Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This Is MATA

I went to the MATA site to download some bus schedules. Except trying to save them to my computer I discovered that the links I wanted (Routes 62 and 69) were broken! Others were OK, but these weren't working for some reason.

OK, it can happen. So, I navigate to the "Contact" page and click the email link. I tell them about the problem I just had. And the email is sent back to me with an unspecified mailbox error!

I'd try calling, but I've been stuck in that particular Hell before. No thanks.

While I'm ranting on MATA here, I should point out the problems with the FedUp Forum's misuse of Federal funds over a never-built "intermodal transfer facility." What I haven't seen the news reports doing is tying that in with the use of MATA funds in the construction of the Forum. They contributed something like one or two million dollars toward construction.

The MATA "office" or whatever it is that was built in the southeast corner of the Forum has never opened! Not one day. It just sits there gathering dust. I'd wager if you look at the bus schedules in the racks you'd see they are a few updates old. Was this facility supposed to the the "intermodal transfer facility?"

I'm glad to see City Councillors Myron Lowery, EC Jones and Bruce Thompson calling for an State or Federal inquiry. The whole thing is one massive boondoggle wrapped around a swindle hiding corruption. What was built is not what was sold to us. (WPTY/24 has been covering that for two years now, bless 'em.) All sorts of design changes and compromises were made after approval, to keep the thing below it's advertised $250 million cost. That was to minimise citizen fuss, to keep folks from sniffing around, I'd wager.

Which County Commissioner was it who admitted he'd never even read the contract before he approved it? How many other Commissioners and Councillors didn't read the damn thing?

And what's up with the NMAPBA President, Charles Carpenter, claiming it was the State's duty to make sure they were following the rules? Talk about a crook blaming the authorities! Dont' forget that the PBA refused to release, to anyone, their internal audits for almost three years. Then it was discovered that the person formerly in charge hadn't been doing them, and so we don't know what's been going on. They were quietly replaced. And we still haven't had a proper internal audit released.

Oh, where does this mess end? The Forum was advertised to cost only $250 million. Heaven knows the Commercial Appeal trumpets that every chance it gets; most localnews, too. So why did they need and get the $20 million or so from the Federal government? Where did that money go? What did it buy?

City attorney Sara Hall claims that the money we'll have to pay back isn't a big deal. She says it will be taken from Congestion Management / Air Quality funds that won't affect us. Except it will! The City and County have been cited repeatedly for poor air quality in recent years. We've been on the verge of Federal penalties (fines or harsher regulations to meet) during that time. The County touts CMAQ and its projects (only last month!) but Hall says the money will come from:
The city is losing out on $6.3 million in federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) funds, although city officials say residents won't feel the impact.

Hall said $3.6 million of those funds were to be used by the city for improvements to the east I-40/240 interchange, but the state already has plans to make those improvements. "That's what's getting done, and it's not even our money," she said.

The rest of the projects will simply be delayed until money is allocated later, Hall said.
Notice that the CMAQ literature promotes all kinds of "feel good" "alternative" clean air projects, but the bulk of the $6.3 million is for road work. And she claims the money isn't needed as the funding is coming from elsewhere.

In that case, what was the "extra" money going to really do? Where was it really going to be spent?

I also love this Hall quote:
"I think this is the best possible result for the citizens of Memphis," Hall said.

"It's a result that doesn't require any taxpayer dollars to be spent. It has very little, if any, impact in a meaningful way on any of the citizens."
A city that can't afford to give police and firemen any raise at all and this shell game with $26 million doesn't "impact" in a "meaningful way?"


And we are somehow expected to believe that handing the State of Tennessee a bill for $20 million isn't going to cause problems? I can just see city leaders across the state saying, "You mean Federal funds mismanagement by cities can be covered by the State? Where do I sign up for this new revenue stream?" You think State legislators who already turn a jaundiced eye on this city won't be even more likely to give us the cold shoulder in the future? Make it harder for us to get a hearing, much less more money?

This whole thing stinks something fierce and needs a good airing out. The State and local officials involved all seem to be pretty quick to want this settled down and out of sight, from TDOT down to the PBA. That tells me something really ugly is lurking below their assurances.

I smell a rancid rat. Herenton and the NBA "tiger team" were in a rush to get this project completed. Questions at the time were brushed aside brusquely. This time folks, starting with His Imperial Mayorness, need to answer those questions to our satisfaction.


Like the saying goes, "Good, fast and cheap: Pick any two." We were promised all three, which is impossible. Now we are learning what we already knew wasn't possible. If this isn't the lever that finally pries the lid off Herenton's secretive administration, you'll know this City and County are hopeless corrupted.

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