A few years ago voters in a jury-rigged taxing district in East Baton Rouge Parish narrowly passed a thoroughly unwise $18 million tax to fund the Capital Area Transit System, or CATS. A city can’t be great without a great mass transit system, we were told, and coupled with a management overhaul and implementation of best practices, that tax would produce just such a mass transit system.
That the CATS buses were empty at the time, with no prospect of them not being empty no matter how large the honey pot funding them grew, didn’t seem to matter. And that the CATS management was rife with corruption, which quickly became public, mattered none at all. The leftists at the Soros-funded Together Baton Rouge organization assured us those problems would be cleaned up and CATS would shine as a triumph of urban socialism.
But when CATS’ CEO Bob Mirabito, who was given some recognition locally for trying to keep the corruption to a minimum, was forced out by the system’s union and crooked local politicians like Denise Marcelle in April of this year, it was clear those dreams of a world-class bus system were never going to be realized.
And just eight months later we have this…
CATS’ board is supposed to meet today to go over its 2017 budget. That’ll be a hoot. Apparently, despite an $18 million cash infusion from taxpayers who don’t ride CATS’ buses they’re unable to staff the system with backup bus drivers.
For that $18 million, Baton Rouge could subsidize Uber rides – or even make a market for local competitors to Uber, or taxi service – for everyone who currently rides the bus and have money left over. We said as much at the time and we were correct.
Had that been done, Baton Rouge could have unloaded a poorly-run government agency with a greedy union, and in so doing drain a particularly fetid swamp of public corruption and graft, while at the same time creating opportunities for lots of young people, folks between jobs and citizens looking to make more money as drivers.
And with the money left over, there would be a resource to do things like synchronize traffic lights or fix potholes.
Instead, we have a bonfire of our tax dollars at that hub on Florida Boulevard – and five will get you ten that CATS’ board will propose an increase to that tax to cover its current level of costs and “improve service” to the scant few customers it does have.