Here is a surprise to no one. A House Panel has passed the bill that gives the state more control over the Utah Transit Authority. Once again the misguided efforts of the Anti-Hunger Coalition that sees the state as their savior is going to cost them in the long run.Now you might say, big deal! It is a great thing that there is more supervision of a quasi-government entity like UTA. I might caution you that, as JMD has noted, these representatives do not have the best in mind for public transit. Only last year they worked to get UTA moved to the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). This would allow UDOT, therefore, to control UTA's sale tax base, which, you must understand, ONLY comes from the Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah counties. The state, while they should have oversight to the law that allows a multi-county Transportation Authority, should not have micro-management over the authority itself given that they pay no money into it.
Just look at the two people who are pushing this bill.
First you have Wayne Harper out of West Jordan (what is it about West Jordan?), who has in years past tried over and over to have the state take over operation of UTA and thus steal the sales tax money approved for TRAX and move it to roads.
The other person pushing this is Senator Sheldon Killpack who is also shown to be anti-transit and looking to raid the UTA of funds to give to highways (even though all the TRAX money would only be a drop in the bucket).
Clearly neither of these two men have transit in their best interest. (Transit in Utah, "House Panel OK's UTA Bill"
In any case, I have written to my representative asking for her opposition to the bill:
Dear Representative [X],
I write to you today to ask for your opposition to HB 188 which would grant "oversight" by the state of Utah to the Utah Transit Authority board of directors. This bill is a misguided attempt to fix a problem that does not exist. As a committed UTA patron and daily commuter, I feel that this move on the part of certain legislators to get "their men" on the UTA board in order to sabotage mass transit in the state of Utah. Unfortunately, this bill has received support from the
Anti-Hunger Coalition who do not seem to understand that the sponsors of this bill have never been in favor of mass transportation in general and have a vendetta against UTA in particular. It is not in the best interests of the Anti-Hunger Coalition to support the intrusion of the state of Utah on an entity that is funded by local/county tax dollars.
Representative [X], if this bill passes, I fear for the future of mass transit in Utah.
Salt Lake City, Utah [withheld]
Of course, as with my previous letters posted here, I did not write under my pseudonym. If you want to protect public transit in Utah from carpetbaggers who only want to see it dismantled, I suggest you write to your representative.
Update 5:44 pm, the same.
I received the following response from my representative (and this is a first via email for any political contact I've made in the past, save for a brief email discussion with Rocky's Director of Environmental Concerns):
Thanks for this information. What is your role with UTA? [Representative X]
Now I appreciate Representative X's cordial opening, but all such cordiality is shattered by the rather rude second sentence. I mean, come on, X could have just asked me if I worked for UTA or was on their board or something. The presumption that I am writing against having the legislature micromanage UTA must mean I have a vested interest in it, is understandable, but does X have to be so presumptuous.
Being the level-headed, don't-fly-off the handle easily kind of guy I am, I immediately said "screw you" Representative X and briefly plotted how I was going to respond to her in the following election cycle when she visited my house again (yes she did do a walk and knock and seemed a very cordial, considerate person.) I also considered upping the ante a bit by writing a "HOW DARE YOU" missive in all caps.
Nevertheless, my training got the better of me and I came up with this:
Dear Representative [X],
I have no role with UTA. I am neither employed by them or have any interest other than the fact that I am just a commuter, UTA patron, and concerned citizen. I am concerned because of the shenanigans various legislators over the years have pulled with UTA. Last year it was an ill-considered attempt to throw UTA under the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) with the not-so-hidden intent to raid its sales tax base for the funding of new roads rather than the development of better mass transportation alternatives. To me this bill is yet another attempt to "reform" public transportation in Utah, which, basically, means in the eyes of those who think public transportation destroying it because, (based on comments from people I've argued with in Utah over the yeas about public transportation) it is "socialist,"
"wasteful," and "harmful to highway construction--the only alternative there should be to our public transportation woes."
While, again, it may seem innocuous to allow for board members appointed by the state, I trust you will note how odd it is that rather than the governor appointing these new members with consent of the Legislature or Senate (which is the standard practice in representative democracy) you have 2 members appointed by political leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives and one by the governor. This all just seems very, very odd to me.
I believe this is the thin end of the wedge that will allow the anti-public transit politicians to raid UTA's treasury in favor of more and more highway projects that will lead to more and more sprawl and more and more pollution.
Where do you stand on the issues of open space, public transportation, and urban sprawl, Representative [X]?
--[Theorris Boonasty, Esq.)
Ok, I will admit that last question was over-the-top, a sort of "have you quit beating your wife" sort of question, but, come on, I think she deserved it.
Representative X might be reading this, as well, given that I left my URL at the bottom of the response.
Ok, I probably am over-reacting to a perceived slight. She, no doubt, didn't mean anything bad by it. Still, it seems awfully odd way of asking if I work with UTA.