The Rapid bus system, which I’ve been no fan of in the past, seems to be so completely oblivious to its own disconnection from reality, that it’s often stunning. But the last two weeks have shown, to an even greater extent, just how disconnected they are at Rapid headquarters.
The folks over at the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance have helped out the group Walker Yes to get an issue on the ballot in November to let voters in Walker decide if they want to stay part of the Rapid’s tax district. As they’ve pointed out, the requirement of getting signatures of 20% of voters from the last gubernatorial election is the highest standard in state law. It takes 15% to get any other issue on the ballot in Walker, such as amending its city charter. It takes 10% to amend the state constitution. It takes even less for a state initiative or referendum. Yet, the Rapid’s boosters think that 20% really isn’t a sign of discontent in Walker.
In fact, the Rapid’s folks seem to think that the voters in Walker voting “no” on the Rapid’s tax requests in the last two elections to the tune of about 67% each is nothing to worry about. But voters in Walker, Grandville, Kentwood, and Wyoming have been saying no pretty consistently. What does the Rapid do? Nothing. They just pretend that it’s ok to subject entire cities to their higher and higher taxes without their permission.
Then they act surprised that a group like Walker Yes pops up and puts the issue on the ballot. No doubt, the Rapid’s people will claim that the world will end and babies will be murdered if Walker votes “yes” to withdraw from the Rapid’s tax authority. Of course, Walker would have the choice of whether to contract with the Rapid for the same service, like several townships already do. But the Rapid’s people aren’t interested in cost effectiveness or even democracy. They have their eyes on a plan that’s completely disconnected from reality.
Have you heard of the Rapid’s “Transit Master Plan?” Probably not. I’d bet that maybe 0.5% of the local population has. And that’s probably a high number. Well, this plan not only aims for two Silver Line bus systems, but it also plans to tear up downtown and install streetcars, which are pretty much trolleys. The cost for this? Only about half a billion dollars. And that’s just to build the thing. Tack on another $100 million a year to run everything.
Guess whose taxes they plan to raise to pay for this…
But they insist, laughingly, on calling the Transit Master Plan “the people’s plan.” What a joke. I don’t know how more disconnected from reality they can get. But wait, they can!
This week the Rapid’s board of directors, which is not elected by the way (the people’s board of directors?) decided to give a raise to Peter Varga, the head guy who insists on calling himself the CEO. Yes, a government agency has a CEO. He now makes over $200,000 a year, plus a free car on the backs of taxpayers. Of course, you’ll remember him from the video embedded at the end of this post. Yep, that guy makes more than the governor of Michigan. Even several of the Rapid’s own board members seem to be getting some sense of reality. One of them is quoted as saying that the whole thing doesn’t look to good when they voted on the pay increase. No kidding.
This was summed up pretty well by a line in a recent article on the city commission putting the issue on the ballot in Walker: “Walker City Commissioner Chuck Deschaine said officials with the Rapid should have seen this coming a year and a half ago, when Walker residents voted down, by a 3-1 margin, the most recent millage increase to expand the Rapid.”
What does the Rapid say in response? And I quote, “surveys show that nearly 750,000 riders have ridden the bus in Walker this year alone.”
One commenter on that article makes a good point. I looked this up. Walker has about 25,000 residents. Maybe 12,000 or so that are working age. The Rapid wants us to believe that everyone in Walker rides the bus an average of 30 times a year? Every single man, woman, and child?
Of course the Rapid has a credibility problem, they blatantly lie to the public, regularly… and the GR Press just goes on printing this nonsense with no critical thought whatsoever. Simple common sense tells you that 750,000 is beyond ridiculous, but it’s become clearer and clearer that the Press is really just the Rapid’s PR department.
Enjoy watching you tax dollars at work!