Do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?
Today the lawyer representing opponents of a plan to tear up Post Oak Blvd for a bus rapid transit project offered Metro a clear choice.
“Metro must stop spending money on this project immediately, or call for a public vote,” says Attorney Andy Taylor. “If Metro refuses, we will go to court. This bus project is dead on arrival.”
In 2003 Houston voters approved $640 million dollars in bonds for rail projects, including a 4.4 mile stretch of light rail down the middle of Post Oak. The money was spent, but the rail project was scrapped. Now Metro and Uptown Development Authority want to tear up Post Oak for dedicated bus lanes for a bus rapid transit project.
The Texas Attorney General rejected Metro’s argument the 2003 election was just about money. The five page legal opinion says voters were voting on more than money, including transit technology and specific routes.
“The Texas Attorney General makes it clear this 2003 vote represents a contract between Metro and voters,” says Taylor. “This project is illegal, and if Metro goes through with it, we will be forced to file suit and force them to repay taxpayers for every illegal dollar spent.”
Taylor is the election law expert that forced the November HERO election and overturned Houston’s rain tax election.
The Post Oak Property and Business Owners Coalition called on Mayor Elect Turner to follow through on his election night promise to do what is good for Houstonians.
A Texas Attorney General opinion was issued today on the authority of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) to participate in the Uptown Houston Transit Project otherwise known as the Post Oak Boulevard Dedicated Bus Lanes Project.
Victory…The Texas Attorney General now agrees that Metro broke its promise to voters in that controversial 2003 special bond election. The ballot language clearly called for a rail line through Uptown, and did not include any plans to tear up Post Oak Boulevard for dedicated bus lanes instead.
“Metro should not spend another penny on this project,” says Andy Taylor, the Attorney representing opponents of the Uptown bus plan.
Voters deserve an explanation.
“Metro needs to account for the $640 million dollars taxpayers voted to spend in that election,” says Taylor.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. Taylor along with concerned citizens will hold a news conference at Masraff’s Restaurant, 1753 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056.
Logic rarely works in government, especially when greed is involved.
Let’s give it a try anyway, shall we?
The Texas State Comptroller says sales tax collection for the City of Houston is the lowest it has been in more than 5 years. It has dropped four months in a row.
ONE out of every TEN dollars in sales tax revenue for the ENTIRE City of Houston comes from just ONE neighborhood.
Uptown wants to spend more than 100 million dollars to tear up Post Oak Blvd for dedicated bus lanes. Obviously, proof the lanes aren’t needed doesn’t seem to sway them, so here comes the logic part.
Shoppers hate traffic delays, and anyone who owned a business on Main Street can tell you what rail construction did down there?
Houston simply cannot afford sales along Post Oak Blvd to suffer through street construction when sales tax revenue is already down.
The Uptown Board should put aside the millions some of them will make on this bus deal for the good of the City. If they don’t, the next Mayor should do what Mayor Parker has refused to do.
We know, logic rarely works in government, especially when greed is involved.
They weren’t telling you the truth.
Records obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show Metro has spent more than $685,000 on the Uptown bus project so far, even continuing to spend tax money while the Texas Attorney General (AG) decides, if the project is even legal.
The records, released under provisions of the Texas Public Information Act confirm Metro had spent more than $502,000 by July. On August 15th just days before Metro officials made the assurance, another $87,000 was paid to consultants. On September 15th another $95,000 was paid.
“This is a blatant broken promise to taxpayers,” says Jim Scarborough of the Uptown Business and Property Owners Association. “Until this project is ruled legal by the Texas Attorney General every penny METRO is spending could be illegal. Who is going to pay taxpayers back? The work should stop until the AG rules.”
The Uptown bus project is riddled with secrecy. Uptown refuses to provide details of their real estate deals or the appraisals on property being bought for the dedicated bus lanes, even though we know members of the non-elected Uptown Boards stand to financially benefit from the project.
Uptown’s promise of transparency wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
In the past few weeks photographs and surveillance of Uptown bus stops show ridership is grossly inflated. Uptown will apparently have to spend so much money on real estate they have cut back on promised parking at transit centers and advanced communications that could end up being paid by the rest of Houstonians.
Dolcefino Consulting has repeatedly asked Uptown Board Members to disclose potential conflicts of interest, a requirement prior to filing a criminal complaint for violations of state law.
Documents detailing METRO’s spending on this controversial transit project can be found on www.saveuptown.com.
So let’s get this straight.
Uptown wants to tear up Post Oak Blvd and widen it so they can create two dedicated bus lanes for all these workers desperate to take a bus. They want taxpayers across America to help build flyovers over two freeways so buses can come from transit centers Uptown builds to Uptown.
And they are willing to devastate the sales taxes proceeds Uptown retailers now provide while they are doing it.
The price tag for all this will likely exceed $300 million dollars, even though rush hour surveillance proves only a few workers in Uptown even use the bus to go home. Most Metro bus shelters are empty during the height of rush hour.
If that wasn’t a big enough waste of money, now Uptown is breaking promises to METRO and that means they are breaking promises to you.
Uptown now wants YOU to pay for fiber communications and security cameras on the proposed Post Oak bus stations. 11 million dollars for a city already strapped financially, even though those unelected bureaucrats in Uptown preside over a huge amount of tax money they get to keep all for themselves.
The Vice Chairman of Metro Jim Robinson thinks he knows why. “What I suspect is the problem is they are paying themselves so much for right of way, they no longer have the money to do this.”
Uptown has to buy the right of way of 34 different pieces of land to widen Post Oak for the two unneeded bus lanes. So far they have only closed on 2 real estate deals
Remember all that stuff about transparency from Uptown, how they have gone the extra mile to make sure they don’t hide stuff from you? That is what those expensive PR folks tried to peddle.
We now know some of the people who will make the most money on those right of way deals are members of the Uptown Management District and the Uptown TIRZ. Transparent Uptown refuses to tell us whose property has been appraised for what. They refuse to show you the real estate contracts or the purchase price. The Mayor hasn’t done anything.
“We have called on top officials at Uptown to resign, but they won’t because the politicians who appointed them obviously don’t care they are deceiving taxpayers”, says Jim Scarborough, President of the Uptown Business and Property Owners Association. “Candidates for Houston Mayor need to promise publicly they will stop this horrible project before another penny is wasted.”
Metro Board Members have been told they may have to spend more than 40 million dollars more on this project, a lot of it to buy special buses to go down those special lanes. Of course, that is your money.
Does it matter to anyone that the regular buses we already bought for Post Oak are nearly empty?
You want to see the best evidence this $300 million dollar transit plan to tear up Post Oak for dedicated bus lanes is a colossal waste of money? We have it.
Pictures speak a thousand words, and the photos of rush hour at Post Oak Blvd bus stops prove there are virtually no Uptown workers even taking the bus. The photos were taken during rush hour between 4-6 pm on Thursday, November 12th, 2015.
In front of Whole Foods, Guilford Court, Alabama, Williams Tower, not a single person waiting for a bus under those nice covered shelters you don’t see in many neighborhoods. NO ONE. At 6:15p the Post Oak Bus #33 picked up a total of 18 riders from Memorial and Loop 610, all the way to the Bellaire Transit Center, and three quarters of them got on the bus after Uptown.
“These pictures don’t lie. We are being sold a bill of goods to make some people rich on a real estate deal disguised as a transit project,” says Jim Scarborough of the Uptown Business and Property Owners Association. “We have been given bogus ridership numbers from the beginning. Uptown has repeatedly lied, and Metro isn’t telling us the truth either.”
Metro does have a lot of explaining to do. To quiet growing criticism, Metro a few months ago revised ridership projections on the Post Oak Bus Project from the fantasy numbers Uptown tried to peddle. Metro says more than 12,000 people will be using the Uptown Bus Corridor by 2018. They cut commuter traffic into Uptown from expensive transit centers in half, but made up for it by dramatically increasing the number of riders who will pick up the bus at Post Oak bus stops, even though they may be the same people. They claim 900 boardings will get on the bus at Ambassador Way. Doing the math, that’s about 450 people. So why is not a soul waiting at the bus stop during rush hour now? You don’t have to be a math major to know something is fishy here.
The New Metro has already exposed the numbers are at least half of what was claimed. Metro numbers from 2014 show average daily boards on the Post Oak bus #33 was 4,861. That same bus in September of 2015 had 2,097 boardings all day long.
The New Metro #33 only goes from the transit center to transit center, proving more than half the folks on that bus got off long before Uptown.
It is sad that officials don’t just tell us the truth. Buses on Post Oak at rush hour aren’t close to full now, with no dedicated bus lanes, no fancy buses and no state of the art bus stops. Of course, Metro doesn’t need to spend millions on fancy new cameras to watch the Uptown bus stops. We have just shown them the pictures for free.
THE TRUE PICTURE OF UPTOWN BUS USAGE AT THE HEART OF RUSH HOUR
On November 12, 2015, DOLCEFINO CONSULTING conducted surveillance and photography at bus stops along Route 33, from Memorial and North Post Oak to the Bellaire Transit Center. The photographs provide stark evidence at just how few people actually ride buses, totally devastating any suggestion a 300 million dollar project to widen Post Oak, build new transit centers and create exclusive bus lanes into Uptown is warranted and a proper use of taxpayer dollars.
The unelected bureaucrats of Uptown promised you transparency on that controversial $300 million dollar bus project. They lied.
For months, they have fought release of records detailing who they are buying land from and how much they are paying, even though we know some Uptown officials are the ones who will get richer if Post Oak Boulevard is torn up and widened. At their public meetings they have hidden the name of the companies selling real estate. City Hall has ignored the conflicts of interest.
Now, the Texas Attorney General has ruled Uptown must release the real estate contracts they have already approved.
The general counsel of Uptown will release the contracts, but promises to redact how much taxpayer money has been paid. Dolcefino Consulting has told Uptown that is unacceptable. Uptown says it may now sue the Texas Attorney General to keep the prices and appraisals secret.
What a model of transparency!
“The public deserves to see who these deals are being made with, period,” says Jim Scarborough of the Uptown Property Owners Association. “We have repeatedly called for the Chairman of Uptown and the top executive to resign over this blatant misuse of public funds for a bus project that isn’t need or wanted.”
Metro has scheduled a special board meeting for November 15th, and will update the Uptown project. In the coming days, Dolcefino Consulting will document the growing evidence it is not necessary to tear up Post Oak and destroy businesses to make a few guys rich.
Thursday morning at 9:00 am well-known Houston Attorney Andy Taylor will call on the Harris County District Attorney to launch a criminal investigation of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Documents suggest METRO had improper contact with a State District Judge hearing a lawsuit challenging the legality of a highly controversial bus project on Post Oak Blvd.
Metro Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia says on Thursday the agency will decide on the punishment for the METRO lobbyist who made the contact, but believes it is time the Harris County District Attorney investigate the entire affair.
“We believe Metro owes an apology to the Judge, and to the taxpayers, and an investigation of why this happened and who was involved should commence immediately,” says Andy Taylor, attorney for the Uptown property owners.
This press conference will occur outside the front doors of Metro Headquarters. Upstairs the Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to hear about the incident.
WHO: Metropolitan Transit Authority
WHEN: Thursday, October 22, 2015 – 9:00 am
WHERE: 1900 Main Street
The Mayor of Houston had some choice words about the Commissioner for the Texas Transportation Agency. Of course, Annise Parker must not have been thinking about public records when she sent the e-mail to her Chief Development Officer Andy Icken.
Her target was Commissioner Jeff Moseley, who along with Congressman John Culberson was standing in the way of what the Mayor and her Uptown friends said they really wanted, a light rail line down Post Oak Blvd.
“Moseley is still pimping for the congressman,” Parker wrote. “BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) is supposed to look like rail. I assume the ROW, station spacing and turns will still allow conversion if desired in the future.”
“Pimping?” Wonder what the commissioner thinks about that? Or the Congressman?
The backroom deal on the Uptown dedicated bus project is now coming to light. The Mayor and Uptown clearly wanted language that would leave open the chance to eventually turn the bus lanes into a rail line, but without a prohibition against rail Moseley wouldn’t clear the way for the state money for the freeway flyover that would take buses from the Northwest Transit Center into Uptown.
In February 2015, Uptown’s boss told the Mayor’s development czar Metro was still asking for a drawing of a potential rail line. Uptown didn’t even want to put their name on a drawing of a potential rail line on Post Oak because of politics.
And now the political deal has been made, long before they bothered to tell you. Voters would have to now approve any move to put rail on Uptown.
Dolcefino Consulting spent months fighting for the release of e-mails sent or received by Andy Icken, the powerful development czar under Mayor Parker. It is clear Icken is helping push the Uptown project, which will financially benefit several members of the neighborhood board, especially the Chairman Kendall Miller.
This e-mail should be explained immediately because it could dramatically affect the costs of the bus project. The project makes up most of the quarter of a billion dollar Uptown Capital Improvement Budget up for approval Wednesday at Houston City hall.
On February 2015, John Breeding notified Icken there were multi-million dollar unresolved questions, including who will pay to maintain transit centers. Metro wants Uptown to pay for riders who get on and off in Uptown, construction of a road for buses to access the Bellaire Transit Center and removal of utilities under the bus lanes. There is also debate about making the right of way so that someday it can be converted from bus to rail.
Icken response. How much of this to we have to resolve now?
Uptown Chairman Kendall Miller tells Icken the list is “very expensive” but suggests a negotiation after all the funding is secured. In other words, don’t trouble taxpayers with the multi-million dollar fine print of a project they are totally paying for. It is now October, and the bottom line is still being kept from taxpayers on the eve of a key vote!
“Houston City Council should demand all the numbers now,” says Jim Scarborough of the Uptown Business and Property Owners Association. “They are playing hide and seek with the
taxpayers. That is no way to spend public money.”
In the e-mail, Miller suggests Icken handle negotiations later to figure out how much TIRZ money needs to flow to Metro. This is what happens when you have too many city bureaucracies. If this is such a great transit idea why isn’t the transit agency running the whole show? Why is Uptown, not Metro, building transit centers that will only use Metro buses?
We know budget documents show the cost to buy the land needed to tear up and widen Post Oak has gone up 70% since Houston City Council approved the project. Uptown is now refusing to say how much they are having to pay for land, which could drive the final cost much higher. The vast majority of the property needed for the project has not been bought and lawsuits are promised.
And now we know the proposed Bellaire Uptown Transit Center will barely have any parking, reducing projected commuter ridership by 50%. Why isn’t City Hall crying foul that those transit centers are a mere shell of what they were supposed to be? Why are they so afraid to slow this project down?
And why does the Mayor refuse to wait until the Texas Attorney General rules on whether Metro can legally participate in this “transit project.”. Is the Mayor willing to refund our tax
dollars if she is wrong, like on the rain tax and HERO?
Maybe we should just do what Parker, Icken, Miller, and Breeding want. Approve the money before these multi-million dollar disputes are settled and before we know the real cost.
P.S. Uptown money and Metro money may sound different to politicians, but they are both tax money to the folks paying the bill!
Read the K. Miller Email or see it embedded below.