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CAMPO to consider innovative way to keep Conley as chair

Monday, January 8, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

A unique proposal is in the works to keep Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board Chair Will Conley in his post despite his departure last year from the Hays County Commissioners Court.

Federal statute dictates that board members of powerful transportation planning bodies such as CAMPO must be local elected officials, state officials or “officials of public agencies that administer or operate major modes of transportation in the metropolitan area.”

By that reading, Conley lost eligibility to serve on the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board when he left his county commissioner post last October to run for Hays County judge this November.

However, according to agenda backup material for the board’s meeting on Monday night, the committee tasked with nominating a new chair and vice chair for new two-year terms starting this year voted unanimously to recommend the reappointment of both Conley and Vice Chair Clara Beckett, a commissioner from Bastrop County.

Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long chaired the nominating committee, whose roster also included Mayor Steve Adler. Neither responded to requests for comment on this story.

The proposed solution to Conley’s quandary appears in a subsequent item that would have the board take action on his appointment to the TPB as an “affiliate non-voting” member.

According to the backup material for the item, CAMPO amended its joint powers agreement in 2013 to allow for the addition of non-voting members to the TPB. It goes on to state, “The affiliate non-voting membership can be changed by the full Transportation Policy Board at any time and is not governed by federal or state statutes.”

And going beyond the question of non-voting membership, the document asserts that CAMPO’s bylaws and joint powers agreement trump federal law when it comes to establishing board membership.

CAMPO Executive Director Ashby Johnson did not return a request for comment on this story. However, Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, a reliable critic of CAMPO, shared with the Monitor on Sunday evening an open letter she wrote in which she slammed the proposal as a “backroom deal that twists the rules” to keep Conley on as chairman.

“During Conley’s time as chair, CAMPO has been overly focused on toll roads and highways,” Shea wrote. “It has largely ignored the kind of innovative solutions other regions like Dallas, Denver, Nashville and Chicago have invested in to great competitive advantage. During this time, CAMPO has been openly hostile to multimodal solutions to our congestion problems and even recklessly dismantled the only commuter rail authority between Austin and San Antonio, (Lone Star Rail) with minimal debate.”

Photo by Lars Plougmann made available through a Creative Commons license.

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