Demanding to Know How Our Taxes Are Being Spent Against Us

Demanding to Know How Our Taxes Are Being Spent Against Us

Demanding AccountabilityToday – January 23rd 2014 –  I submitted a Public Records Request – I want to understand why those seemingly charged with representing us are so out of alignment. My request was directed at the Transportation Authority of Marin.

This morning, on the 23rd January, I submitted a public records request to the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) requesting to see emails sent and received by key employees over the last 2 years. TAM is a public agency and is obligated to respond within 10 calendar days  to any citizen making such a request. If the electronic file(s) exist then TAM is legally obligated to share these files with me as a taxpaying US citizen.
Is this a reasonable request? Why did I submit the request? That doesn’t matter. Attending a Marin IJ sponsored educational meeting last night in San Rafael I learned that as citizens it doesn’t even matter if we want to line our bird cages with these documents – we have a right to understand how our taxes are being spent.

Why the Transportation Authority of Marin?

Transportation grants and PDA contracts have flowed through the Transportation Authority of Marin. I want to understand how this government agency is operating. I see significant involvement in the Station Area Planning process in Civic Center by TAM. TAM is potentially incentivized, like ABAG, to preserve and increase it’s authority by securing government transportation grants. Would it sacrifice representing the public interest to preserve or increase its authority?

Why TAM – What About ABAG?

I discovered I am not alone in submitting these reasonable requests. Many would ask – why send a request to TAM, why not ABAG which has foisted urbanization on Marin and removed local control? – well it seems others have tried. What do they hit? – a brick wall. How can these agencies be spending taxpayers money – and yet refusing to be accountable even by responding to a public records request? This is unacceptable.

We already face issues with ABAG being unaccountable – as I have mentioned before I do not possess any vote enabling me to vote any of Marin’s ABAG representatives out:

– Katie Rice (Marin Supervisor, voted for Plan Bay Area)
– Steve Kinsey (Marin Supervisor, voted for Plan Bay Area)
– Pat Eklund (Novato, abstained from voting for Plan Bay Area)

I don’t see these Marin representatives pushing hard enough on facts being used to justify ABAG’s $92 billion Plan Bay Area, the final Plan Bay Area was published on Tuesday. The above representatives are receiving significant heat because they are pushing and advocating a $92 billion plan that simply is not based on facts:

– it assumes massive investment in transit will suddenly increase per capita transit ridership, defying a trend in the opposite direction that has prevailed since the early 1980s

– it presumes by switching people from using cars to transit that greenhouse emissions will be reduced; yet cars are now achieving lower emissions per passenger mile than transit, so such a switch will spend billions moving the needle the wrong way

– not only does it spend $92 billion; it is resulting in the imposition, supposedly “voluntarily”, of high density housing on neighborhoods where it is out of character

Refusing Accountability

What we Are facing are agencies that refuse to be accountable. Both TAM and ABAG are Joint Powers Authorities, covered by Bob Silvestri in his excellent piece “The Enronization of Democracy”.

San Rafael – Home to the First Amendment Coalition

I have also learned that San Rafael is home to the First Amendment Coalition. A national non-profit “dedicated to advancing free speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs”.

I have sent an inquiry to them asking for their guidance and assistance in anticipation that TAM fails to respond. This coalition provides free one on one legal advice to individuals “frustrated in the exercise of their First Amendment rights”. (They have already responded and are providing excellent advice).

What Do You Think?

Do you expect TAM to respond to my reasonable request? What do you think should happen if TAM does not respond? (they have 10 calendar days).