Friday, March 27, 2009

The Quiet RTA Scandal

The Dayton Daily News inadvertently spilled the beans on how RTA was a cash cow for certain pet projects of the local power structure.

In an excellent bit of reporting on RTA's budget woes, the DDN reports on what happened to RTA's rainy day fund:

After years of deficit spending, RTA was forced to raise its fares twice in the last three years, for a total increase of 50 percent, Donaghy said. In 2007, the agency combined and eliminated routes and reduced overall service by 12 percent.

Prior to his arrival in 2006, Donaghy said the agency ran through an $80 million to $100 million surplus, primarily through investment in projects like the Schuster Center, Fifth Third Field and Wright Stop Plaza at Third and Main streets.

One would have to go back into the press archives to find out for sure, but I think RTA actually spent more than the city of Dayton in subsidizing the Schuster Center, a project (along with 5/3 Field) that had nothing to do with public transit. Wright Stop Plaza was a good idea, though.

The article continues on how Ohio barely spends any state money on public transit (yet another example on how this is the "Alabama of the Midwest"). Yet one has to wonder about what was going on with RTA when they wipe out their cash cushion for projects like the Schuster.

The director at the time was local career bureaucrat Minnie Fells Johnson, who was implicated in a fishy retire-and-then-get-rehired scheme back in the early 2000s (which soundes a lot like double dipping). One can speculate that her strings were being pulled by the local establishment, though.

Past mismangement helped make the current situation worse, but at base is the economic decline of Montgomery County; the article reports revenues from the sales tax used to fund RTA fell by 18%, indicating some hard times here.


Greg Hunter said...


It is great to study Dayton as it tells you how the "rest of world" "works". I liken these entities to the taxpayer funding AIG. Look at how it is set it up and then see who benefits. Paulsen paid off his company Goldman Sachs through AIG. The same group think people run all these operations in Dayton whether it be the RTA, Hospital Association, Chamber of Commerce. Take a look at the Bryan Bucklew linkages and one will understand how "decisions are made" The people that brought you this mess are still in charge, so do not expect them to fix it because they will never think that any of there actions had anything to do with the mess. They are wrong. Ha we bought 50 new Diesel Buses with the Stimulus Money and we are building Austin Road. Good Money after bad and the Poor will suffer. Jeffery it will stay quiet as too many of the Dayton elite will get egg on their face. Quick look there is murder on the west side and a gas station got robbed. Those bums that is the problem....

Jefferey said...

The DDN reports just enough info for some of the outlines to emerge out of the fog.

I think different movers and shakers call the shots during different eras of the recent past, but the sum-total is, as you note, a dying metropolitan erea.

I take this RTA mess personally because I am a one car household and my partner relys on the bus, so I hear about the problems with service from him.

It's funny, with that big of a surplus, if they wanted to blow it on something, why not something like starter light-rail line, or exend trolley busses down the main corridors.

Greg Hunter said...

"It's funny, with that big of a surplus, if they wanted to blow it on something, why not something like starter light-rail line, or extend trolley buses down the main corridors."

Ahh that is what you and I would do or any far sighted person, but I think, I can think like these people (Board).

1. This RTA is funded by a tax on everyone right?

2. And most people I know do not use it right. I mean these people are losers since they do not have a car.

3. We have enough service, and no one the rides the bus knows enough to complain, right.

4. Why not use the surplus on "transportation" hubs that "benefit" everyone that does not use the bus, right.

Now Mr. Donegy was brought in to "cover up" the Minnie debacle. Bring in a guy with credibility after the "looting" had been achieved. He has ideas, but is probably hamstrung by budget or indirect pressure. Just like the CNBC boy shut up Dylan Ratigan and Rick Santelli