Monday, February 23, 2009

The expectations game

This is why I love blogs - Maria Saporta's recent post on Perdue's transportation plan starts off:

Gov. Sonny Pedue’s proposal to restructure Georgia transportation bureaucracy is analagous to a surgeon performing a hip replacement when a patient needs a heart transplant.
Refreshingly candid, and only really possible on the Internets.

Maria goes on to blast Perdue's restructuring, mostly making the point that what the Atlanta region needs is not restructuring, but funding for and commitment to solving major transportation problems like MARTA funding, commuter rail, traffic congestion solutions, and gas tax reform. She's not happy that Perdue is using the regional or state transportation sales tax as a bargaining chip for this, either. Finally, she's concerned that a new organization would be helmed by leaders from outside the Atlanta region.

All very valid concerns, and I think Maria is right that Perdue's plan doesn't address the root issue - funding. However, I do think that GDOT is a mess and I'm cautiously optimistic about a structure which makes elected officials more accountable for what goes on at GDOT.

The fundamental problem with funding is that state-wide leaders at both GDOT and the Capitol are unwilling to tackle metro Atlanta transportation issues. This is in some ways unavoidable given the political structure of the state and how the region has developed. How much voice can the region have when it is made up of a million counties, cities, and towns, and the rest of the state controls the Capitol?

The problem is an issue of personnel, and the current cast of characters (Perdue, Cagle, and Richardson) is part of the problem. I don't know how legislation can fix that - it is an electoral issue. Restructuring makes the Lt. Gov and the Gov more responsible for what happens transportation-wise. I'd love to see the metro region get more autonomy for what happens, but it just won't ever happen. We currently have regional representation in GDOT, and it hasn't done much for us.

The best chance might be putting the onus on statewide officials and then using the metro region's voting power to elect a governor and lt. governor who promise to do something about transportation. I'm willing to give it a shot. I'm tired of rural legislators the public knows nothing about pulling the strings at GDOT. At least Perdue's plan gives us a scapegoat we can go afterwhen nothing happens. I'm just as cynical as Maria when it comes to who Perdue, Richardson, and Cagle will put in charge, but that doesn't mean that the structural change isn't worth trying. Seriously, can things get worse?

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