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Flint Hills Regional Transit Administration Interlocal Agreement
Posted: 19 January 2014 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Tuesday the Commission will vote on the Flint Hills regional Transit Administration Interlocal Agreement.  Here is how it is billed:

1.  KDOT desires a regional approach to public transportation.
2.  To access 5307 Federal Funds of 1 Million Dollars the Transit Administration must be approved.
3.  5307 funds are an 80/20 split – 20% local match.
4.  The FHRTA would not have the authority to obligate any of the Members for Financial support nor would it have any taxing authority. 
5. The six members of the Transit Authority would be Geary, Pottawatomie, Riley Counties, Junction Ci, Manhattan and KSU. 

Some additional Data that is not highlighted in the proposal:

1. The Transit Administration is a subset of the MPO.  The MPO does have the ability to levy fees on members.
2. In order to get the 1 million in 5307 funds the MPO will need a 200K local match.
3. The MPO may vote to levy that match on the members.  Manhattan is on the hook for 60% of the local match.
4. The bylaws of the MPO have weighted voting for financial issues.  A 2/3 majority is required.  Votes are Manhattan – 3, JC – 2, Riley, Pott, Geary and KDOT – 1 vote each.  Six votes pass any fiscal item.  Manhattan has some clout, but can be out voted 6-3 to fund the project.
 
This all sounds like a good deal.  The Region gets 1 million more dollars in Federal tax money to fund the ATA operation.  It appears that ATA operates pretty much on a tax subsidy basis.  About 97% of the operation is funded through Federal, State, County and City taxes.  The bottom line here is that the creation of the Transit Administration may result in a $120,000 tax increase – the local match share from the City of Manhattan to ATA. 

[ Edited: 20 January 2014 09:07 PM by Wynn Butler ]
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Posted: 20 January 2014 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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So… a couple hundred social and political cronies leave Manhattan to be wined and dined in Kansas City by the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.  The trip costs the taxpayers of Manhattan a few thousand dollars.  These elite who drive 125 miles to brown-nose the local entity that gets over $1 million/year to keep people in Manhattan, come back with the main lesson… Trust!!  Junction City, Wamego, Manhattan, Geary County, Riley County, Pott County… all are supposed to trust that the Chamber will look out for all. 

Trust us… We’ll get Manhattan to pay the lion’s share of the tab for running an expensive bus system from city to city.  We’ll let Manhattan subsidize this fiasco, so we can run empty busses up and down the highway, even though we charge less than the cost of driving your own vehicle between towns.  Manhattan will pay up.  We… the Chamber… have the Riley County Commission in our pocket and 3 of the 5 Manhattan City Commissioners.

Trust us… We’ll start planning on funding of a rail system that will run from Abilene to Wamego.  No one will ride it, but that’s not the issue.  Each community can have it’s own “train station”, with brass plaques telling all the constituents who was Mayor and on the commissions when this happened.  Manhattan will pay the bulk of the cost.  Trust us.  We… the Chamber… have the Riley County Commission and 3 of the 5 Manhattan City Commissioners who will do whatever we ask.

Trust us… Let’s make MATC a “community college”.  The City Commission of Manhattan will be easy to persuade to pass an ordinace to cover this.  It’s only more sales tax.  Oh, don’t worry about Manhattan’s sales tax.  The Chamber sponsors an annual shopping pilgramage to Kansas City for “those of importance” in our community.

Trust us… we just spent millions upon millions to construct a Disappointment Center that was supposed to have busses lined up clear out to I-70 with people fighting to visit this great attraction.  Instead, Manahttan taxpayers now have to subsidize the main exhibit… an indoor playground where a couple of kids can toss a football back and forth… to the tune of $2 million.  Don’t worry yourself about even breaking even, Flint Hills Disappointment Center.  The Chamber will merely tell the City Commission to cut another check.

Trust us… We’ll draw the masses to Manahttan with high-dollar video productions of 50 year old ladies jumping on hotel beds while vulgar rap music is being played in the background.  Sheesh!! 

But, when the Chamber schedules an event at an upscale Overland Park hotel, where elected officials and City/County/School District employees can enjoy a weekend on the taxpayer, why shouldn’t the elected bodies bend over and do whatever the puppetmasters ask them to do….....

The Chamber, a private non-profit organization, has every right to schedule events whereever they want.  On the other hand, it’s the elected officials that use tax dollars to attend such an boondoggle that should be chastised.  They simply don’t have the spine to tell such a powerful political lobby to go pound sand.

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Posted: 21 January 2014 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Larry,
Until “We the Taxpayers” stand up and DEMAND proper ethical representation and force a recall on the ones NOT representing the majority of “We the People of Manhattan”. This robbery will continue as long as it is allowed. I just wonder how long this legalized tax robbery will continue.

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Posted: 21 January 2014 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The Manhattan City Commission passed this one 3-2.  Everyone was assured that this would be 8 dimes of federal government money and the other two dimes would come from KSU, and not Manhattan Tax Payers.  Trust is the name of the game, that was the theme for the regional conference.  I wanted to table the request to get more details on two aspects that were not available.  The first was the insurance aspect.  Legal department has not completed review.  Second was the legal nature of representation.  This benefits KSU and is a good thing for students so could KSU be voting members on the board or even set up the board?  Other questions on board membership were unanswered.  But three Commissioners believed we should pass the bill or resolution and see what was in it later.  It may be a good thing, and if you trust what was said it may not impact our property tax.  I voted no, as I need to know what is in a bill or resolution before saying yes.

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Posted: 22 January 2014 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Braddock - 21 January 2014 03:48 PM

Larry,
Until “We the Taxpayers” stand up and DEMAND proper ethical representation and force a recall on the ones NOT representing the majority of “We the People of Manhattan”. This robbery will continue as long as it is allowed. I just wonder how long this legalized tax robbery will continue.

Dave, the problem is the definition of “ethics” changes depending on which side of an issue you are on.  I, personally, don’t believe it’s an “ethics” issue.  The problem is agenda driven, relationship driven, and wealth driven.  I will tell the world that I believe Commissioner Jankovich has displayed an level of commendable ethics that was missing from some past commissions.  Rich has recused himself from a plethora of votes and discussions when there could be the slightest appearance of imporpriety.  Yet, Commissioner Jankovich believes in spending tax dollars on project after project after project.  I disagree with his votes on many spending issues, but will never question his “ethics”.  So, I don’t believe it’s an ethics issue.

OTOH, we have a Mayor who votes to curtail spending.  He has suggested we need to cut the amount spent on social services.  When that effort failed, he has now loaded the Social Services Advisory Board with a significant number of members of the Flint Hills Tea Party… those who openly and publicly rail against any spending on “liberal” issues like social services.  Is that “ethical”?  Some would question just how that fits the definition.  You would get differing views on how “ethical” a specific commissoner is, depending on who you talked to on the street.  Ask a spectrum of Manhattan voters about the “ethics” of rescinding the LGBT ordinance.  Sheesh!  What about the smoke free ordinance?  How “ethical” is it for those sworn to do what’s best for the citizens of their community to openly champion an annual drunkfest?  So, to me the definition of ethics is much too subjective to be tossed out in the current political clime.

The problem is that our elected bodies have become so enamoured by the constant and consistent lobbying of a local entity.  How many local businesses would be invited to speak at County Commission meeting after County Commission meeting?  How many taxpayer dollars did County Commissioners spend traveling to Kansas City, this past weekend, to be lobbyied further by the Chamber?  Let’s say the business that produced the videos promoting Manhattan… the videos of 50 year old ladies jumping on hotel beds, while pornographic music lyrics played in the backgound… were to approach the City Commission.  “We can market Manhattan just as effectively as the CVB.  Let us give you a cost.”  I doubt they would even be considered. 

We as voters continue electing certain folks to public office, even though they spend us into oblivion.  We see some go from City Commission to County Commission back to City Commission.  Do we need “professional politicians” in these offices, with decades of relationships already in place?  Yet, the voters put them back in office.  Why do we not demand a public administration professional be hired as County Administrator.  We have three County Commissioners, none with any public administration experience.  We elected a disc jokey and a carpenter and assume they can effectively manage an entity as large as Riley County.  The County Commissioners won’t even breathe the work “professional administrator”.  If that were to happen, they might lose their cushy salaries.  Instead, let’s just cuddle up to the Chamber and “trust” them.  That’s what the Commissioners heard while in Kansas City.

Recall elections don’t work.  Likewise, I don’t believe simply running an obstructionist is the answer.  There are some serious changes that need to take place, but the establishment won’t tolerate change.  Change needs to happen in the voting booth.  Sometimes it works… sometimes it doesn’t.

 

 

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Posted: 22 January 2014 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The FHRTA is one step closer to reality.  The Manhattan City Commission bought into the idea on a 3-2 vote last night.  I thought we should have waited to vote until we had some more information on insurance liability - the legal department had not completed review of this item.  Also I had some questions on the membership of the board.  Especially in regards to KSU.  It seems clear that the matching funds 200k in the case are anticipated to come from KSU.  But that is not spelled out in the agreement.  It seems like the main beneficiary for the new funding source is in fact not the region but KSU and the students.  That is OK with me.  I think that part of the bus system has a chance of success.  I would have liked to configure that board to reflect the actual realities of the operation instead of just using MPO members.  I think one of the regional goals is to extend fix route to Wamego and they are not on the board and maybe not on the hook for the funds.  I voted against the plan last night, simply because all of the data was not on the table.  I hate to vote for an ordinance and then find out what is in it after the fact.  I also understand that this is all other peoples money.  According to the three yes votes it is 800K in Federal funds and the other 200K will come from KSU.  I guess that protects the Manhattan tax payer from direct support.  But this is the first shoe to drop towards the goal that some folks have of a transportation agency with the ability to levy taxes.  A transit authority that at least covers 75% of its operating cost from fees might be viable.  But the current structure appears to be 97% tax based.  The federal debt of 17 Trillion cannot all be blamed on Washington D.C.  The local government is to blame when it is bullied into kicking in matching funds to get federal dollars.

The good thing about the FHRTA is that Manhattan will not have the same person on the transit board and the MPO.  We will keep them distinct.  The MPO provided the following note of assurance on funding:

I just wanted to reassure you that the MPO has no financial commitment or stake in the Flint Hills Regional Transit Administration (FHRTA).  The funding streams are in no way connected and I will not be the staff person overseeing the FHRTA (if I do any work for them, I will not bill those hours towards the MPO). 

I also wanted to explain a little further about the process for receiving funds through the FHRTA.  Like Gary mentioned, transit operating agencies (like aTa, Big Lakes Development or any of the private transit providers) will submit an application to the FHRTA requesting funds for a specific route or service.  This application will have to identify their source of local match to even be considered for receiving 5307 funds.  Currently, this same process is done, but these transit agencies apply to KDOT for funding.  The FHRTA would allow the local entities (those sitting on the FHRTA Policy Board) to determine which routes, projects, etc receive funding, rather than the state deciding this.

The only interaction between the FHMPO and the transit projects the FHRTA awards, is when these projects are placed in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), like they are now.

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Posted: 23 January 2014 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I know this will not make up all the money but they could make a little extra money driving people to football/basketball games. They do this in Lawrence for the football games. They have a few pick up spots at parking spots or hotels and for a dollar take you to the stadium. Since the parking is crazy up by “The Bill” this could help out and make it less congested on game days.

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Posted: 23 January 2014 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I agree.  The ATA folks have done well by adding some Manhattan Regional AirPort Pick-ups.  I would like to see them investigate opportunities to turn a profit.  They also deserve a positive good job on the Safe ride Program.

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Posted: 26 January 2014 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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So, to be clear, you have no problem with a quarter million a year for the pool subsidy, for a single swimming pool, but 120K for public transportation in a growing town/city is a travesty?

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Posted: 26 January 2014 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It is not a single pool, it is all of them.  Pools are a core city function.  The pools have a sales tax called quality of life that supports the effort, voted for by the taxpayer.  Buses on the other hand have not been voted on by the taxpayer and the support the city provides is through property tax.  The pools are subsidized by the taxpayer they do not operate on a break even basis, but they cover over 70% of the cost.  ATA on the other hand covers only 3% of the cost.  The region is growing and the folks that will come to work at NBAF will be driving to the office in their new Mercedes.  Buses for KSU and around campus seem to be a good idea.  So a focus on that makes sense. There is a reason that Grey Hound and Continental Trail Ways have fallen by the wayside.  They were all about regional transportation.  If KSU kicks in the 200K to get the 8 for 2 match then great, I support that.  We have a 272 million plus debt and ATA does not need to add to that process.  This bus issue was a key topic in the 2011 election, but not last time around.  Start a petition and put it on the ballot, let us see if the voter and business owners want to fund buses along with all of the other programs.  Maybe the voter will agree to give ATA say a 6 mill taxing authority to maintain operations, it can operate like the library board.  We can also form a board for MATC and kick in 7 more mills to keep the Vo Tech in operation.  Let us go ahead and add a few more taxing authorities and see how well the town grows.  But to answer the question pools yes, busses no.  Buses for students yea if KSU becomes a real player.

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Posted: 27 January 2014 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Perhaps public transportation should also be a “core function”?  It is in any city with a eye to the future.

A cool million so the good ol boys can pick some winners and shower them with largess. Of course!

A quarter million for a state-of-the-art meet and practice facility for the private swim club. No problem!  It’s what “the people want”! 

But, a hundred twenty thousand to get public transportation up and running?  THAT money will raise our taxes!

450 million dollars inbound, and you’re prepared to fight to the death for more traffic and ever-greater potholes?

[ Edited: 27 January 2014 05:53 AM by Randall Baughman ]
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Posted: 27 January 2014 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I read in the paper tonight that the Soldiers at Fort Riley cannot come shopping due to lack of public transportation.  That was true in 1969 when we had a Draft.  Not the case today, the soldier all have vehicles.  The only buses needed are safe ride for party events.  I stated in 2011 that the model of fixed route public transportation for our small city and region is just flat not viable.  It is a giant sink hole for funds from all sources.  The big justification for this thing is soldiers and students need the transportation.  I do not buy into the Soldiers need it.  The student parking problem could be helped with buses.  So maybe a model of busing that focuses on the immediate needs.  A model that produces some positive revenue flow.  The current model is just flat flawed. Running empty buses up and down the road just does not make sense.  In the far future - 20 years from now maybe.  But in the grand scheme of priorities we can get a bigger better bang for the buck than fixed route.  Support for Safe Ride, on Demand Service and KSU subsidized student transportation - a big Yes.  Support for a viable business model that turns some what of a profit for ata - yes. They have at least tapped into picking up folks at the Airport.

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Posted: 27 January 2014 05:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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One can make all the arugments they want for… or against… public transportation.  For the most part, it simply boils down to digging their feet in to protect specific political alliances.  Let’s see…

Those who support the funding of public transportation would be the same one would see at conferences promoting clean air and less use of our resources.  Yet, they will jump up and down suggesting that they would propose to see empty busses running up and down the streets… burning significantly more fuel than a couple of cars.  Certainly, if the busses were full, you would realize less fuel use and less polution.  With the limited ridership, we’re not “saving our planet” at all.  They feel the entire populas should pay so a few can have access to rides to college classes, minimum wage jobs, and shopping.  The $1 fee to ride… that’s if you are paying full fee and not getting a reduced fare… does not come close to providing full support for the program.  If I couldn’t afford to put fuel in my truck to get to work, could I solicit the taxpayers to provide my fuel?  Of course not. 

OTOH, those who oppose… Wynn, I’m speaking of our illustrious mayor… suggest this is overreach of the Federal government, that the pubic transist system is unsustainable, and that we cannot ask the taxpayers to support this liberal enterprise.  Then, he will support and attend a Chamber function in Kansas City that takes tens of thousands of dollars out of Manhattan and spend thousands in tax dollars for travel and lodging of public employees.  He will spend a few thousand in tax dollars to personally attend a conference in Washington, D.C.  Previous commissioners who stymied funding for ATA would even spend almost a half million dollars on a walk bridge to serve a private developer. 

It’s all about politics.  It does sound, now, like the U will particpate in funding the system.  That has been the real roadblock in the past.  The bus system will see heavy ridership by students and U staff.  In the past, the U was reluctant to participate financially.  Now that they are, let it go forward.  Cap the participation by the City and see where it goes. 

Most of this is out of our hands anyway.  Every hand that want greased has found they can get what is desired by simply going to the County Commission.  Sounds like the Fieldhouse Group will now be funded by the County.  The City saw through the charade of taxpayers providing a playground for the elite.  The County Commission, OTOH, seems to like being smoozed by the socially connected and have become a pushover.  The County Commission has appointed themselves as the Riley County Health Board so they can recommend spending money on new EMS facilities.  Then, they appoint themselves as the Riley County Building Commission, so they can move forward with spending money on the facility without going to the voters.  They will drop theri drawers and let the Fieldhouse Group kiss their behinds and fund that $54 million with tax dollars. 

We have our elected bodies going off to private meetings in Kansas City to be lobbyied by a local entity that gets well over $1 million/year in tax dollars.  Within days of returning from that session, our elected bodies are drooling to fund fancy playgrounds, indoor athletic facilities, bus systems that will not even come close to supporting themselves.  The stench of croneyism is only diluted by the drool of our elected officials as they seek the means of pleasing the puppet master.  Sheesh…....

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Posted: 27 January 2014 06:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I don’t know about the soldiers either.  I do know that I met soldiers in the 70’s and 80’s from urban areas who’d never driven… and were learning on our streets.  But, the fact is, public transportation is used, more and more, once reliable schedules are in place.  I’ve been in cities/municipalities as diverse as the Hawaiian Islands and Philadelphia, where public buses are used for the public (and private) school systems.  I’ve watched teenagers stream out of schools and congregate on different street corners, then load up the city buses… every day.  Mornings are made up of this scenario, in reverse. Once they learn to use them for school commutes, they have no problem using them for weekend/evening activities as well.

So, it probably AGAIN comes down to a lack of research, a lack of communication, a lack of creative THOUGHT, going into these endeavors. 

Manhattan has never stopped growing since the stagflation of the Reagan years, and even then, it was bolstered by the military spending on Ft. Riley.  It’s time to accept the fact that it has grown too big for small-town, good-ol-boy governance.  Look to the future instead of taking a stand for the past.  It’s gone, and it’s not coming back

Public transportation WORKS, if enough people use it.  Actual thought should go toward how to make that happen, not in creating justification for blanket pronouncements like, “I don’t buy it”.

[ Edited: 27 January 2014 07:08 PM by Randall Baughman ]
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Posted: 27 January 2014 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Here’s one creative thought that will ensure profitability. KSU could ban all student vehicles on campus…free up a lot of space and guarantee ridership. Aggieville could also ban automobiles and clear up space maybe for another hotel.
Of course neither will do that, Aggieville out of the fear of losing customers for their few non-bar businesses, and KSU would never give up that parking permit and fine fees.

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Posted: 27 January 2014 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Michael!  After all the noise you made about the smoking ban, I’m surprised to see you advocate for such measures.  Anyway, if there was anything that would band the citizens together against public transportation faster, I don’t know what it would be.

Now, parking meters in Aggieville… and, say, the center of campus, or additional-fee University Parking Passes… that might encourage ridership, and like I said, once people get used to it, they’ll use it with more regularity.  Game-day buses and buses to/from the entertainment areas such as Aggieville would be pretty festive.  At least, that’s my experience from riding buses in a number of places over the years.

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