The recent outbreak of hysterical excitement around the city can only mean one thing: the Metro board will soon decide on ballot language for the General Mobility Program referendum. With this fateful day closing in, the board convened last night to take in more public input on the issue.
Speakers generally rehashed familiar arguments. Businessmen tended to support the GMP, which siphons 25 percent of transit sales taxes into city budgets for stuff like road maintenance and drainage projects, while basically everyone else opposed it. Two women showed up wearing T-shirts that said "spend transit $ on transit."
According to George Greanias, president of Metro, keeping the GMP in place will severely limit the expansion of public transit over the next 10-20 years and slow maintenance of the modest services we have now. With GMP, the city can't start any major projects until 2025. Without it, they'll have enough money by 2015.
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Even though Houstonians overwhelming support public transit, Houston's transit system lags behind those in many other major cities. "It's a pain livin' in this city if you don't have a car" one guy at the meeting said. Huge areas of Houston still have little to no transit service.
At the same time, local city budgets count on that 25% to pay their bills. Without it they may have to raise taxes or provide less services, so there's no obvious choice here.
A final decision is expected by June 28.