Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Appointed Transportation Commissioner vs. an Elected Commissioner?

CorridorWatch suggests an alternative.....

The Sunset Commission Staff Report recommends a single, appointed commissioner. The people of Texas are tired of appointed commissioners and want to be able to elect someone who will be accountable to them. Many have asked for a single, elected commissioner.

Why then is CorridorWatch advocating for an elected six member State Board of Transportation overseeing an appointed commissioner to run TxDOT day to day, as opposed to a single elected Transportation Commissioner?

What guarantees are there with a single elected official? Will that individual truly be accountable to all Texans? Or will he (or she) really answer to the major population centers where the majority of the voters (and contributors) live. Will the needs of population-dense Dallas or Houston drive the statewide decisions? Will the preferences of those communities take precedence over the needs of another? And will the big money needed for elections be another driving force in the decision making process? Will "Transportation Commissioner" just be another step up the political power ladder in Texas? As we have seen, there is big money in transportation these days. The election of one individual is much easier to affect than the election of multiple, regional representatives across the state.

Texas is a big state, and its regions have unique environments and residents. What flies in Dallas and Houston, makes a big thud in Austin.

We believe that the only way to have parity is to have regional, elected representatives comprising a State Transportation Board, who will oversee the Transportation Commissioner. Those regions would be comprised of multiple TxDOT districts. The TxDOT districts are comprised of entire counties, and the local elected officials are familiar with those boundary lines, enhancing communication and input. The regions would not be population driven, but geographically driven, with shared challenges and needs. For example, districts along the border would be combined into one region, and the panhandle into another. In all CW proposes six (6) regions.

Much like a mayor-council form of government, where the mayor runs the everyday business of a city, but the decisions are voted on by the City Council, CorridorWatch proposes a Transportation Commissioner who would run the everyday business of TxDOT, but the State Transportation Board would vote on those decisions. As CW envisions it, the Commissioner would have no vote, unless there was a tie.

There should be a seamless State Transportation plan. But without regional representation, the smaller population areas will be lost in the decision making process. A regional, elected representative gives them a level playing field. (Sunset staff report excerpts) (entire report, 1.76 MB)