Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — It seems state Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, doesn’t understand the meaning of “regional cooperation.”
That’s the only way to explain House Bill 4637, a Heise-sponsored bill that offers communities the ability to opt-out of a newly created Regional Transit Authority.
It took southeast Michigan 40 years and 24 tries to create a shared, regional governance structure for mass transit. Last year, when state lawmakers approved the RTA, prompted by the promise of federal funds for a new bus-rapid-transit system. It was an important victory for the whole state.
There’s no question that unified transit would be a vast improvement over the impractical, dueling bus systems that currently “serve” the region, with Detroit Department of Transportation buses in the city, SMART buses in the suburbs, and poor coordination between the two.
DDOT and SMART have both been plagued by funding problems - SMART’s caused almost entirely because communities can opt out. (That’s about to change. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments recently voted, unwisely, to move about $7 million in federal funding from DDOT to SMART, which will simply shift the funding problems south.)
So we’re perplexed by Heise’s bill.
The RTA was specifically designed without an opt-out; the legislation is designed to protect the RTA from the funding problems that have hobbled SMART. ...
This is the second misguided offering from Heise in recent months.
The Plymouth lawmaker is also behind HB 4009, an unwieldy and ineffectual governance system for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, recently freed from federal oversight after the resolution of a 35-year-old lawsuit. Heise’s bill would see the department governed by an authority consisting of a representative from every community DWSD serves - that would be 128 members, by the way.
Leaving aside the practical problems such an authority would create (they could hold meetings at Ford Field, we suppose), a piece by Heise that appeared in the Northville Record is full of specious reasoning that utterly fails to justify such a governing structure.
“We built it,” Heise writes - and if by “we,” he means “the City of Detroit,” then he’s absolutely correct. The majority of DWSD’s massive infrastructure was constructed by the City of Detroit; while bonds issued by the system are indeed secured by revenues generated by city and suburban ratepayers, DWSD, a City of Detroit department, bears responsibility for meeting those obligations. ...
Regional cooperation, in southeast Michigan, has been elusive. But in recent years, there’s been some positive momentum. Attempts to cripple the fledgling RTA, or wrest the water department from the city, are dramatic steps back into the worst old days of the city-suburban divide.
Detroit Free Press