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Home > Newsroom > Message from the RTA Chairman 10-13

Message from the RTA Chairman 10-13

Message from the Chairman of the RTA

As a public agency the monthly meetings of the RTA Board of Commissioners are open to the public. Citizens have an opportunity to question every vote we take before we cast our yeas and nays; to raise issues, concerns and questions and often offer solutions. Involving citizens in governance is at the core of democratic principle, rooted in the Jeffersonian tradition of American politics. The founding fathers of American democracy advocated locally-based, bottom-up government that is responsive to citizens, a principle that we at the RTA hold as a core value of our governance of the agency. Whether or not the public uses the opportunity to engage the decision making process, it is our charge to not only keep the option open, but to enhance and expand citizen's access to governance and decision-making to the maximum extent feasible.

The notion of maximum feasible participation is an outcome of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 passed as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty and encompassing John F. Kennedy's purpose of the Civil Rights Act. And while there is little consensus about how the phrase "maximum feasible participation" was formulated or about its intended meaning, the result was the recognition of citizen participation in decision-making as a powerful lesson in self-determination, self-agency and self-respect. It is against this historic backdrop that I commit the Board and the agency to maximizing the voice of citizens.

We move over 50,000 citizens every weekday -- 82 percent are citizens of color, 65 percent have an annual income of less than $25,000 per year, 55 percent are women and 58 percent have no access to a car. Of these approximately 80 percent are either on their way to work or to school preparing for tomorrow's workforce. Over 97 percent of bus riders are local citizens and with the exception of the Riverfront Streetcar over 80 percent of streetcar riders are residents of New Orleans. And each and every one is entitled to a voice in what we do and how we do it. Electronically we're accessible at www. norta.com and via e-mail at comments@norta.com. We're available on social media through Facebook and Twitter. We can be reached our Customer Care Ride Line at 504.248.3900. The Board of Commissioners is available through the office of the Board Secretary at 504.827.8331 or via e-mail at rtaboardoffice@norta. com.

Our planning process includes accessible community meetings and public hearings with services available upon request for hearing impaired and Limited English Proficiency citizens. Plans for major service changes involve rider surveys conducted at the bus and streetcar stops to better ensure that the citizens most impacted by changes to transit routes and schedules have an opportunity to voice their needs, concerns and issues. All planning activity requires targeted outreach to low-income communities and communities of color in compliance with Environmental Justice provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act; and public notice of any change to service – long-term or temporary – must be made available in English and Spanish.

At the RTA we are proud that our policies for citizens' participation reflect our values for participatory governance. And we are committed to continuing and expanding access to planning and decision-making at the agency as we move forward. We're looking at best practices and methods for maximizing participation – both formal and informal – internal, external and collaborative. We're focused on long-term strategic engagement, opportunities for collaboration, effective use of technology, and strategic participation of institutional stakeholders. Most importantly, our goal is to ensure the voice of the rider is the driver of transit plans.

This task will not be easy and will not be achieved in the short-term – but it is a task we take seriously. In the next weeks and months we'll be researching best practices and developing meaningful policies for citizens' involvement that can be institutionalized in the agency. We urge you to take this opportunity to let us know what works best for you. Call us, e-mail, attend our meetings and give us your input and feedback. Tell us how to be available to you. Use your voice – we're listening.

 


Salvador G. Longoria

Chairman

Regional Transit Authority Board of Commissioners

 

Reprinted from letter for Tribune, September 2013

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