RTC shenanigans

In case you’re still confused about the Regional Transportation Commission stalemate over the valley’s bus contract, let us simplify it for you:

It’s about protectionism and pandering to organized labor.

The RTC board is deadlocked, 4-4, on a new mass transit deal. Four commissioners back the current contract holder, Veolia Transportation. Four favor the challenger, First Transit, which happened to submit a bid $50 million lower than Veolia’s.

The four commissioners who back Veolia are Clark County Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Larry Brown and Las Vegas City Council members Steve Ross and Lois Tarkanian. Over the past few months, they’ve complained about how the bids were scored, suggested splitting the contract and generally insisted that Veolia is completely superior to First Transit — despite being prohibitively more expensive to taxpayers and riders.

The fact that Veolia’s unionized work force packs the commission’s chambers at every opportunity? Sheer coincidence. The fact that members of the Clark County Commission and the Las Vegas City Council have always looked out for their friends in organized labor? Pay no attention.

Veolia’s employees don’t want to work for First Transit because they believe Veolia’s higher bid is more likely to increase their pay and benefits. First Transit has not promised austerity measures as part of its lower bid. In fact, the company has promised pay raises for Veolia’s workers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brown recently disclosed that Patrick Smith, a longtime lobbyist for Veolia, was a paid consultant on Brown’s failed mayoral campaign last spring, the Review-Journal’s Adrienne Packer reported last week. And Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, a union champion, accepted a job as a Veolia “consultant.” His job: to use his juice and muscle to get one of the four RTC commissioners who support First Transit to flip to Veolia’s side.

We can only imagine how those phone calls have gone.

Rejecting out of hand a qualified bidder who can save taxpayers $50 million amid a devastating economic downturn is horrible public policy. Why take bids in the first place if you’re not serious about encouraging competition?

The Federal Transit Administration is threatening to withhold funding because of the blatant foot-dragging. A judge is prepared to order the contract awarded to First Transit. And Veolia is still running the Citizens Area Transit system under an extension of its old, more expensive contract.

This embarrassing mess has cost the public too much as it is. Put First Transit to work.

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