Honorable Members of the House of Delegates:
I write as a resident of the City of Portsmouth and the Hampton Roads region to ask you to defeat H. B. 1253, which could be before your committee as soon as this Tuesday, February 4. Its companion bill, S. B. 513, which passed the Senate last week and is nearly identical in its provisions, should undergo the same fate. My principal objections to these measures, which would establish a new regional transportation authority in my part of the commonwealth are:
- although the legislation will likely touch the lives and pocketbooks of 1.8 million citizens in Hampton Roads, it did not come out of any process that afforded the public opportunities to preview the proposal, ask questions of the proponents, and provide recommendations for improvements;
- the regional entity this legislation would establish bears a striking resemblance to the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority that our courts ruled unconstitutional;
- the measures in question would create a new bureaucracy that will require additional funding from the constituent localities;
- the measures also allow for the duplication at the regional level of a number of functions that are currently the purview of the Virginia Department of Transportation, thus adding to the overhead of any projects undertaken and potentially bogging down the supervision and administration of those projects as well as reducing the funds available for construction itself;
- despite the fact that the governing board of the regional authority consists of local elected officials, those officials are not accountable to the regional electorate as a whole and, therefore, not accountable in any meaningful way for their decisions as board members;
- the legislation empowers the regional authority to negotiate and approve projects in accordance with the Public-Private Partnership Act, a law that I consider profoundly, even fatally, flawed in its conceptual design and application; and
- as with current PPTA contracts, the legislation denies the public the opportunity to review and approve or disapprove the final agreement on any project regardless of how onerous the terms of that agreement may be.
Most assuredly, I recognize the value of being able to issue bonds against the regional revenues produced under the provisions of H. B. 2313 from 2013. The proposed legislation does have that merit. With that conceded, I expect that the proponents of this remedy will trot out the overworked rationalization that the “perfect” is the enemy of the “good”. I submit that the “good” has many far deadlier enemies, such as the inadequate, the ill-conceived, the downright defective, the unworkable, and the unconscionable. From where I sit, the H. B. 1253 – S. B. 513 “twins” fit at least within some of those categories of enmity. I urge you, therefore, to reject them for this session and commission a study of the best way to address the deficiencies I have identified, as well as the ones I’ve overlooked, in the “school solution” put forward. The good news is that the moneys accumulating in the regional transportation fund do not have a “best if used by” date. Taking time to get something so important right is a necessity. Above all, do not leave the public out of the discussion.
Please let me know if you need additional information.
Mark A. Geduldig-Yatrofsky