I'm tired of this endless saga of bike share and TxDOT. Today's Transportation Policy Board of the MPO convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the fix is in and has been in for some time. Here's how it is going to go down and why.
In answering a question from Courtney Niland, TxDOT's Bob Bielek once again repeated in many more words than necessary the bottom line: TxDOT sees no benefit cost to spending CMAQ money for a bike share program. Mayor Leeser then stated it best: "In other words, the answer is 'no'." It doesn't take a B.S. (and I don't necessarily mean an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree) to figure this one out.
The motion from Joyce Wilson basically stated that we will wait one more month to be told the same thing again so that we can use the money for the Border Patrol bridge project. Bielek made clear that CMAQ money could not go for personnel but for structure. You watch and see how the money taken and spent on personnel will be justified as structure in some way. Wilson and others repeated two new themes (new to the public not to themselves). The first was that, if we can't do this big bike share program, we will do a smaller program and then fund it more as more money comes available (or not). The other theme: let's all make sure that this current fussing over money doesn't damage our relationship with a great agency - viz., TxDOT. They're worried about ruffled feathers!? I don't think so. They (the City Manager's office) wants to make sure that this appearance of a disagreement is sustained but that anyone who really, truly believed it will now be ready to make nice and move on.
The mantra from city of El Paso officials was this: Just tell us if TxDOT will release those funds or not. How many times and how many ways can Bielek say publicly that the will of the people of El Paso and their elected representatives means nothing to the most powerful agency in the State of Texas especially when they are most probably in cahoots with the top people in El Paso city government (who were probably driving this from the beginning) and there is a stupid belief that throwing away the CMAQ money will really help improve bridge times - until the money runs out and there is new federal bloat to pay for in perpetuity never mind that the the better answer is to re-prioritize the personnel that the Border Patrol already has.
Here's how the deal went and how it will go down. I already related to you an August 12th email gathered from an open records request in which Bielek says: "Why are we complicating this? The discussion prior to the MPO meeting with the Mayor [Leeser of El Paso], Representative Pickett and Mike Medina (Director of EPMPO) was based on deprogramming the bike share program so that those funds could be used in the pilot program to decrease congestion at the bridges. The city would look for funds elsewhere."
Elpasonaturally has learned that Wilson was already looking for money for the bridge project and was hoping for some money from the MPO for her "smaller program" (throw the bike riders a spoonful of refried beans). All of this back and forth has gone on first because we do have representatives like Senator Rodriguez and Naomi Gonzalez and Joe Moody who have principles; and, second, process window dressing to convince us that everything that could be done was done: We talked to everyone. TxDOT won't release the funds. We've got to get along. Let's put the money for the bridge and give a token nod to bike share.
Somebody please tell me why the City is fixing a federal government problem and, for that matter, not even fixing it - or, what they propose won't really fix it.
I hope that those who see a future better than Big Oil, automobiles, consumer economies will really start pointing out that those currently in power are playing games and doing it behind closed doors - all of the public process is just for show. I also hope that our representatives will continue to stand up against this current city sham. After all, it really would just be easy to release the CMAQ funds intended for a bike share program in El Paso to go to a bike share program in El Paso. This would be a lot easier than months of putting on a show.