Friday, December 09, 2005

Here's one way to get a committee off the dime

Bribe them!

Transportation group offered incentive
State offers money if group takes some action

Record-Eagle staff writer

TRAVERSE CITY - The state of Michigan is dangling $25,000 before a local transportation study group to jump-start a process several members acknowledge is stalled.
"We're starting to hear grumbling in the community that (we) aren't doing anything," said Ken Kleinrichert, a member of the Land Use and Transportation Study group. "People are losing interest."
Eight months after their appointment to study and recommend a long-term remedy to the region's burgeoning transportation woes, the 29-member group has failed to agree on the scope of work they want studied or how the study should be designed and implemented.
A proposal mandating that a timeline be in place by February for hiring a consultant was defeated Tuesday by a lone member.
Under the proposal, if the timeline is missed, TC-TALUS, the governmental organization responsible for spending up to $3.3 million in federal money on the study, would create the schedule.
"If we have a group that can't even put together a timeline, then TC-TALUS steps in and sets it," Kleinrichert said. "Otherwise, we are going to go in circles for the next five years."
Ken Smith of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council objected to TC-TALUS directing the group.
"If we can't be accountable to ourselves, then why do we have to have TC-TALUS tell us," Smith said.
The Michigan Department of Transportation said it will authorize $25,000 for TC-TALUS to hire attorney Robert Grow to coach the transportation group to design its study process and hire a consultant.
"They've been at this for quite some time and we haven't seen any movement," said David Langhorst of MDOT. "We're looking to make something happen and this is a good way to do it."
Grow, co-founder of Envision Utah, a nationally recognized regional planning effort, spoke recently at a retreat for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Members of the LUTS group and MDOT said Grow impressed them.
What's still to be determined, though, is if Grow is interested.
Langhorst said if Grow doesn't take the job the LUTS group needs to find someone like him.
"I believe this will be money well spent," Langhorst said. "We have a special opportunity here and we should take it."

© Traverse City Record-Eagle

The Land Use and Transportation Study group is an interesting study in how NOT to do inclusiveness. This is a group that includes every elected official imaginable as well as a bunch of unelected and unaccountable representatives from groups like the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Nothing against the groups, but they belong on the outside of decision-making bodies, not on the inside. No one elected these folks, and they shouldn't be deciding the transportation future of the region, especially when some of them seem to perceive their role on the transport committee as making sure nothing happens. I don't think any more government money need be spent buying these people off.

Whatever the committee decides on, there will be lawsuits filed. So long as people give money to support groups whose sole purpose is filing obstructionist lawsuits, there will be obstructionist lawsuits.

There's been a lot of complaining from the paper (and other folks up here) about how secretive and non-participatory government can be up here. But letting in more special interest groups IS NOT the answer. The answer is being open to the public at large, and justifying your actions to the public at large. Right now the public interest is basically being held hostage by conflicting interest groups. It's time to kick them off the committee and let the elected public representatives do their business.