Pena suggested that the next meeting of the TAB be scheduled at the end of July. After all, he said, there was little point in meeting until the Consultant had done his work. Besides, most of the projects on which money would be spent were contained in previous ordinances. Mr. Pena also stated that his understanding of the TAB's function was to only review the priorities assigned the projects recommeded by the consultant and to suggest additional funding methods. The comments were made after my request for more frequent meetings to help members who need more information and background. I also stated that constituents had approached me with recommendations as to projects that should be considered by the County. Mr. Pena took exception to the TAB having any leadership role.
What supplementary list of projects?
Whoa, we said. Are you suggesting the TAB role is so secondary? What list of projects was Mr. Pena referring to? Was it the list in the half-cent sales tax ballot paper that noted the projects on which the $113 million bond proceeds would be spend? No, it was more than this. It was the supplementary list that was mentioned in the Ordinance 1343 that authorized the creation of the Advisory Boards.
This supplementary list has not received wide currency and we suspect that few folk know of its existence. We considered it more of a "wish list" than anything else. Interestingly, it is mentioned in the Ordinance as an attachment but nowhere have we seem it attached. The Ordinance is on the County Web site but the attachment is not. The list has a large number of projects the cost of which is some hundreds of million of dollars.
But I would like to show Mr. Pena and the Board, that the existence of this list or its contents does not so severley limit the scope and authority of the TAB. The appropriate sections from Ordinance 1343 are shown below. The important paragraphs are in bold.
Projects on suipplemenary list are not written in stone
It seems to me that the recommendations in the list that is supposed to be attached are not "written in stone" and are "subject to further review as described herein" And "described herein" can be seen in the paragraph following stating that the TAB shall first review all recommendations of the CTC before being reviewed by the County Council.
Section 2. Primary Advisory Body for Transportation and Related Projects.
"For highways, roads, streets, bridges, and other transportation-related projects facilities, and drainage facilities related thereto, the Charleston Transportation Committee (the "CTC") shall undertake such studies and analyses that are appropriate, including, without limitation, consultations with all Charleston County municipalities and the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The CTC shall report to Council no less than annually, and with such other frequency as may be mutually agreed, with recommendations for projects and their priority. The attached list entitled "Charleston County Transportation Committee's Recommended Project Prioritization August 2004" is hereby incorporated herein by reference and adopted as the current plan for transportation projects, subject to further review as described herein".Section 4. Transportation Advisory Board
a) -d) ……..
e) The recommendations of the CTC as set forth above shall first be presented to the Transportation Advisory Board for its review and comment before being presented to County Council.
Remember the TAB is an "oversight" body
We do not know how big an issue the role of the TAB may become. But we hope wise heads will prevail. We would comment that the TAB was created by Council to be an oversight body. We think the legal language states this. Certainly the intent of the Ordinance was to create an oversight body to ensure that spending of the sales tax proceeds was done wisely and without political strings. To severely limit the power of the TAB is against the spirit of the Ordinance at the very least. It may well invite a lawsuit and almost certainly some voter retribution. After all, it was the creation of the TAB and GAB that probably did more than anything else to ensure the passage of the half-cent sales tax through the referendum.
Despite Mr. Pena's comment, the Board decided to meet in 2 weeks time. Maybe there were no urgent matters to discuss but there was so much for the Board members to learn, that more presentations and discussions were very necessary.
I would like to state for the record that if the TAB is bullied by the County Administrator and members like Mr. Pena, it will become a sham Some Board members also have some serious problems of conflict of interest. Since the TAB will be making recommendations on CARTA funding, I find it disconcerting that Mr Patterson Smith (Chairman of the CARTA board) and Mr Darrell Hayward(a CARTA bus driver and President of the Union to which its bus drivers belong) are members of the TAB. According to Roberts Rules of Order, both members will be obliged to recuse themselves and leave the meeting room during any debate, voting or discussion of any CARTA issue. This is a rule of honor. I hope it is adhered to.
Note. Marc Knapp is a member of the Transport Advisory Board