Despite more than 20 Wake citizens speaking in favor of transit referendum, including WakeUP's Executive Director shown here, Commission GOP blocks public hearing with no discussion.
Article by Tappan Vickery
The GOP of the Wake County Board of Commissioners have haulted progress on the proposed Wake County transit plan. What’s worse, they are preventing Wake voters from having our say – our vote -- on funding this important transportation system. Commissioner Erv Portman recently asked other commissioners to hold a public hearing, and place a funding referendum on the November 2012 ballot, but the GOP of the commission voted down Portman’s motion without even discussing the matter. The question is why?
The Wake transit plan is key to the regional vision to connect Wake, Orange and Durham by bus and rail. State legislation requires each county’s voters pass a referendum for a half-cent sales tax to fund a regional transit plan – a must if we hope to build this system and if it’s ever to receive federal support. Durham passed their referendum by 60% last fall, Orange is moving forward with its referendum this November, and in Wake, well, we’re stuck.
Where is the leadership in the county where transit is needed most? Raleigh’s population is soon to double, and other Wake towns like Cary, Garner, and Morrisville are growing fast. Wake County is going to be left behind in important growth and transportation planning if we don’t act soon.
We do have a larger county – made up of more small towns, extended suburbs and rural communities than Durham or Orange. For some, the benefit of transit is harder to understand. For others, the commute to RTP on I-40 alone demonstrates the need for transit.
Wake has already invested two years of time from county staff (paid for by Wake county taxpayers) dedicated to developing this plan. The Wake Commissioners have had the plan since last November. But they are stalling its progress.
The Board of Commissioners is the governing body for the county – they’re elected through county wide election and represent all of us. It is a hard job with a diverse landscape like Wake County. With this is in mind, why is the majority working so hard to prevent a public hearing on transit plan? Isn’t their job to serve the public’s needs? To allow comments and questions from all citizens?
The answer is disturbingly simple: If they block the public hearing, they’re blocking a step that is required, by law, before putting the transit referendum on the ballot.
I am certain it is not their role to take away the public’s right to speak about the plan we taxpayers paid for. I am certain is it NOT their role to take away citizens’ right to vote on funding public infrastructure that provides infrastructure and jobs in our community. The simple fact is that these commissioners are playing politics; they are not considering the good of all Wake County citizens. This is bad governance at its peak. If we can’t trust local government officials, those individuals who are closest to their constituents, who can we trust to do what is right for our future?
We deserve to be heard. Polling shows 60% of Wake voters support the plan and are willing to pay for it, and 78% of voters want a referendum this fall. Yet the Commissioners are stalling. They are not serving the public, and should be held accountable.