Notes on the Meeting with the MPO Technical Advisory Committee Today, November 30, 2010
(Link to my original article, "Jonesboro Promoting Carless Society In Near Future" can be found at this link: http://www.wpaag.org/Agenda%2021%20Carless%20Soc%20J'boro%20MPO%20Mtg.htm
(List of Jonesboro MPO members and Jonesboro city Council at end of this email)
After learning of some of the radical statements in the 124 page Proposed Draft for the Jonesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), about 20 conservative concerned citizens attended the MPO Technical Advisory Committee Meeting this morning, November 30, 2010
The meeting took place in an office with a conference table so they had to bring in folding chairs for all of us to sit in. They asked us to sign in and then had us go around the room and introduce ourselves and to tell us what organization we were with. Most of us said our name and said we were a concerned citizen. One person said he was with the T-Party. We then just observed while they had the Committee meeting which was probably about an hour. When he closed out the committee meeting, Mr. Muhammad Ulkarim, the Director of MPO, asked if there were any public comments.
I said that some of us there had some questions we wanted to ask and would they answer them for us. They said yes and allowed us about 30 minutes (I am guessing but that seems about right to me) for questions and comments. Most of us stayed around another 10 or 15 minutes and talked to them individually. At times it became somewhat heated, but the committee members were all nice and answered our questions even when we disagreed.
Things we learned from this meeting, mostly in answer to questions:
1. Mr. Ulkarim, the Director said they have received only one or two comments on the issue so far. (That is something we ALL must do - Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them how we disagree with their plan. It would be easy to take a quote from their plan and explain why you oppose it from the quotes I sent out yesterday. Please send a copy to me at email@example.com so we will have a record of the complaints in case they claim they are not getting complaints or comments. If you have misplaced the quotes, you can find them at this link: http://www.wpaag.org/Jonesboro%20MPO%20quotes-bikeways-walkways-transit-equity_mpo_draft_235_met.htm.
2. The Technical Advisory Committee makes the recommendations and wrote the draft, and then the Jonesboro MPO votes on the draft. The vote will probably take place sometime in January when they set a date for the meeting. The meeting was to be December 14 but is postponed until sometime in January.
3. The MPO staff wrote the 124 page Jonesboro MPO Draft. But then they told us that Mr. Ulkarim and Mr. Brooks actually wrote the draft. I don't know if this is all the staff or not.
4. The Technical Committee does not have a vote, but they make the recommendations and write the Plan.
5. The City Council chooses three people to be on the MPO committee. The three people representing the City Council on the MPO Policy Committee now are Mayor Perrin, John Street (City Council), and Ann Williams (City Council). See below for the names of the people on the MPO and the City Council. If any of you know any of them and know anything about them, how approachable they may be, etc. let us know.
Only one concerned citizen at the meeting expressed any approval of their plans. I recognized this man because I had talked to him briefly after the last MPO meeting. After he finished talking, I told him that he told me at the end of the last meeting that creating high density areas was what this MPO stuff was all about and that he approved of that. He then admitted today he had said it and started talking about other crazy leftist's ideas about controlling urban sprawl and how government had a right to do that, etc. Then other people in the room sort of took him on and argued some with him.
I could tell the Committee and Director was getting a little uneasy with all this truth about what the leftists really wanted to happen. Then the Project Director said to Mr. Ulkarim. Tell them "Do you have any more questions to ask the Committee?" In other words he was trying to get control of the meeting again and shut this leftist up, and it worked. We conservatives wanted this leftist to keep talking because he was showing the committee the side of the issue we were opposed to.
Below I am giving the questions and answers I asked because I can remember them. Other people made very good comments and asked very good questions, but I can't recall all of them but can recall mine because I had them written out. Joe Johansen joined in pretty quickly and asked some questions and made some comments. Paul Harrell on his radio program Answer To US talked about the meeting at length today on his program. You can listen to that program at this link: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/11180413
I said to Mr. Mohammud Ulkarim, "Mr. Ulkarim, you said at the last meeting that many of these recommendations were now voluntary, but the Jonesboro MPO and others were wanting them [the government] to make them mandatory. What recommendations were you referring to that you wanted made mandatory?"
He did not deny that he had said it but answered by saying that it was the recommendations about bikeways and walkways that were voluntary and that there were groups that were asking they be made mandatory and mentioned obesity and exercise. Bryan Luster asked who were the groups wanting them to be mandatory, and he gave him no answer and moved on to something else [but Bryan came back to it three times until he finally got an answer.] I asked Mr. Ulkarim did he, personally, want the recommendations made mandatory. He said something like, Me, personally what does that have to do with it? I have no authority in the matter." I asked again, "But personally what do you think." Someone at the table shook his head no as if to indicate how Mr. Ulkarim should answer, and Mr. Ulkarim then said something like, "Personally I would not ask to make them mandatory."
Later in the meeting when Bryan Luster came back to his question the 3rd time about who wanted the bikeways and walkways made mandatory, Mr. Ulkarim named some national organizations. He named AARP, the national MPO, and Health and Human Service nationwide saying we are becoming obese. Ulkarim named some more and then said he would put them on their web. It appears they were all liberal organizations.
I asked the following question:
"At the last meeting the question was asked, 'Do you envision a future where our children and grandchildren would be riding bikes and walking rather than driving cars?' Your answer (Mr. Ewart I think was the one that answered but may have been Mr. Ulkarim) was that it would not only be our children and grandchildren but would be us, the ones at the meeting, most of whom were senior citizens.' Is that the view of the other voting members here?"
Before the members of the committee could answer, Mr. Ewart spoke up and said he was the one that answered the question and he said he did not mean we would have to be riding bikes but would have a choice of doing that. I told him that was not the way we asked it or understood it. And if you go back and read the context in the notes I typed up on that meeting on November 15 that was not what was meant. You can read those notes again at this link: http://www.wpaag.org/Agenda%2021%20Carless%20Soc%20J'boro%20MPO%20Mtg.htm
I also asked this question:
"How much does it cost the taxpayers every time one person rides the JETS bus? We have heard it is around $35.00 to $40.00. Where can we find the total amount of money that has been put into the JETS transportation system and the number of riders of the bus since its existence so we can determine the cost for each passenger?
Mr. Ewart did not deny the $35.00 to $40.00 figure or even address it but in pretty tense tones said we could have that information and that it was all public information, but he didn't volunteer any information about how we would go about getting it. I guess we will have to go ask for it again.
When talking about bikeways and walkways, one concerned citizen John Gunter, asked if anyone at the meeting had ridden to the meeting on a bike or walked. He then said he thought they as leaders should all be examples for the community and start riding their bikes or walking to work and to the meetings. I think he made a very good point and got their attention because he said it in different ways two or three times.
Paul Harrell asked Mr. Ulkarim to explain the meaning of "Environmental Justice," the title of one of the chapters in the 124 page transportation draft. Goal 4 under this section reads: "Improve data collection, monitoring, and analysis tools that assess the needs of, and analyze the potential impacts on minority and low-income populations."
Mr. Ulkarim's answer was very convoluted and somehow led to Mr. Ulkarim saying that when Highway 63 was constructed it divided the community, and that led to another discussion.
The Jonesboro Sun reporter there asked this question toward the end of the meeting, "Is the Tea Party opposing sidewalks? We had not made a point of the sidewalks but made most of our points with the government control. I think we all understood where he was going with that and could quickly envision what he would put in his newspaper article. I immediately said, "I don't think anyone here introduced themselves as being here with the Tea Party. Most of us introduced ourselves as concerned citizens." One man spoke up and said he introduced himself as being from the Tea Party, ( I had forgotten that) This was the same man who the one who said they should be examples for us and ride their bikes to work (I had forgotten this). I am curious as to what we will read in the paper tomorrow. I am proud to be a Tea Party member and helped organized the first one in Jonesboro, but we people there would have been just as concerned if there had never been a Tea Party. There is no reason for the media to try to find ways to make the Tea Party look bad and I think that is the reason that most of us introduced ourselves as concerned citizens.
After the meeting most of us stood around and talked a few minutes to the Committee members or those connected to the committee. I happened to talk to three that encouraged me while others talk to some who discouraged and depressed them.
One man (I am purposely not calling names) came over and told me that he had read my blog (my website) and agreed with me. If he is telling the truth and agrees with what is on my blog, he can't possibly be a liberal. Another person told us she was glad we were there and that several of the people there were also very concerned about government control. Another person told me that he too was concerned about government control and that none of these projects could be put into place unless the City Council okays our part of the funding. In many cases the funding is 80% from government and 20% from the city or state. It gave me hope that we can work with the city council and the community and wake them up to what this is all about. However, it is hard to get people to turn down government money no matter how many strings are attached, and I think that with grant money they may not have to have any matching funds.
The following eleven people make up the Jonesboro MPO who have the final vote on the adoption of the Jonesboro MPO plan, but this was not the committee that we met with today.
Council Member John Street, Chairperson, City of Jonesboro
Mayor Kenneth D. Jones, Vice Chairperson City of Brookland
Mayor Harold Perrin, City of Jonesboro
Judge Dale Haas, Craighead County
Mayor Darrell Kirby, City of Bay
Mayor Billy Stephens, City of Bono
L. M. Duncan, Railhead County
Council Member Ann Williams, City of Jonesboro
Mr. Everett Fair, Community Transportation Advisory Board
Mr. Alan Meadows AHD
Mr. Walter McMillan, AHTD
Non Voting Members:
Mr. Gary DalPorto, Federal Highway Administration
Ms. Lynn Hayes, Federal Transit Administration
City Council Members
You can find contact information and emails at this link: http://records.jonesboro.org/AddInfo/CounContInfo.pdf
Please begin educating these people as well:
Position 1 Charles Frierson
Position 2 Gene Vance
Position 1 Jim Hargis
Position 2 Chris Moore
Position 1 Ann Williams
Position 2 Chris Gibson
Position 1 John Street
Position 2 Mitch Johnson
Position 1 Darrel Dover
Position 2 Rennell Woods
Position 1 Tim McCall
Position 2 Mikel Fears
Posted December 7, 2010