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Kids Safety Funds Used for Freeway Soundwall

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Kids Safety Funds Used for Freeway Soundwall

Old 03-02-24, 05:11 PM
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Kids Safety Funds Used for Freeway Soundwall

Hi All!
Is this a common practice for Safe Routes to School funds being reallocated to other projects? After one of our Truckee Meadows Bike Alliance supporters raised concerns, he was asked to resign. What do you think? Has anyone else seen this kind of reallocation of funds in other communities?

https://www.rgj.com/story/news/2024/...t/72799696007/

According to Cole, the expansion was not properly agendized. Instead, it was tacked on to another item on the agenda involving a funding deal with the Washoe County School District. The advisory committee was supposed to vote on amending the regional transportation plan to remove matching funding from the RTC for the Safe Routes to School Program because the school district failed to provide the requisite funding for the match.

RTC Washoe denies seeking resignation of citizen’s committee member who questioned project

A formal letter seeking a citizen committee member's resignation claims to have backing from the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County.

Jason Hidalgo
Reno Gazette JournalA Washoe County transportation agency is denying it was involved in an attempt to force the resignation of a member of one of its citizens advisory committees after the member raised questions about a highway project.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County told the Reno Gazette Journal that it was not behind a letter formally demanding the resignation of Damien Cole, a member of its Citizens Multimodal Advisory Committee.

The letter, which was sent by CMAC Chair Lyndsey Costello to Cole, claims to have the backing of RTC Washoe staff in pushing for his resignation.

“After many discussions between myself, my vice chair, and the RTC, We are requesting your resignation from the committee,” Costello wrote in the letter to Cole, which was obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal.

“If you do not wish to part with us amicably, the executive board has moved forward with having you removed by other means,” Costello added. “We have no doubt you will continue to make yourself heard through other participation.”

Cole expressed surprise and bafflement when asked about the letter.

“It came as a sideswipe, a big shock,” Cole said. “This whole thing just has a fishiness to it.”

Resignation push came after Cole questioned I-80 project

The letter to Cole follows a heated meeting in November when an expansion project for Interstate 80 suddenly caught several members of the multimodal advisory committee by surprise.

The Citizens Multimodal Advisory Committee is one of several RTC advisory committees that provide “information and advice to RTC staff on transportation policy issues, development of transportation planning documents, and implementation efforts related to public transportation and the regional street and highway system,” said Josh MacEachern, public information officer for RTC Washoe.

The advisory committee, which has 17 appointed members, usually meets monthly.

The I-80 expansion in question involved an existing project by the Nevada Department of Transportation. The project covered a stretch of I-80 between Keystone Avenue and McCarran Boulevard and included the construction of a large sound wall.
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Manage SubscriptionAccording to Cole, the expansion was not properly agendized. Instead, it was tacked on to another item on the agenda involving a funding deal with the Washoe County School District. The advisory committee was supposed to vote on amending the regional transportation plan to remove matching funding from the RTC for the Safe Routes to School Program because the school district failed to provide the requisite funding for the match.

Because the I-80 expansion was unscheduled, there was not enough information about the project for committee members to properly make a decision on it, Cole said. Cole had questions about the sound wall, for example, but there wasn’t an NDOT representative at the meeting to answer them. According to Cole, the wall cost millions of dollars.

“I was wondering what the sound retaining wall was for because next to it is this giant ravine that goes hundreds of yards before any houses,” Cole said. “Who exactly needs it?”

Meeting takes strange turn over I-80 expansion

Due to insufficient information about the project, Cole made a motion to table the unscheduled agenda item for a future meeting. A majority of the committee agreed with Cole.

As a compromise, the committee agreed to vote to amend the regional transportation plan to pull the RTC matching funding, which was on the agenda.

Costello, however, insisted on passing the I-80 expansion despite the majority vote to put it on hold so it could be properly added to the agenda at a future meeting, according to Cole. Costello argued that the vote to table the expansion did not count because it was not unanimous. A copy of the committee’s own policies obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal, however, indicated that action by the committee only required a majority vote.

Another committee member also had to make a point of order with Costello to correct the record, Cole added.

Committee members expected the I-80 expansion to come back on the agenda at the next meeting. The item, however, never made it back to the committee. Instead, it was directly sent to the RTC Washoe board due to “time constraints.”

“They decided to bypass us and give the item to the RTC without our consent,” Cole said. “Are we just window dressing for internal staff decisions that have already been made?”

Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce and a member of the committee, confirmed Cole’s comments regarding the I-80 expansion.

“It was not on a future agenda,” Silver said when reached late Thursday.

The Reno Gazette Journal has reached out to Costello for comment.

Cole asked to voluntarily resign or face removal

Tuesday started as another regular day for Cole.

“I was doing normal daily business,” Cole said. “Suddenly, I get an email.”

It was the letter asking for Cole’s resignation.
In the letter, Costello accused Cole of being disruptive in meetings.
“You regularly have turned the three minutes offered for open comments and delayed the progress or adjournment with a long discussion about something off-topic,” Costello wrote.
“We have also been informed that you do the same as public comment in many other RTC held meetings.”
Costello added that Cole’s “pattern of behavior” has made meetings no longer enjoyable for members. Complaints about Cole were not limited to committee members but also came from RTC staff, Costello alleged in the letter.In addition to Cole, the email also included CMAC Vice Chair Greg Newman and RTC staffers Xuan Wang and Daniel Doenges as recipients.

Cole pushed back against Costello and shared his response and the letter to other committee members. One committee member, Juan Martinez, responded to the email thread that now included committee members and RTC staff — including RTC Washoe Executive Director Bill Thomas.

Martinez wrote that he was“shocked and appalled” by the letter. Cole did nothing wrong, according to Martinez. Martinez also noted that the three-minute time limit for speaking was for public comment, not for committee members.

“Why are you people asking him to resign?” Martinez wrote.

“Perhaps we need to visit the open meeting law regulations and policies along with RTC’s committee policy bylaws and guidelines. We need to do better.”
The letter also raises questions about why other members were not consulted in a decision involving one of their own and why it was not done in a public setting.Silver, meanwhile, told the Reno Gazette Journal that she is withholding comment on RTC and its alleged role until Thomas has had an opportunity to share the agency’s side and weigh in on the issue.

“If you’ve read the emails, you can follow the chain of what’s been said,” Silver said. “I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

RTC Washoe distanced itself from the whole ordeal when reached on Thursday.

Because the CMAC is a citizens’ volunteer committee, RTC’s policy is to let the committee govern itself as much as possible, spokesperson MacEachern said. Asked about Costello’s claims that RTC staff was part of the decision to ask for Cole’s resignation, the agency responded that it was not true.

“That’s not entirely accurate at all,” MacEachern said. “We organize the committee as part of RTC but they do self-regulate to a certain extent.”

Cole, who says he has no plans to resign, stressed that he was not being an agitator but simply doing his job.

During all the times he had spoken up, he was fulfilling his role and representing the interests of the public on the committee and over RTC decisions, according to Cole.

“They’re not a corporation,” Cole said.

“I’m sorry but they can’t just do whatever they want. They have to abide by the laws.”

Last edited by kyplaskon; 03-02-24 at 09:06 PM. Reason: Adding the story
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Old 03-02-24, 06:05 PM
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Pay wall.
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Old 03-02-24, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by base2
Pay wall.

RTC Washoe denies seeking resignation of citizen’s committee member who questioned project

A formal letter seeking a citizen committee member's resignation claims to have backing from the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County.

Jason Hidalgo
Reno Gazette Journal
A Washoe County transportation agency is denying it was involved in an attempt to force the resignation of a member of one of its citizens advisory committees after the member raised questions about a highway project.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County told the Reno Gazette Journal that it was not behind a letter formally demanding the resignation of Damien Cole, a member of its Citizens Multimodal Advisory Committee.

The letter, which was sent by CMAC Chair Lyndsey Costello to Cole, claims to have the backing of RTC Washoe staff in pushing for his resignation.

“After many discussions between myself, my vice chair, and the RTC, We are requesting your resignation from the committee,” Costello wrote in the letter to Cole, which was obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal.

“If you do not wish to part with us amicably, the executive board has moved forward with having you removed by other means,” Costello added. “We have no doubt you will continue to make yourself heard through other participation.”

Cole expressed surprise and bafflement when asked about the letter.

“It came as a sideswipe, a big shock,” Cole said. “This whole thing just has a fishiness to it.”

Resignation push came after Cole questioned I-80 project

The letter to Cole follows a heated meeting in November when an expansion project for Interstate 80 suddenly caught several members of the multimodal advisory committee by surprise.

The Citizens Multimodal Advisory Committee is one of several RTC advisory committees that provide “information and advice to RTC staff on transportation policy issues, development of transportation planning documents, and implementation efforts related to public transportation and the regional street and highway system,” said Josh MacEachern, public information officer for RTC Washoe.
The advisory committee, which has 17 appointed members, usually meets monthly.

The I-80 expansion in question involved an existing project by the Nevada Department of Transportation. The project covered a stretch of I-80 between Keystone Avenue and McCarran Boulevard and included the construction of a large sound wall.
Your subscription, your way
Managing your subscription has never been easier. Pause delivery, update your credit card and more online.
Manage SubscriptionAccording to Cole, the expansion was not properly agendized. Instead, it was tacked on to another item on the agenda involving a funding deal with the Washoe County School District. The advisory committee was supposed to vote on amending the regional transportation plan to remove matching funding from the RTC for the Safe Routes to School Program because the school district failed to provide the requisite funding for the match.

Because the I-80 expansion was unscheduled, there was not enough information about the project for committee members to properly make a decision on it, Cole said. Cole had questions about the sound wall, for example, but there wasn’t an NDOT representative at the meeting to answer them. According to Cole, the wall cost millions of dollars.

“I was wondering what the sound retaining wall was for because next to it is this giant ravine that goes hundreds of yards before any houses,” Cole said. “Who exactly needs it?”

Meeting takes strange turn over I-80 expansion

Due to insufficient information about the project, Cole made a motion to table the unscheduled agenda item for a future meeting. A majority of the committee agreed with Cole.

As a compromise, the committee agreed to vote to amend the regional transportation plan to pull the RTC matching funding, which was on the agenda.

Costello, however, insisted on passing the I-80 expansion despite the majority vote to put it on hold so it could be properly added to the agenda at a future meeting, according to Cole. Costello argued that the vote to table the expansion did not count because it was not unanimous. A copy of the committee’s own policies obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal, however, indicated that action by the committee only required a majority vote.

Another committee member also had to make a point of order with Costello to correct the record, Cole added.

Committee members expected the I-80 expansion to come back on the agenda at the next meeting. The item, however, never made it back to the committee. Instead, it was directly sent to the RTC Washoe board due to “time constraints.”

“They decided to bypass us and give the item to the RTC without our consent,” Cole said. “Are we just window dressing for internal staff decisions that have already been made?”

Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce and a member of the committee, confirmed Cole’s comments regarding the I-80 expansion.

“It was not on a future agenda,” Silver said when reached late Thursday.

The Reno Gazette Journal has reached out to Costello for comment.

Cole asked to voluntarily resign or face removal

Tuesday started as another regular day for Cole.

“I was doing normal daily business,” Cole said. “Suddenly, I get an email.”

It was the letter asking for Cole’s resignation.
In the letter, Costello accused Cole of being disruptive in meetings.

“You regularly have turned the three minutes offered for open comments and delayed the progress or adjournment with a long discussion about something off-topic,” Costello wrote.

“We have also been informed that you do the same as public comment in many other RTC held meetings.”

Costello added that Cole’s “pattern of behavior” has made meetings no longer enjoyable for members. Complaints about Cole were not limited to committee members but also came from RTC staff, Costello alleged in the letter.

In addition to Cole, the email also included CMAC Vice Chair Greg Newman and RTC staffers Xuan Wang and Daniel Doenges as recipients.

Cole pushed back against Costello and shared his response and the letter to other committee members. One committee member, Juan Martinez, responded to the email thread that now included committee members and RTC staff — including RTC Washoe Executive Director Bill Thomas.

Martinez wrote that he was“shocked and appalled” by the letter. Cole did nothing wrong, according to Martinez. Martinez also noted that the three-minute time limit for speaking was for public comment, not for committee members.

“Why are you people asking him to resign?” Martinez wrote.

“Perhaps we need to visit the open meeting law regulations and policies along with RTC’s committee policy bylaws and guidelines. We need to do better.”
The letter also raises questions about why other members were not consulted in a decision involving one of their own and why it was not done in a public setting.Silver, meanwhile, told the Reno Gazette Journal that she is withholding comment on RTC and its alleged role until Thomas has had an opportunity to share the agency’s side and weigh in on the issue.

“If you’ve read the emails, you can follow the chain of what’s been said,” Silver said. “I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

RTC Washoe distanced itself from the whole ordeal when reached on Thursday.

Because the CMAC is a citizens’ volunteer committee, RTC’s policy is to let the committee govern itself as much as possible, spokesperson MacEachern said. Asked about Costello’s claims that RTC staff was part of the decision to ask for Cole’s resignation, the agency responded that it was not true.

“That’s not entirely accurate at all,” MacEachern said. “We organize the committee as part of RTC but they do self-regulate to a certain extent.”Cole, who says he has no plans to resign, stressed that he was not being an agitator but simply doing his job.

During all the times he had spoken up, he was fulfilling his role and representing the interests of the public on the committee and over RTC decisions, according to Cole.

“They’re not a corporation,” Cole said.

“I’m sorry but they can’t just do whatever they want. They have to abide by the laws.”
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Old 03-03-24, 10:52 PM
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If you agree to chair a formal meeting, especially one affiliated with a public agency, it's a basic expectation that you will know and follow the rules of order. From the description, this doesn't seem to be the case, and then following it up with a resignation demand would only magnify the error.

I've seen some remarkable gymnastics involving funding categories in my time, but you're still supposed to follow the rules.
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Old 03-12-24, 08:51 AM
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Using safety money for a sound wall is misappropriation of that money, and is just plain wrong. It would seem to me as some sort of political nonsense to me.
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Old 03-15-24, 04:45 AM
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My experience with an “advisory committee” is that it is just that: advisory. At the end of the day the elected officials decide.

Unfortunately these committees get wrapped up with a bunch of rules, processes and folderol in an attempt to provide the desired window dressing. Anecdotes like this are the result.
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Old 03-15-24, 08:40 AM
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That whole citizens comm needs to be put out to pasture.
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