By Steve Hymon, May 12, 2015
The activist group has a long interview with Phil, who officially started yesterday. The interview covers a lot of ground and Washington is asked up front about the potential ballot measure that Metro is considering putting before voters in 2016. His answer:
As you know we are in the midst of discussions about whether to put another sales tax measure on the ballot next year, and a recent Metro poll suggests very strong public support. What’s your opinion?
One of my first orders of business is to sit down with each board member to understand their objectives and priorities and to develop a tactical plan based on what I hear. If the board supports the idea of a new sales tax measure I know how to do it: We did it in Denver in 2004 and our success was largely due to our ability to bring people together. One of the truly great things that happened is that the Metro Mayors Caucus — a nonpartisan group of 40 mayors who voluntarily come together to address complex regional issues like air pollution — unanimously supported the measure. The transit build-out has been a Metro Mayors Caucus priority since the very beginning, and they also worked with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority on issuing bonds to finance affordable multi-family housing at stations along the rail lines.
What are some of the key lessons learned about winning the ballot measure in Denver?
I believe the specificity of the plan was key — not just with the mayors but also the general public. A very detailed plan is a must. We tried going to the ballot in 1997 and failed partly because we weren’t specific about how the money would be spent, and it took us 7 years to get back to the ballot. It’s also critical to lay out the economic benefits, and to remember that these benefits are different for different stakeholders: For developers, for example, it’s about providing an opportunity to build next to what become thriving real estate markets around new stations, while to the unemployed or under-employed it’s the possibility of a job — or a career — in construction, operations or engineering. The mobility benefits are for everyone.Phil also talks about funding and, in particular, the use of a public-private partnership in the Denver area to fund some transit projects. As many of you know, PPPs have been talked about in transit circles for many years now but actually pulling them off has proven difficult. There are certainly some projects here in need of extra funding so it will be interesting to see whether PPP turns out to be a viable option.