Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Charlotte Throwing Its Weight Around at MUMPO

Mary Newsom reports over at The Naked City Blog on Charlotte City Council's meltdown over the General Assembly's move to remove Charlotte Douglas International Airport from City control.  In a classic case of  "we'll take our ball and go home if we don't get our way" the City Council voted unanimously to seek a re-vote on a resolution supporting quick construction of the Monroe Bypass - a toll road project proposed for Union County - at this Wednesday's (4/17) MUMPO meeting.

MUMPO is the regional planning organization which decides on road projects in the region.  It currently encompasses Mecklenburg and much of Union Counties and will soon add much of Iredell County as well.  Charlotte seeking the re-vote is simple and base retribution against Union County for voting to support the NCGA legislation that would strip the airport from Charlotte's control.  The decision to seek the re-vote has nothing to do with transportation and everything to do with power.  Charlotte has 16 votes on MUMPO due to its size with all other entities getting a combined total of only 22 votes.  It's easy for them to get their way, and they appear willing to bully their neighbors to get what they want.

In an ironic contrast, while Charlotte seeks to use it's influence to possibly slow/punish one toll road, they are using their power to force through and minimize opposition to another toll road - the HOT lanes on I77.  Charlotte has all but told North Mecklenburg and Iredell county if you want I77 widened it will only get done with HOT lanes.  Charlotte is using it's MUMPO votes to force that outcome.  It's telling that Charlotte is not taking the same hard line against the I77 HOT lanes because Iredell County also voted to support the NCGA taking Charlotte Douglas from the City.

What's the difference between I77 and the Monroe Bypass toll roads?  The Monroe Bypass does not help Charlotte directly.  The I77 toll project does. Even better the I77 project will be paid for by non-Charlotte residents, but the biggest benefits will be to Uptown Charlotte.

The naked hypocrisy of this position is stunning.  It's made even more so when you read in Mary Newsom's post about Charlotte City Council members tossing around veiled threats regarding City funding for other regional planning groups such as Centralina Council of Governments and the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

Apparently, regionalism to Charlotte means the City getting what it wants and everybody else better keep their collective mouths shut.

Wednesday night's MUMPO meeting will be interesting.  In addition to the Monroe Bypass item, WidenI77.org is scheduled to give a presentation on the HOT lanes project.  In emails received by aShortChronicle, the group has been asking to receive a 30 minute time-slot but is currently only being granted 10 minutes.  At least one MUMPO member has replied in support of their request for a longer presentation.  In support of giving WidenI77.org more time, Lynda Paxton, representing the Town of Stallings, said...

"We are responsible for making extremely important decisions for how our limited transportation dollars are spent. We should not rubber stamp recommendations from staff without complete understanding of all facts and viewpoints."

The question is will Charlotte use its influence to squash debate or will they have the decency to allow for 20 extra minutes of discussion before trying to ram through a $550 million project for the City's benefit?

Update: The WidenI77.org presentation at MUMPO this evening was reportedly limited to only 10 minutes per a Facebook comment on this story from activist Sharon Hudson.

1 comment:

  1. From Facebook Comments: Guy Smith (verified)

    Yes, MPO/RPO meetings are quite an eye-opening educational experience, aren't they? And they have been doing this for 40+ years and NOBODY has been paying attention. And we wonder why our transportation situation is so screwed up? I've been trying to wrap my head around how we start to rein them in and all I find is that they operate in ways that are very hard to track by design. One thing I have done is get on their e-mail notice distribution and make sure that my elected official is aware that we are paying attention.

    This is what I have seen as I've been going to Lake Norman RPO meetings for the last year or two. The operations are split in to two distinct groups, the MPO Delegates or in our RPO, the TAC- Transportation Advisory Committee (elected officials) and the TCC- Technical Coordinating Committee (planning staffers). The TCC is where the sausage is made. Then they bring in the MPO Delegates after the TCC has ground all the stuff in to a nice palatable package and they feed it to the MPO Delegates to get "approval" by the elected officials, who from my observations, typically just rubber stamp what the TCC presents. (I mean, hey, they're the experts employed by the various member governments, why would a silly old elected official question what their employee/staffers are doing?) I just checked the Agenda of the last MUMPO-TCC meeting on April 4 and they had aloted 20 minutes for an "FYI" update on the I-77 Hot Lanes Project. And I would bet you there wasn't a single private Citizen at that meeting. http://www.mumpo.org/PDFs/Agenda_Minutes/2013/TCC_2013_04_Apr_Agenda.pdf

    I have also found out that, at least with the LNRPO, that the elected officials group (MPO Delegates or RPO TAC) are not copied on the e-mail notices that are sent out to the TCC members. You will need to get some people signed up for the e-mail notices for BOTH groups. I'm on both and I now forward the TCC meeting notices and agendas to my County Commissioners who are on the RPO TAC so they are now aware of what the planners, TCC, are doing. And yes, it is very confusing. I truly believe this is by design.