There’s no time to change horses midstream, but the County Board of Commissioners may consider changes to the makeup of their Transportation Committee in the future.
Early year housekeeping saw commissioners Randy Ognio and Charles Oddo and staff members Phil Mallon and Carlos Christian reappointed to the Transportation Committee, but the process could change in the future if Commissioner Eric Maxwell gets his way. Saying his feelings had nothing to do with Ognio or Oddo, Maxwell said he thought it might be better for the committee to be independent of any elected officials.
“When you go into a meeting as an elected official and you’re on a board, it’s got a different oomph to it than when you walk in there as an unelected official,” he said. “I would prefer that we didn’t have commissioners on this committee.”
According to the county’s agenda packet, the purpose of the Transportation Committee is to: Identify traffic problems in the county, provide recommendations to the Board of Commissioners for short-and long-term priorities, provide input on project alignments and alternatives, assist with identification of funding sources, solicitation of federal funds, grants, etc., assist with coordination of projects between the county and municipalities, provide appropriate focus on projects to ensure accountability of staff and consultants, provide recommendations for long-term goals, identify and support safety initiatives, and assemble information and facilitate communication of the county’s views and concerns to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).
Maxwell thinks it could sway votes in committee and give items extra weight if they are brought before the full Board of Commissioners.
“By the time it makes it out of Transportation Committee it’s already got two commissioners attached to it, and those two commissioners all they need is one more vote now to get what they want done, as opposed to if we get a recommendation from an unelected transportation committee comes into the five of us and then the five of us would sort it out,” he said. “It vests a lot of power on the two that are there.”
Chairman Ognio thought the benefits of having commissioners on the committee outweigh the drawbacks.
“I do think that this is the opportunity for commissioners to have input into that transportation plan. I don’t think it’s a conflict,” he said, pointing out the importance of having a direct connection between the county, the ARC, and GDOT. “I’m one of those people that thinks why change something that’s not broke.”
Oddo shared that they have gotten great feedback on the setup.
“It wasn’t so much that GDOT thought it was a good idea, they think it’s one of the best plans that they’ve seen from transportation committees around the state, which kind of blew us away.”
Commissioner Charles Rousseau shared Maxwell’s inclination to reevaluate.
“When we’re on bodies and entities, it takes on a different flavor, and so, in order to avoid even the appearance of that, I share that sentiment,” he said.
Rather than tackle what would likely be an in-depth discussion, the commissioners will wait until after this year’s budget process is complete in July to revisit the topic.