Raleigh, N.C. — Dozens of people at the Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday afternoon wanted to discuss an issue that wasn't even on the agenda – mass transit.
A public discussion on the county's transit plan hasn't occurred since the most recent in-depth draft plan was completed last November.
Since then, Durham approved a half-cent increase to its local sales tax rate to help pay for expanded bus service, commuter rail and light rail in the Triangle. Orange County voters will consider a similar increase in November, but Wake isn't close to putting the issue on the ballot.
"We need to have a public meeting. They need to take this up. We've been waiting for months," said Karen Rindge, executive director of advocacy group WakeUP Wake County. "(Delaying) is not fair to the towns and certainly not fair to Wake County voters."
Speaking on behalf of seven other Wake County mayors, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Garmer Mayor Ronnie Williams and Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles asked the Board of Commissioners on Monday for a public discussion on transit to help them plan for the future.
Commissioner Joe Bryan said he believes it's premature to have a public hearing on a draft plan, and he wants to wait on a more complete plan.
"If we're not going to move forward with it, (it's) not like there's some huge urgency out there," Bryan said. "(By waiting,) we can delve in to make sure it's financially feasible for our community."
The board majority, made up of Republicans, has also indicated that it's not the right time to put transit to a vote in a sluggish economy when there are other bond issues – an possible tax increases – on the horizon.
"At least from my perspective, education is a much higher priority than transit," Bryan said.
Commissioner Erv Portman said he has been pushing for a meeting on transit but hasn't been able to convince his colleagues to move ahead.
"I think the voters will get it right," Portman said. "If they think this is an important issue, they're going to weigh all those priorities. They'll make a decision, and if they decide this isn't something we should be doing, they'll tell us."