I read with great interest your remarks to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum. I was gratified to see that you received high marks for your honesty from attendees, honesty being the most important quality for any public servant. And I fully share your view on the importance of debate and “that we have that disagreement and debate in a constructive way that is constructive and inclusive.”
To that end, I need your help in understanding Charlotte’s long-range transit plan. Assuming voters elect to keep the half-cent transit tax — which would be a mistake in my view — will CATS’ tax revenue stream be sufficient to build and operate the five-corridor Destination 2030 plan?
As you know, last year CATS received a second dedicated revenue source in the car rental tax increase and currently plans to use tax increment financing secured by future property tax dollars from the city and Northern towns to help pay for the North line. The trend is clearly away from the half-cent alone being able to fund the $8.9 billion plan the MTC adopted last November.
Do you and/or city staff believe that, right now in August 2007, assuming the half-cent stays in place, CATS will never require another dedicated revenue source from a tax/fee or seek general fund revenues from the city, county, or towns? Or are there contingency plans for additional revenue sources for CATS?
Possibilities include — and I raise them not to endorse them or in the expectation that you will, but to give concrete examples — would be municipal service districts or vehicle license fees.
In any event, now is the time to provide the fullest possible accounting for our options for transit. Public attention is properly focused on this vital issue and the opportunity to build consensus is great. But that requires both trust and candor, two things which have been, frankly, in short supply in much public discourse recently. And it is this deficiency which spawns the loss of civility you cited to the Forum.
It is hard to be civil if you feel you are being misled. This is not an excuse, but a recognition of human imperfection.
And since we are all human, I am not asking you to guarantee that now and forever CATS’ current financial assumptions will hold. What I do require, however, is your honest appraisal of CATS’ financial picture and a pledge to immediately inform the public should the need for additional sources of revenue suggest itself to you.
Thanks for your time and attention.
Jeff A. Taylor