Chamber Endorses Transit Authority

The Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the establishment of a regional transit authority, the Progress reports, in a move that should surprise anybody following local politics. The Chamber has historically been pretty far to the right—it was just a few years ago that they suggested that government shouldn’t establish a minimum wage—so supporting the creation of a new government entity and a new taxation structure to support it is a sign either of how badly the state has failed to fund transportation or how far that the Chamber has moved to the left.

This leaves Del. Rob Bell in an awkward position, since he opposes allowing citizens to hold a referendum to determine if they should fund a transit authority. Bell surely doesn’t want to go up against the Chamber, especially not on something this large, so he’s likely left having to justify a 180° on this.

9 Responses to “Chamber Endorses Transit Authority”


  • Actually, the Chamber has had for some time in its established public policy priorities the following on transportation: “continued enhancement of appropriate public transit options, including a regional transit system.”
    As a result, it is not a stretch for the Chamber to support the formation of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (CARTA). In fact, most observers expect getting that piece of enabling legislation passed will not be problematic. In a meeting with legislators on October 23, 2008, I reported the following: “Delegate David Toscano (D-57), Delegate Rob Bell (R-58), and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) listened to a description of the RTA project and then weighed in with their assessment of the political landscape in Richmond, and their home districts. The legislators all offered their support to help Charlottesville and Albemarle seek authority to jointly operate a transit system. However, funding it with new taxes ran into a mix of skepticism, alternative ideas, and outright opposition. The legislators did agree that if there was to be any local tax increase, it would require a voter referendum.”
    Generally Delegate Bell and the Chamber are actually on the same page as I see it. Both are supportive of the legislation to create the RTA. Both have serios questions about the SECOND piece of legislation that enables new funding sources for our local governments. Both are opposed to a LOCAL SALES TAX increase to pay for it (and for other transportation needs). Both think the STATE needs to adequately fund transportation. Bell thinks the state already has the resources to do it, they are just not allocated appropriately. The Chamber thinks new streams of revenue need to be created, preferably in the form of a local gas tax and other revenue options.

    So bottom line, based on our extensive reporting on the Regional Transit Authority [view all articles], it in not accurate to portray Bell and the Chamber being at odds on this issue at this time.
    Brian Wheeler
    Charlottesville Tomorrow

  • Thanks for that, Brian. I didn’t know that Bell supported the authority, but opposed funding it, but that said, I’m not sure that it makes any difference. The difference between opposing the transit authority and supporting it but opposing funding it is purely academic, after all. :) The legislature is thick with bills each year that propose doing great new things, but have no funding. Many of these end up passing, and you just know those legislators are bragging about the great new program that they established, without mentioning that it exists in concept only. Still, I appreciate that there is a distinction, and I’m glad that you made it.

    I’ve updated the phrasing of the blog entry to emphasize that Bell opposes allowing citizens to determine if they want to fund an authority, as opposed to whether they want it to exist.

  • I for one don’t think we need a RTA to exist and I certaintly do not think we need another body with the powers to tax the citizens at their discretion. The RTA and the MPO are two worthless organizations who merely obstruct and hinder the needed transportation system, i.e. new roads which would benefit the greatest number of our citizens in central virginia.

  • Actually, State law does now allow the local RTA to raise taxes (a similar model in norther VA was declared unconstitutional recently because non-governmental entities are not allowed to tax in Va). The city and county governments are proposing to raise the local sales tax in Chalbemarle by a penny, hoping to produce another $12M in revenue in the city and $14M in the county. The county has suggested contributed $3 – 4M to the authority each year for transit operation in the county and the rest going towards road building. The city has not estimated how much it will contribute to either, and since there are few proposed new road projects envisioned for the city, it will likely down the road use its transportation funds to build roads in the county it feels will direct traffic around the city. There has been no indication of how much federal and state monies the new entity will be able to draw down. Since it appears that the majority of the taxes will be spent on road building, I think the name should be changed to a regional TRANSPORTATION authority. Of course the local merchants do not support an increase in the sales because they are fearful that local shoppers like me will spend more money in the growing shopping centers in surrounding counties.

  • Why do we need a RTA? For the city it would be another way of paving the way for the LRT/street car from one end of main to the other, or even to Barracks Road Shopping Center. Not mention a source of revenue to keep this form of mass transit operating.
    Secondly, the RTA would be the creation of another bureaucratic government agency, which would be like our public schools, a bottomless money pit for taxpayers dollars, with minimal results and no accountability. Lets see we need a director, with support staff, a number of technicans, etc. etc. you get the idea, start as an innocent agency and eventually become an uncontrollable bureaucracy….
    A one cent increase in the sales tax is only the begining. This idea of a RTA needs to put to rest. If it’s one thing I don’t need is another tax increase!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Although Slutzsky has proposed that the new authority’s board will be comprised initially with elected officials, it will eventually have appointed members. Of course it will be poorly run, just like the other authorities, and will increasingly eat up a lot of money.

  • I repeat why do we need a RTA when we all know what it will turn into? What we really need is an all volunteer watch dog group to monitor the spending of our local government officials. when elections come up present the evidence and let the votes fall where they may. Keep spending down and no more new taxes…..

  • Waldo:

    Myths 1 & 2:
    “The Chamber has historically been pretty far to the right—it was just a few years ago that they suggested that government shouldn’t establish a minimum wage—”

    Facts 1&2:
    1. The Chamber is a huge non-partisan big tent with members, Directors and staff from various political perspectives. There is no litmus test for success in enterprise or with our Chamber. You should take care to know things before you opine. Stop over one day for a tutorial.
    2.And regarding the minimum wage, our Chamber has supported minimum wage regulation at the FEDERAL level where it is most logical. In 2001 we opposed a City wage regulation on its private contractors as unconstitutional with regard to Virginia governance and as unworkable and unenforceable at the municipal level. Then Councilor David Toscano agreed with us. Surely you would not label David as “historically … far to the right.”

    The Chamber is neither right nor left; that tired old spectrum doesn’t apply. We’re “dedicated to representing private enterprise, promoting business and enhancing the quality of life in our Greater Charlottesville communities.” We do that when founding the United Way, leading the way establishing the Convention & Visitors, building the Charlottesville Community Scholarship program, promoting the Meadowcreek Parkway and the daily on-going work of helping our 1,200 member enterprises succeed.

    The Congressman I once worked for often said that our society would be a lot better if we “labeled jars, not people.” The Chamber is people, not jars.

    I tripped over this site looking for Cville, and I glad to chime in. The take from Brian Wheeler, a member of our Chamber Economic & Government Affairs Committee (far right?)is much more on target than yours.

    Swing by one day and talk — maybe even listen.

    Thanks.

  • Speaking of the Chamber which used to be considered an advocacy group, my greatest problem with it has been that the people that it’s supposed to be lobbying are members the last I heard, the city and county governments. Never could understand why governments join advocacy groups and give them money and why the advocacy groups accept governments as members.
    I remember how absurd it was some years back when Legal Aid threatened to sue the city for distributing surveys among the residents in public housing AND THEN THE CITY CONTINUED TO FUND IT!
    Waldo, didn’t Marianne Elwood (staunchest Dem) precede Tim Hulbert?

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