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Thu, Jun

What about Accountability? MTA Measure M has it ‘Bass Ackwards’

LOS ANGELES

PERSPECTIVE-Would you agree to guarantee a contractor a virtually unlimited amount of funds to build a house? If the answer is “yes,” then there are some business people in Nigeria who would like to talk to you. 

The MTA board may as well relocate its office to Lagos. 

By an 11-2 vote, the board approved a permanent sales tax which is estimated to raise $860 million per year in today’s dollars. Theoretically, forever. 

Proponents of the measure argue that the voters can always rescind it down the line if they are not happy with the results. 

What would be the odds of success? Average citizens would have to not only organize a grassroots movement, but raise many millions of dollars to fight proponents backed by the deep pockets and logistics of developers.

We do need to raise many billions of dollars for transportation projects, but there must be accountability. An unlimited stream of cash will not incentivize the MTA and its contractors to manage budgets. Only the sobering reality of losing future funding offers a chance of ensuring financial discipline. It’s a fact of life – MTA board members will come and go. They will not have to live up to long-term promises. 

The Measure attempts to assuage the concerns of the residents with the formation of oversight committees and independent audits, but there are no legal requirements for the MTA to implement recommendations or fix audit findings. 

The only way to control the effective use of funds is by requiring the MTA board to re-approach the voters periodically – say in 20 years initially, then every 5-10 years thereafter, to up the level of funding. If they want to exceed the 40-year horizon of the proposed wave of projects, they must earn our support first by demonstrating cost-effective and timely progress. 

Putting the onus on the passengers of a train to prevent a trainwreck, rather than insisting that the engineer apply the brakes before one occurs, is “bass ackwards.” 

But that is essentially what Measure M will do by almost certainly assuring unlimited funding.

 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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