More Board Appointments. Snooze… Oh, Wait, These Are Important!

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has the opportunity at the end of this month to advance his agenda to link transportation and land use planning. The terms of five of the 17 members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CBT) expire June 30. Kaine’s choices on whom to appoint, or reappoint, will speak more loudly than any speechifying about how serious he is about addressing the disconnect between Virginia’s transportation system and its human settlement patterns.

Unlike most boards and commission in Virginia, the CBT has real power: It allocates highway funding to specific projects, locates routes and provides funding for airports, seaports and public transportation. It also sets administrative policies for the state transportation system. If Kaine wants to change the way the system works, the CBT is an important place to start.

Unlike Kaine’s failed effort to raise transportation taxes, independent columnist Robert Legge recently observed in the Culpeper Star-Exponent, Kaine doesn’t need General Assembly approval to change course at the CBT. Writes Legge: “He has sole authority over appointments of the members of the CTB. It would follow that he would appoint people who share his view that development worsens traffic congestion.”

Three of the five board members up for reappointment are partners in law firms that assist land developers, Legge observed. A fourth, Helen Dragas of Virginia Beach, is CEO of The Dragas Companies, “a large concern that deals in condos, apartment management, office parks and residential mortgages. Last year, VDOT Commissioner Philip Shucet left VDOT to become president of her firm.”

Links to the real estate sector should not disqualify someone from serving on the board. After all, developers and real estate attorneys have a first-hand understanding of how transportation and real estate interact. But Kaine should take special pains to ensure that whomever he appoints, or reappoints, will not defend Business As Usual. It is imperative that CBT board members share his conviction that Virginia needs to think very differently about transportation policy.

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5 responses to “More Board Appointments. Snooze… Oh, Wait, These Are Important!”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Isn’t Business as Usual what brought us the growing Virginia economy that we now think can support these changes without raising taxes?

    Don’t we run the risk that if we put together some unproven scheme to manage transportation and growth, that those that conduct Business as Usual will choose to conduct it in some state that isn’t quite so “different”?

    Recall the post from the Arlington heating and cooling contractor that moved his company and employees to NC.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m not sure I’d get my expectations up for the CTB in terms of change. Basically it’s a political board designed to represent the road interests of localities.

    Remember – the CTB is the same agency who unquestioningly approved all those unfundable projects that VDOT put in front of them – even when there was no money.

    CTB folks are not only not professional transportation or land-use folks. I can you tell, the rep from our area used to be a BOS member who routinely approved rezones without regard to traffic impacts. Her stock answer was that it was VDOT’s job to deal with the traffic. NOW, in theory, she’s representing our transportation interests.

    The CTB is not a policy group.
    If you tasked them to come up with a prioritization and ranking formula for the state – they’d have no clue how to do it and no desire to do it – because it might affect the list of roads in their own district.

  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    CTB – Kaine could request that the General Assembly amend the statutes governing the CTB to require that the CTB make reasoned decisions based on the record that includes engineering and economic data. The CTB does not need to operate as it does.

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Right on. There are SOME things that can be done with little or no money.

  5. robert legge Avatar
    robert legge

    Not all states fill their CTB-like entity with political appointees. MD for instance. But I’m not against people with real estate interests being on the board any more than I am having them be on planning commissions. However they shuld not be the dominant face of such boards. The CTB only has one person who appears to have a land use background. It would take more research than I have time for to show a consistant pattern of members voting to approve projects that aid the interests of thier clients, but it is not hard to see an appearance of a conflict of interest. At the very least Mr. Kaine needs to acknowledge the connnection.

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