Get­ting rail­roaded

The News & Observer - - Opinion -

The authors of “We Can’t Af­ford to Miss This Train” (Jan. 6) have staked their po­lit­i­cal iden­ti­ties on get­ting a light rail — any light rail — to Durham. The authors as­sert that since the lo­cal funds for the project come from “ded­i­cated fund­ing” (Durham’s tran­sit sales tax), the light rail won’t com­pete with other pub­lic projects for re­sources. They also as­sert that the tran­sit tax was ap­proved by “over­whelm­ing ma­jori­ties” in Orange and Durham Coun­ties.

The truth is a far cry from these as­ser­tions. The tran­sit sales tax ref­er­en­dum, which asked for “mass tran­sit” fund­ing, was on the bal­lot in an off year. Only 17 per­cent of Durham’s reg­is­tered vot­ers turned out. The light rail was never men­tioned. Of all el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, only 10 per­cent voted for the tax and seven op­posed. This is not an “over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity,” no mat­ter how you slice it.

The authors’ as­ser­tion that other pub­lic projects are not threat­ened is equally spu­ri­ous. When the tran­sit tax funds col­lected fall short of ex­penses, the only choices will be to in­crease taxes or siphon funds from other ser­vices.

The $2.5+ bil­lion light rail will not take you to RTP or RDU. It does not cre­ate 30,000 new jobs. It is not even the best mod­ern-day op­tion for solv­ing grid­lock in Durham (“The Orange-Durham Light Rail Has Be­come a Ru­n­away Train,” Dec. 30). Po­lit­i­cal mes­sages are just what they ap­pear to be: spin on facts we need to check for our­selves.

Ruth Ann McKin­ney, M.Ed., J.D., Durham City

Bet­tie Sue Masters, Ph.D., Durham City

Phillip M. Post, Durham County

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