Monday, April 25, 2005

Rep. Mike Krusee Doesn't Trust Voters

Did you see this article on the front page of the Austin American Statesman yesterday, When does turnpike life begin?The article goes a long way around to say that there are two similar bills in the legislature this session trying to correct the same problem. The uproar surrounding the conversion of existing roads or road projects to toll roads. There are two problems with conversion as it is done now. The first is the timing of the conversion. Both bills will move, "the conversion point back from 'tires on the road' to 'you've got the contract.'" The second is that instead of letting a Mobility Authority decide if this should be done instead it should be the decision of the commissioner's court. Or as Rep. Krusee says,
"There was some concern that (regional mobility authority) directors were not directly accountable to the voters," Krusee said, making something of an understatement.
He doesn't trust the voters. It's not that he doesn't trust voters to do what's right. It's that he doesn't trust voters to do what he thinks is right. Let me ask you a question, I know, I ask a lot of questions. Who do you think Mike Krusee would have a better chance of getting on his side to convert existing roads or road projects to toll roads, the voters in Williamson County or the Williamson County Commissioner's Court? Why the Commissioner's Court, of course.

The next question needs to be, is there any difference between the CTRMA and the Williamson County Commissioner's Court? Take a look at this, again from the Comptroller's report on the CTRMA:
Executive Director’s Hiring

Mike Heiligenstein was a member of the Williamson County Commissioners Court until December 2003, and in that capacity voted for the formation of CTRMA and for the appointments of four of its board members. According to CTRMA’s Web site, he also “initiated the drive for transportation improvements that led to the passage of a $350 million dollar bond package” in Williamson County.

In 2004, however, the Texas Ethics Commission cited Heiligenstein and three other Williamson County commissioners for an ethics violation related to the promotion of that same bond package. The Ethics Commission found that the commissioners used public funds for political advertising in connection with the Williamson County Road Bonds Program. Each commissioner received and paid a $400 civil penalty for the violation. Several future CTRMA contractors also worked on this bond program.

CTRMA’s board offered Heiligenstein the executive director job on November 5, 2003. He continued to serve on the Williamson County Commissioners Court, voting at its December 2, 2003 hearing, and was formally selected for the CTRMA job on December 9.

Thus one of the persons responsible for creating CTRMA found himself in the authority’s top position.
So when you have this kind of overlap between a commissioner's court and a mobility authority what does it really matter which unaccountable board or commission decides to put a toll on our roads. Does anyone reading this believe that if Mike Krusee recommends a toll be put on a road in Williamson County that the all Republican commissioner's court would vote differently? Didn't I recently write about accountability? If I'm sounding like a broken record let me know.

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