Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Meet Michael Morris... and his Boss

Who cares what this guy says? Oh, believe me. Eeeeverybody who knows what's what cares deeply. You can forget about mayors and city councils and state legislators and sometimes even congresspersons. Morris has way more stick than those guys.
Source: Jim Schutze.
Meet Michael Morris, the unelected bureaucrat behind many of the highway decisions in north central Texas. The Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) seems to be in the news everywhere this year, from the debate over removing IH345 in downtown Dallas to the debate over tolling US 75 through Richardson to the possibility of building a new toll road from Wylie to Greenville.

After the jump, what people are saying about Michael Morris.

The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze calls Michael Morris "the Dallas Forth Worth area's No. 1 regional transportation planner, guru and playuh."

Morris sometimes questions the motives of people who don't agree with him. The Dallas Morning News's Robert Wilonsky reported that Morris apologized for "dismissing I-345 teardown proponents as 'white,' 'wealthy'".

The Dallas Morning News's architecture critic Mark Lamster, commenting on Brandon Formby's analysis of Morris's "dubious" traffic projections justifying that Wylie to Greenville toll road, refers to "dallas mini-moses michael morris." Robert Moses was the "master builder" of mid-century New York City, whose reputation suffered in the 1960s as New Yorkers rose up against his plan to build expressways through Greenwich Village and SoHo.

The Dallas Observer's Eric Nicholson, after noting the public's generally unhelpful suggestions for relieving traffic congestions, suggests that "perhaps a benevolent dictator, a not-evil Michael Morris, is in order."

Anyway, you get the idea. Michael Morris is powerful, maybe imperious. His vision is of freeways here, there, everywhere. A lot of people aren't very happy with him. But technically he isn't the dictator Nicholson suggests he is. He does have a boss. Or bosses. Including Richardson Mayor Laura Maczka. See, Michael Morris works for NCTCOG. Maczka is on NCTCOG's Executive Board, "the policy-making body for all activities undertaken by the Council of Governments." In short, she's his boss.

Either Morris is carrying out the policies set by Maczka and the rest of the Executive Board or he's not. If he is, the buck stops with Maczka and the rest of the board. If he isn't he ought to be reined in by that same board, so the buck stops with Maczka again. Maybe the City of Richardson and Richardson's Mayor haven't taken a stand on traffic issues like tolling US 75, but a member of the policy-making Executive Board of NCTCOG surely should have. Is Director of Transportation Michael Morris carrying out Executive Board member Laura Maczka's policies or not?

D Magazine's Peter Simek thinks that Maczka and the rest of the Executive Board members of NCTCOG are in over their heads and are getting played.
It's not that the suburbs are dictating regional transportation policy, it's that no one is dictating regional transportation policy. Instead, the byzantine tangle of statistical models and population predictions creates a scenario in which policy makers have no option but to rely on the supposed expertise of the engineers who are driving the conversation, namely, transportation director Michael Morris and his merry band of underlings.
Source: D Magazine.

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