Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hillsborough MPO Needs New Leadership

Tampa, Fl From: 
Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

When the Chair of a powerful governing board uses their position to further their own agenda, it is time for a leadership change.

Under Commissioner Les Miller Chairmanship of the Hillsborough County MPO, the MPO continues to offer one monolithic group of people opportunities no one else is offered. That is wrong.

Commissioner Les Miller is Chair of Hillsborough MPO
Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO's) are federally mandated transportation policy making organizations made up of representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities. They are a critical and powerful organization because all Federal funding for transportation projects and programs are channeled through the MPO planning process. MPO's are tasked with establishing and managing a fair and impartial setting for effective decision making. 

According to our Hillsborough MPO's own website (emphasis mine):
The Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is a transportation policy-making board comprised of representatives from local governments and transportation agencies. According to federal and state laws, the Hillsborough County MPO is responsible for establishing a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process for Hillsborough County.
Our local MPO does planning for Hillsborough County, not just the city of Tampa or the urban core. The MPO Board must consider the entire county in its planning and decision making process.

It has become obvious that Miller is playing his politics with Hillsborough's MPO.

He was MPO Chair last June 2016 during the MPO public hearing at that time. The Eye reported then that Miller voted against TBX (no tax hike required) while he supported the Go Hillsborough sales tax hike to fund costly rail/transit boondoggles. Miller got a Democrat challenger last year, StopTBXer Kimberly Overman, until she conveniently withdrew on June 23rd, the day after Miller voted no on TBX at the public hearing.

As we posted in May, it was Commissioner Miller who used his position as Chair of the MPO to offer only transit advocates an opportunity to attend FDOT's peer exchange in St. Louis. All but one of his six Hillsborough County invitees were from Miller's district and the city of Tampa, including four StopTBXers. 

The city of Tampa's population is only 27% of the county and Miller's district is much smaller than that. We are left assuming Miller does not think any others from a county of 1.3 million and 1100 square miles is worthy of such opportunity. We found no public vote or agreement by the members of the MPO Board for who Miller himself selected to participate in this unique opportunity.

We recently posted here that Joshua Frank, a USF masters student in architecture (not an engineer or a transportation expert) was offered an opportunity to present to the MPO. He, like Kimberly Overman, are part of the "tear down the interstates" extremists crowd. Frank was offered an opportunity to present his vision of tearing down I-275 from downtown to Bearss (almost 10 miles of a heavily used major interstate) at the August 1 MPO Board meeting. 

It was ironic that MPO Chair Les Miller was absent at the meeting. But MPO Executive Director Beth Alden told the Eye it was Miller who invited Frank and offered him 10 minutes. Frank took much longer than 10 minutes but no one moderated his time. 

Again we could find no public vote or agreement by the members of the full MPO Board to invite Frank - just Miller again making his own unilateral decisions. 

We could find no record of the MPO Board itself voting to solicit anyone from the public to present a lengthy presentation of "their" vision opinion. Is this a new precedent the MPO has set? Then those with differing visions than Frank and/or believe Frank's presentation left out critical information should be able present their vision too.

The federally funded MPO cannot be used to advance the agenda of a single board member, especially the Chair. As stated above, the federally funded MPO must govern in a fair and impartial way. It cannot be used as a platform to advance the Chair's political agenda, one person's vision or one group's opinion.

In addition, in January of this year, Miller was selected Chair of HART, our local transit agency. The same person should not be Chair of multiple transportation governing boards in Hillsborough County. That has potential for conflicts of interest, especially since HART is dealing with declining transit ridership and budgetary issues and the MPO is dealing with the overall contentious transportation issue in Hillsborough County.

According to the latest Bylaws of Hillsborough MPOtenure of the Chair and Vice-Chair is for 1 year or until a successor is elected but any officer may be removed by a majority of the total members. 

Miller has been MPO Chair for almost three years since January 2015. That is long enough, not withstanding that Miller is now also Chair of HART.

Hillsborough County has endured enough shenanigans regarding its transportation issue. Transportation remains contentious in Hillsborough County. Miller's recent actions add to that contentiousness. Therefore, it is time for someone else to take over as MPO Chair.

The Hillsborough MPO will soon begin updating their federally mandated Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). The MPO cannot be used to offer opportunities to one group of people not offered to others in a large and very diverse county or the MPO will lose their credibility of fairness.

Hillsborough MPO needs new leadership.

Time for the MPO Board to select a new Chair NOW.  

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet. 

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

No comments:

Post a Comment