Skip to comments.(Queen Sheila) Jackson Lee Urges Officials to Reject (Houston) Rail Ballot Ruling
Posted on 09/21/2003 10:47:57 PM PDT by anymouse
A member of Houston's congressional delegation wants federal transportation officials to reject an internal last-minute legal ruling that has prompted the latest assault on Metro's light rail plan.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta should reconsider the opinion from the Federal Transit Administration's chief counsel, ruling that Metro's ballot language would result in an elimination of federal funding if a bill making its way through Congress is signed into law, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said Sunday.
"We've gone too far to be able to turn back now," she said, calling any construction delay resulting from the opinion "intolerable."
Standing amid the dangling cables at a still-unfinished light rail stop near Main and Richmond, Jackson Lee called the matter "a local issue that should be left to local voters."
"We want to be assured that the federal government will not interfere with any election that we will have and will not interfere with any funding," Jackson Lee said.
The latest dispute erupted Thursday after Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, released a letter from FTA chief counsel William Sears that ruled the 22 miles of rail segments must be individually listed on the Nov. 4 ballot.
While the sections are cataloged on the board resolution -- considered part of the referendum -- voters won't find them on the computerized ballot screens because of their length. Instead, they are asked to approve "construction of extensions of Metro's rail system" and other transit agency projects.
Jackson Lee said Metro board members will meet today, "to redefine the language in order to be assured that every person who votes is aware of their commitment to a rail system, if their vote happens to be yes."
Any alteration to the ballot language, however, could run afoul of Texas law, which mandates that any election, including a description of the measure, be filed within 45 days of Election Day. That deadline fell Saturday.
"We are very much up against that time frame," Jackson Lee acknowledged. "We are less than 45 days away from the election. This is a crisis as it relates to state law and as it relates to federal law."
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