I spent most of the week at the American City County Exchange Policy Conference, a gathering of conservative local elected officials from across the nation.
The highlight of the conference was the opportunity to provide a number of recommendations to the Trump transition team on policies that the President-elect could change by executive order on Day One.
Two Priorities of the Incoming Administration
Two of the Trump administration’s announced priorities are building infrastructure and pushing resources and power down to cities and counties where they can do the most good.
Included in the issues that local officials addressed was the Trump administration goal to “build (infrastructure) quickly with minimal delay.”
Two Ways to Fast-Track Infrastructure
We discussed two ways in which the President-elect could swiftly remove federal obstacles to building infrastructure:
1. The first roadblock is administrative orders under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is overseen by the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
These requirements cost years of time and millions of dollars. Reducing the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Justice in local infrastructure decisions would go a long way toward fast-tracking projects that the Trump administration has prioritized.
2. The second obstacle is the extra level of government bureaucracy known as the Metropolitan Planning Organization. In the case of North Texas, the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) serves in that capacity.
Regional governments—imposed upon us by federal mandate—tell us how your tax dollars must be spent. The transportation needs of counties and cities would be better served by putting decision-making into the hands of locally-elected leaders who are accountable to the people being served.
Implications for Collin County
Regional governance is especially unsuitable for a region as large as ours. The RTC controls transportation funding for a population as large as most states. That’s a lot of power to be so far removed from the accountability of the voters.
It has gotten so bad that the Collin County representative to the RTC, Commissioner Duncan Webb, recently responded to the 10-year transportation spending plan with strong words. He notes that “the proposed amount of funding does not go far enough to adequately handle the phenomenal growth that has occurred and is predicted to occur in the Region and Collin County, specifically.”
Optimism for Everyone
It’s heartening that the Trump Team went directly to the people who know how to fix these issues to get answers. If the next administration is able to remove these barriers, we have good reason to hope that our infrastructure needs will be better served in the future.