Will MUMPO Listen Now?

What do you do when someone doesn’t want to listen to you?

When it comes to the folks who decide on the HOT lane plan, it’s not a hypothetical question.  HOT lanes on I-77 are the most far-reaching transportation project since the interstate was built in the 1970’s.  The current plan calls for the lanes to be managed by a private company for 50 years, which is longer than that stretch of road has been in existence.

The organization that makes the HOT lane plan official is a group that meets down in Charlotte called the Charlotte Regional Transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization (CRTMPO).  Previously they were known by the equally unlovely acronym MUMPO.

According to federal law, before they decide to put anything in their official plan (called the LRTP), they must provide the public and any interested parties a “reasonable opportunity to comment on the transportation plan.”  They want to amend the LRTP to include HOT lanes at their May 22nd meeting so they opened an official public comment period on March 23rd.

And closed it today, April 22nd.

In the interim they held a pair of public comment meetings on consecutive days. One was in Charlotte, the other at the CPCC campus in south Huntersville (held at the inconvenient time of 5-7pm, by the way). Did you miss them? Quit blinking.

They also held a regular meeting on April 17, during which they managed to find an hour to listen to a consultant discuss the results of a year-old survey on ‘managed lanes’.  As you know if you read this blog, Widen I77 was limited to ten minutes.

And that’s it for public input. A couple of meetings and ten minutes for a 50 year contract worth over half a billion dollars that’s also set to be the first HOT lane in Mecklenburg and the first privately operated road in state history. Think of it as the bureaucratic equivalent going through the motions by lifting a pinkie.  Clearly the provincial, moneyed interests at CRTMPO have little concern for what their constituents have to say.

So what do you do when someone doesn’t want to listen to you?

Add a thousand voices.  That’s what we did today when we delivered an anti-toll petition with over 1,200 signatures.  The number is all the more impressive when you consider those signatures were collected in a mere three weeks.  If I do my arithmetic right, that’s gathering over 50 signatures a day.

Hopefully they’ll listen.  But remember, they let a consultant talk about a year-old survey for an hour and cut us off after ten minutes.

PS want to do more than read blog posts? Download a copy of the petition and have people sign it.  Email us (wideni77@hotmail.com) and we’ll make arrangements to pick it up.

 

MUMPO to Wideni77.org: “Time’s Up”

UPDATE: Corrected typo.  Added applicable Federal Law requiring opportunities for citizen comments.

HOT lanes on I-77 is a complicated and multifaceted issue.  Trying to explain it all in ten minutes to a semi-interested group is a tough thing to pull off.  Yet, that was the initial time allotted for wideni77 to make their case to MUMPO.

A number of citizens, at least one mayor and a congressman lobbied MUMPO Chairwoman (and Huntersville Commissioner) Sarah McAulay for more time.  As Stallings Mayor Linda Paxton put it:

We (MUMPO) are responsible for making extremely important decisions for how our limited transportation dollars are spent. We should not rubber stamp recommendations from staff without complete understanding of all facts and viewpoints.

McAulay would have none of it.  In fact, McAulay would have less of it.  Originally the agenda called for a five minute Q&A following the presentation.  (Seriously.  Five whopping minutes.) The agenda tonight cut that entirely.  And McAulay cut me off literally in mid-sentence.  More on that in a minute.

While wideni77 was given a scant ten minutes, MUMPO somehow managed to find an hour for… you guessed it… another ‘managed lanes’ presentation by a consultant.  Despite some really bad advice in the past, MUMPO (and NCDOT) don’t seem to mind paying these guys for more.

In this case, MUMPO decided they needed an hour pre-meeting to listen to the Parsons Brinkerhoff guy discuss the results of a year-old survey (not surprisingly favorable to managed lanes) and a 15-person focus group. It’s not like the Lake Norman politicians haven’t been organizing meetings of their own- remember the 1:1 sessions with HOT lane salesmen, and the “public information” sessions?

The P-B guy ran out of slides (and MUMPO questions) in about 45 minutes. MUMPO took a 15 minute break and started at seven.  First up on the agenda: acceptance of the agenda.  At this point, we were expecting (hoping?) a few MUMPO types would pipe up and request we be given more time.  Dumb. Naive.  A motion was made, seconded and the agenda passed in about 30 seconds.

So I made my way to podium and blasted through a dozen or so slides before McAulay cut me off.  I stopped and asked if there was a Q&A.  “No.”  May I finish?  “In one or two minutes.”

And that was that.  No discussion.  No dialogue.  No debate.  No exchange of ideas.  Which is just how the Chairwoman wanted this to go down.

Regardless of what side of this issue you’re on, a public official who abuses their position to squelch public dialogue is not fit to be a public official.  I would advise you to email her at smcaulay@huntersville.org, but you’d be wasting your time.

Really, Commissioner McAulay- whose interests do you represent?  Take your time answering.  I won’t cut you off.

 

US TITLE 23,
Para 134 Metropolitan Transportation Planning

(5) PARTICIPATION BY INTERESTED PARTIES

(A) IN GENERAL

Each metropolitan planning organization shall provide citizens, affected public agencies, representatives of public transportation employees, freight shippers, providers of freight transportation services, private providers of transportation, representatives of users of public transportation, representatives of users of pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities, representatives of the disabled, and other interested parties with a reasonable opportunity to comment on the transportation plan.

(B) CONTENTS OF PARTICIPATION PLAN
A participation plan

(i) shall be developed in consultation with all interested parties; and

(ii) shall provide that all interested parties have reasonable opportunities to comment on the contents of the transportation plan.

WidenI77.org to MUMPO: “Let Us Speak”

Following is a post from PunditHouse.com written by WidenI77.Org volunteer Sharon Hudson. Your voice is critical at this juncture: please take the time to read this post, share it with others and contact MUMPO representatives before Monday April 22 (the end of their public comment period). The DOT’s HOT lane proposal impacts all who live in NC since the NCDOT is already discussing plans to toll other highways around the state. In addition to reading and sharing this post, we hope that you will attend the next two MUMPO meetings (April 17 [this Wednesday] and May 22) that will play a key role in the fate of this project. Tomorrow, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. Kurt Naas will present to MUMPO — it will either be for 10 or 30 minutes depending on how much time they allow him. Then on May 22, MUMPO will make a final vote on the project. The address for the meeting is: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, Rm 267, 600 E. Fourth Street, Charlotte. See Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/CtCy1. To contact MUMPO representatives via email, please go to http://mumpo.org/about-us/mpo-members.

Thank you for reading, sharing, contacting MUMPO representatives and attending the meetings!

April 16, 2013 | Written by

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In a letter emailed Monday to voting members of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) and the local media, the citizen’s group widenI77.org urged MUMPO to allow them to present a 30 minute presentation explaining why HOT lanes are the wrong way to widen I-77 at their next meeting on Wednesday, April 17th.  Here is a copy of the letter, written by WidenI77.org volunteer Sharon Hudson to Robert Cook, MUMPO Secretary.

Hello Mr. Cook,

I hope you are well.

As we discussed this past Tuesday, April 9, WidenI77.org would like to reserve thirty minutes on the agenda for the upcoming MUMPO meeting on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

I previously requested this in writing and verbally during the citizen comment period at the MUMPO meeting last month. I have attached that request for you to review.

I understand from that phone conversation on Tuesday that you and Commissioner McAulay would like to limit us to 10 minutes during the citizen comment period, plus five minutes for Q. and A. Unfortunately due to the nature of our presentation that is not satisfactory. Ms. McAulay has seen Kurt Naas’s presentation before at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, and so she will understand that it is not possible for us to present our case in the time you have offered.

Mr. Cook, adding HOT lanes to I-77 is one of the most important decisions impacting our region since Lake Norman was created. It will affect us for generations to come. Surely giving us thirty minutes on the agenda when compared to a fifty year contract is not asking too much?

As I stated at the February MUMPO meeting, if members of the MUMPO board have not seen Mr. Naas’s presentation, and most of them have not, then they have only heard the sales pitch from HOT lane proponents. They have not heard a citizen’s point of view.

Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for N.C. Speaker Thom Tillis, said recently that, “Speaker Tillis is supportive of the conversation that this has started because it’s an important issue.” Let’s have a conversation. So far it has been a monologue.

Speaker Tillis has also stated that the decision regarding HOT lanes rests with MUMPO, and not with the General Assembly. That means that all MUMPO representatives, and all of the town and city boards who direct the votes for those representatives, will be held accountable for approving what will be a terribly unpopular decision. If I were them I would insist on hearing all pertinent information available before casting a vote in favor of HOT lanes.

Here is a link to the “Myths and Facts” section of our web site, wideni77.org. You will not hear any of this from the presentations by consultants and other boards paid to sell the HOT lane plan. http://wideni77.org/myths-facts/   Also note the section on “Elected Officials” We will be keeping track of those who support HOT lanes.

Here is another link to a story which appeared today in the Charlotte Observer. Other organizations have noted that WidenI77.org has not been allowed to present our side of the issue at any of the town sponsored forums. If the current plan is so great, what are you afraid of? http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/04/15/3983530/charlotte-tea-party-urges-alternatives.html

Mr. Cook, I am respectfully asking again that Kurt Naas and widenI77.org be permitted to give a thirty minute presentation at the April 17 MUMPO meeting. The vote on HOT lanes is scheduled to take place shortly after that in all of the towns, and is scheduled to be voted on with directed votes during the May MUMPO meeting. This is our last chance to present to the board before these deadlines.

I am also copying in the boards involved. My hope is that they will contact you and Commissioner McAulay and ask that wideni77.org be allowed the full thirty minutes on the April 17th meeting agenda.

Best regards,

Sharon Hudson

Volunteer, WidenI77.org

Here is the text of the letter that was attached. This was read at the previous MUMPO meeting in March by Ms. Hudson during the citizen comment period:

Hello,

My name is Sharon Hudson and I am a resident of Huntersville. I and many other citizens are not happy with the plan to build HOT lanes along I-77 in the Lake Norman area. The more we learn about HOT lanes, the more we realize that they will not relieve traffic congestion, nor are they designed to.

They are in fact designed to change our behavior, to get us out of our cars, and to force us into mass transit. But the true role of Government is to provide the electorate with things that we want, (like general purpose lanes) not to modify our behavior to act the way the government wants us to.

We have respectfully shared with our elected officials that we do not want HOT lanes. We have asked to work with you to come up with better solutions, we have asked to be heard.

Instead, we (the public) have been shut out of information meetings. We have been segregated at presentations, and we have not been given the opportunity to voice our opinions. We have been told it is a “done deal”, even though no contract has been signed. You are ignoring us, hoping the clock will run out.

“Whenever someone tells you the debate is over, it is a sure sign that the debate is not over, but that they are deathly afraid that the debate might begin,” – Eric Metaxas.

I am asking that you make time in your next meeting to hear a thirty minute presentation by Kurt Naas of WidenI77.org  on why Hot Lanes are the wrong way to widen I-77. I am asking that we be heard.

Thank you

Sharon Hudson

Volunteer, WidenI77.org

Whether you want HOT lanes on I-77 or not, I hope you will agree that it is important for citizens to have a voice. What we have seen repeatedly during the past three months is a system designed to keep anyone who disagrees with the status quo from sharing their opinion. There has not been a single town-hall-styled meeting to ask citizens what they want. Every government-led meeting has been used to divide and conquer, to make fun of dissenters, and to shut them up. It is insulting and disgraceful the way the public has been segregated at presentations. If they will do this to one group, they will do it to you. Help widenI77.org in their fight to be heard. Email your MUMPO representative and ask that widenI77.org be allowed to present their information at the meeting this Wednesday night April 17th. You can find their email address here: http://www.mumpo.org/about-us/mpo-members

Widen I-77 Informational Meeting in Iredell

Inform

Widen I-77 in Iredell

The citizen’s group WidenI77.org will host an informational meeting on Monday April 15, at 7:00 p.m. at the Iredell County Government Center200 S. Center Street in Statesville. The meeting is open to the public, elected officials, public employees and the media.  WidenI77.Org will discuss recent developments and findings pertaining to the state’s plan to widen I-77 with High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. The presentation will be from a resident’s point of view and promises to be a significant departure from prior presentations by managed lane consultants and NCDOT officials.

An extended question and answer session will follow.

Date:               Monday April 15, 2013
Time:               7 p.m.
Location:         Iredell County Government Center, 200 S. Center Street
                         Statesville, NC