John Sebastian wrote a song called “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” The young man is equally attracted to two sisters, till the father takes him aside and says, “Better go home, son, and make up your mind.”
Clark County’s eight-member Regional Transportation Commission, made up of representatives of the governing bodies of the valley’s municipalities, put the valley’s $600 million bus contract up for bid this year. First Transit, a large outfit based in England, ended up bidding against the current operator, Veolia Transportation.
In May, the commission appeared to award a new contract to First Transit, which said it could do the job for $50 million less. But the state attorney general’s office ordered that vote rescinded, ruling a proper quorum was not present.
Since then, the commission has deadlocked 4-4 and therefore failed to advance proposals to re-bid the contract with the existing rules; to issue a new request for proposals (starting a year-long, $500,000 process all over again), to break the service area in half, in literal imitation of King Solomon offering to split the baby — and pretty much anything else.
This is hardly inspiring to the voters who elected these office-holders. Yes, the decision is complicated, thanks to the complexity of the two slightly asymmetrical bids.
Some argue First Transit low-balled its offer to win the contract and might lose money under the terms it has offered. So? Professional consultants say either firm is large enough to do the job, even if that means sustaining a small loss. So long as the quality’s the same, office-holders responsible for getting the best buy for the taxpayer dollar shouldn’t be turning down loss-leader steak and lobster at a dollar a pound “because it wouldn’t be fair to the other supermarket across the street.”
On Thursday, 90 days into this rats’ nest, the RTC punted a decision for yet another month. Why? What’s going to change between now and September?
“Nobody objected to this process before we started the ball game,” objects Mesquite City Councilman Kraig Hafen, the newest member of the commission. “We played the game and all of a sudden the fourth quarter is over and we don’t … like who won.”
“Just get it over with so we can get on with our lives,” pleaded bus driver Ellen Brown, who joined dozens of Veolia employees at Thursday’s meeting. “Make a decision today. Please.”
No such luck.
It’s a difficult issue, but it’s to make the big, difficult decisions that the commission is empaneled in the first place.
In the long run, the state Legislature needs to be reminded why such public bodies should always have an odd number of members. In the shorter run, someone on the current RTC needs to step forward to do some consensus building — and show some leadership.
Up till now, that’s a commodity that’s been sadly lacking.