Marcelllus (a minor character in Hamlet) said, “Something is rotten in Denmark.” This was a political statement – all is not well in the political hierarchy. The same can be said for Caldwell County these days.
Over the past year, Commissioner Court watchers have smelled the rotting fish, just as Marcellus did. Another one has been thrown on the pile this week. The sudden need for a road engineer appears to have more to it than the Texas Transportation Statute. I think there are some clear lines to another NGO – Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).
Let’s take a look at CAMPO. According to it’s website, “The purpose of CAMPO is to coordinate regional transportation planning with counties, cities, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), the Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS), Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and other transportation providers in the region and to approve the use of federal transportation funds within the region.” The region is made up of Williamson, Travis, Hays, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties.
Although the stated purpose of CAMPO is transportation planning, it also has an air quality program and environmental justice program. (See “Keeping Local Government Local” for more about regional air quality programs.)
A board of directors and executive committee governs the organization. John Cyrier represents Caldwell County on the board and serves on the executive committee. It’s good to note that of the nineteen members on the board, entities from Travis County have nine of the positions. Caldwell and Bastrop counties have one each.
CAMPO has two main products: Long Range Transportation Plan (20+ years) and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) (short-range program). Funding comes from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) through the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Before the funds can be obligated to a project, it must be approved by FHWA.
I scanned through the TIP document for 2011-2014 and Caldwell County has one (count them, one) project listed: bike paths in Luling. Bastrop also has only one project. The greatest majority of the projects are in Travis County. Is that any surprise considering the make up the board of directors?
So what does this have to do with the county road engineer? Let’s start connecting some dots.
John Cyrier, Caldwell’s representative to CAMPO, recommended Bill Gardner (who identified himself as an engineer from Travis County when serving on the road committee) to serve on the CAMPO Technical Advisory Committee. According to the committee’s by-laws, Caldwell County doesn’t have a seat on this committee.
It has now become so important that Mr. Gardner be hired as the county road engineer that a budget amendment is needed. This will put someone with a direct tie to the regional NGO CAMPO in charge of the unit road department. Is it too far fetched to think that his decision-making will be based on the regional agenda rather than local needs?
What do you think?
- Is Caldwell County being sucked into the urbanization of the regional NGOs?
- How much longer will we be able to maintain local control and our rural way of life?