Fool me once
While Miami-Dade commissioners have conceded that the county can’t keep promises it made in 2002 when voters approved a half-penny sales tax to fund bus and rail projects over the next 25 years they now want voters to approve another half-penny tax to fund the very same projects they said they would use the first half-penny sales tax!
So what happened to the first half-penny tax that the county has been collecting for the past six years? Well, instead of the money being used to create new transportation systems, Larry Lebowitz of the Miami Herald found that in many cases, it’s being used for operational costs. In one extreme case, The Herald says, more than $2 million was used to purchase new furniture at the Transit system’s headquarters in Downtown Miami. The money was also apparently used to pay for a percentage of the rent in the office building, along with a quarter of everyday items like paper clips, pest control, and even chlorine tablets for fountains at Metro Transit buildings.
Even as the commissioners debated on how to salvage the sagging mass transit system they were also pondering over a $5.4 million Mediterranean-style pedestrian overpass on U.S.1 near the University of Miami Metrorail Station to appease the fickle tastes of the Coral Gables City Commission.
Reporting on an open letter written by Commissioner Javier D. Souto South Florida Business Journal quoted Souto saying “Meanwhile, our bus system will continue to decline into one of the worst systems in the world, congestion on our streets will continue to get worse and gas prices will continue to escalate well into the next decade, while we wait for the promised trains.”
According to the same article Souto proposed that the county ask the voters if they would prefer to use the 0.5 of a percent sales tax to improve the bus transit system and improve the road and highway system to reduce traffic congestion, and improve safety through road calming features and other road safety features or improve the Metrorail service by expanding the existing system along Northwest 27th Avenue, north to the Broward County line at Northwest 215th Street, as well as expand the corridor west along State Road 836 to Northwest 117th Avenue.
Notice Souto does not mention extending the Metrorail to the south towards Florida City.
The Miami Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) had met on 06/22/06 to decide what the locally preferred alternative would be for South Dade. The MPO board led by Commissioner Gimenez who called the metro rail option “the Cadillac” of all options and a pipedream which may not happen in the next 100 years decided that Bus Rapid Transport was the locally preferred alternative for South Dade.
Fast forward to 2008 - County Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro and Commissioner Carlos Gimenez joined Commissioner Barbara Jordan in speaking to a session of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Committee on the opening day of the business organization’s two-day goals-setting gathering. The pitch was for higher fares and gas taxes as the best way to keep a 30-year-old promise to extend Metrorail service up a north Miami-Dade corridor to predominantly African-American communities.
Speaking at the meeting Gimenez said that he supports the long-promised extension of the Orange Line up the north Miami-Dade corridor but said he thinks ceaseless gas-price increases will generate huge demand for transit. That makes this a bad time to raise fares and restore a two-penny-a-gallon gas tax for transit, Mr. Gimenez said.
Neither Bruno Barreiro, Carlos Gimenez nor Barbara Jordan mentioned the Southward extension of the Metrorail to Florida City.
Now look at the language of the ballot question:
County Transportation Expansion Question
Shall the County implement the People’s Transportation Plan including: Plans to build rapid transit lines to West Dade, Kendall, Florida City, Miami Beach and North Dade; expanding bus service; adding 635 buses; improving traffic signalization to reduce traffic backups; improving major and neighborhood roads and highways, including drainage; and funding to municipalities for road and transportation projects by levying a ½ percent sales surtax whose proceeds will be overseen by the Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust?
Florida City? Is that a typo on the ballot question?
Well as they say fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me or in Dubya Speak “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”