Last night, the North Texas Tollway Authority and Texas Dept. of Transportation held a “public hearing” on the location for the Trinity Toll Road. I put “public hearing” in quotes because (1) you can’t see me doing air quotes, which are obnoxious anyway, and (2) it was anything but a public hearing.
I won’t use the word “sham” because it’s loaded and a little heavy-handed. But here’s what happened:
There was an open house from 4pm – 7pm, when the public could wander around inside the Dallas Convention Center Arena, gander at maps and charts and such, and ask questions of NTTA and TXDOT staff.
At 7pm, the public hearing portion of the evening was to begin. Well, that’s what the flyer said, but that’s not exactly what happened. From 7pm-8:40pm, we were treated to a mind-numbing barrage of slides and information presented by staff, none of which was new to anyone who’s been watching this issue.
After the slideshow, there was a 20 minute intermission.
After that, elected and appointed officials got to speak (I spoke and so did Michael Morris of the North Central Texas Council of Governments).
THEN, finally, at about 9:15 or so, the public got to speak. By this time, more than half the crowd had left, exhausted and drained.
The night was best summed up by former Councilmember John Loza, who so eloquently explains:
“[A]s one who attended last night, the arena wasn’t the only Soviet-style aspect. The whole meeting itself was like a Soviet version of “letting the people speak”. Two and a half hours of eye-glazing, ass-numbing bureaucratic speak followed by a chance for us poor plebes to speak for three minutes while being glared at by one of the bureaucrats herself.
This is the type of thing that turns people off to government. This seemed like such a sham (yeah, I said it). Just going through the motions to be able to tick off the “held public hearing” box on the federal government’s transportation application.
If the goal was to get as much public input as possible, here’s what should have happened: They should have done the slidewhow from 5pm to 6:30pm so that the people who wanted that info could have gotten it. The public hearing, where actual, public comment was taken, should have started at 6:30pm so those of us who just wanted to put our comment into the public record could do so some time before midnight. Most importantly, they should have publicized the agenda and explained ahead of time how the meeting was going to work.