September 22, 2003
METRO ballot to list all 7 lines
that vote could authorize
By RAD SALLEE
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
The Metropolitan Transit Authority Board voted today to change
ballot language for the Nov. 4 transit referendum, to satisfy
U.S. Rep. John Culberson's insistence that the ballot list
all seven rail lines that the vote could authorize.
The unanimous vote, taken without discussion, capped a brief
meeting called to meet the Texas Election Code's ballot-change
deadline of 45 days before an election. The actual deadline
fell on Saturday, but it is usual to extend the deadline to
the next business day.
Board Chairman Arthur Schechter said he does not believe
that listing the proposed lines on the ballot is "either
appropriate or necessary" under the law -- and he protested
that Houston was being singled out for such a requirement
-- but he moved to make the change "to avoid further
controversy and clarify the ballot."
"It is very important that the community not be distracted
by needless and damaging political rhetoric about the ballot
language," he said.
The new ballot adds the information that voters would be
• "Approximately 64.8 miles of light rail and
8 miles of commuter line."
• The seven proposed corridors where Metro proposes
to build rail: North Hardy, Southeast, Harrisburg, Westpark,
Uptown / West Loop, Inner Katy and Southwest Commuter Line.
• A breakdown of the first three corridors by segments
to be completed in sequence, with asterisks designating segments
in the 22-mile initial phase of construction, through 2012,
to be funded with an estimated $640 million in Metro bonds.
Schechter said Metro hopes to receive a matching sum from
the Federal Transit Administration. He said Culberson has
promised to help the agency obtain such funding if voters
Culberson was not immediately available for comment. In July,
Culberson introduced legislation, approved by the House but
not yet voted on by the Senate, that no federal rail funds
be used for "any segment of a light rail system in Houston
that has not been specifically approved by a majority of the
Williams Sears, chief counsel for the FTA, later issued an
opinion that because the original ballot language did not
list the "segments at issue," the vote would not
suffice for federal funding.