Normally I can’t think of a meeting that would be fun to attend at 8 in the morning, but I must say this morning’s meeting of the executive committee of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board was intriguing.
The DART board’s been in a pickle this last month, ever since the DART staff informed them there had been a goof-up. All of a sudden the agency is a billion dollars short on its budget. Ever since, Dallas and the suburbs have been at each other’s throats over who gets screwed by this. Does DART ditch the rail lines it promised to build to the 'burbs, or does it ditch the rail lines it promised to build in the city?
Well, wouldn’t you know it, as I learned this morning the full board will vote at its meeting this evening not to ditch anything and just do everything everybody wants right on time. Isn’t that great? And how will they pay for that, being only a billion short?
They’re not going to say! Isn’t that great? And that eliminates the problem. Isn’t that great?
See, if they say anything specific about the money, then they have to vote for a change in their 20-year financial plan. And by the board’s own rules, they can’t change the 20-year financial plan without a two-thirds vote. And, being a billion bucks in the hole, somebody is going to have to get way screwed if they do that.
I mean, c’mon. Even with prices the way they are now at Whole Foods, a billion bucks is still a lot of beans. It has to come from somewhere.
In other words, the minute they talk about real life -- otherwise known as the beans -- there will be bloodshed in the board table. Not too much chance of a two-thirds vote in that scenario.
So rather than get into all of that, this evening they’re just going to "commit" to having a "goal" of doing everything in a way that’s "consistent" with the financial plan.
Talking about the resolution the board will be asked to pass, DART’s top lawyer, Hyattye O. Simmons, told the executive committee, "I wanted to make sure that this is not a document that required a two-thirds vote."
The idea was to keep everything vague.
"So long as the word 'goal' is in there," Simmons said, "I’m fine."
Park Cities board member Raymond Noah was not fine. He told the rest of the executive committee he thought the board should be as above-board as possible about the money. Specifically he told board chairman Lynn Flint Shaw he thought that the board needed something fairly specific about how they were going to pay for everything, in order to vote on the resolution.
"But you don’t have that at the present time," he told her. "I’m not quarreling with you. But you would approve the resolution in theory and say later on you’ll come back and take a look at how we’re going to do it. But wouldn’t it be feasible to get an estimate of what it would cost to do the resolution and where it would fit in the plan if it is approved?"
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Shaw hemmed and hawed. "Well," she said, "wouldn’t it give us some flexibility in terms of being able to come up with ..."
Noah cut her off. "I wouldn’t think that you have much flexibility right now based on the way management’s talking.
“We need to be start being open,” Noah said.
Looks like Noah will not get his way on that issue any time soon. --Jim Schutze