The Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Fiscal Priorities Committee — one of two newly created to help speed up the county’s efforts to identify “must-have-now” transportation projects — had an important scheduled meeting at 2 p.m. Monday in the chambers of the Miami-Dade County Commission.
But only two of seven committee members showed up — chairwoman Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava and Vice Chair Oliver Gilbert III, mayor of Miami Gardens. That’s it.
Ultimately, the meeting was canceled — no quorum. According to Ms. Levine Cava, County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter gave prior notice that they could not attend. But, she said, there was no word from Commissioner Juan Zapata, Miami-Beach Mayor Philip Levine or Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.
Ms. Levine Cava said that some suggested last Friday that she cancel the meeting because of the hurricane threat. But Tropical Storm Erika, ultimately, was a no-show — and so was a majority of the committee members, unfortunately. A visibly “disappointed” Ms. Levine Cava apologized to the audience and those who had come to make presentations; Mr. Gilbert implied from the dais other members must attend these smaller meetings to be able to brief the larger MPO board.
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Monday’s agenda had included a presentation on Bus Rapid Transit by Benjamin de la Peña of the Knight Foundation. He is a national expert on BRT — dedicated roads with limited stops, synched lights, prepaid fares and same-level bus entry, much like a train. It could be a game-changer in this community. The committee also was to take action on a Transportation Improvement Program/Long Range Transportation Plan; deal with amendments to the Bus Rapid Transit plan, as requested by MPO Chairman Jean Monestime; and hear reports on the First and Last Mile Options, plus hold a discussion of funding sources.
None of it happened. Instead, people who cared enough to trek downtown — people with some forward-looking solutions — were sent back into Miami-Dade’s gridlock without accomplishing much of anything.
In the past, the Herald Editorial Board has taken the MPO — the under-the-radar agency that approves every major county transportation project — to task for what appears to be a fragmented approach to fixing our transportation problems. Obviously, some board members are not taking this responsibility seriously. Why?
When meeting with the Editorial Board in June, Mr. Monestime, MPO chair, insisted that poor attendance was not an issue. But since his visit, three committee or full board meetings have been canceled or rescheduled.
Mr. Monestime’s decision to create the Fiscal Priorities Committee and the Transit Solutions Committee, headed by Commissioner Dennis Moss, was a good one. It addressed what Ms. Levine Cava affirms is some critics’ contention that the MPO, with 23 voting members, is too unwieldy. The two smaller committees are supposed to focus more deeply on issues and make recommendations to the larger board.
“It’s been difficult to have in-depth conversations at meetings. It’s a very large group. Members only see each other once a month,” Ms. Levine Cava said of the full MPO. “They’re from different jurisdictions and with different priorities.”
But Monday’s poor showing at such an important committee meeting was another sorry setback.