of $774,000, made educated guesses about possible transit remedies. The study, however, was unpopular because some of its suggestions bordered on the absurd. Others were simply fanciful. The board chose to ignore the document. S MART also held that the constitutionality of the emissions tax was questionable. The assessment was not on the volume of polluting emissions produced, but on the size of the vehicle’s engine a displacement tax rather than an emissions tax. Texas Atty. Gen. John Hill upheld the constitutionality of the tax a scant three days before the referendum, but opponents continued to insist that the tariff was inequitable. It was conceivable that a Mercedes Benz owned by a multi-millionaire might be taxed less than a Chevy owned by a welfare recipient. Poor persons would be hardest hit by the proposed tariff, they charged. HARTA retaliated with a statement that “no tax exists that is truly equitable” just that some taxes were more equitable than others. Menefee defended the emissions tax, pointing out that he wanted to avoid sales and property taxes. The gasoline tax, of course, is earmarked in Texas for roads and schools. He said the emissions tax would only be used to raise $10 or $12 million out of the $450 million or so it would take to build the system. “The emissions tax is not a true progressive tax, I’ll grant that,” he said. “But if we could get $100 million in revenue bonds and then get federal money to pay for the rest of the project, then about 80 percent would be financed by the federal income tax.” In the week immediately preceding the referendum, the lists of endorsements were compiled. The Houston Post. and the Houston Chronicle, the League of Women Voters and the Houston Chamber of Commerce all sided with HARTA. Mayoral candidates Bud Hadfield, Bob Hervey and Tree Johnson; the Harris County AFL-CIO; the Harris County Women’s Political Caucus; the local NAACP; PASO and individual members of the Harris County Commissioners Court joined the loyal opposition. THE THREE to one defeat of the transit referendum was par for the course, according to Houston officials. Menefee, who is an urban planner by profession, says that rapid transit proposals inevitably are defeated the first time out. And Lee Tucker, an administrative assistant to Mayor Welch, insists, “We’re not terribly surprised that we will have to go back. We had hoped that the voters would have realized the seriousness of the problem. It really comes down to the fact that people don’t fully understand the implications of transit,” he said. “I think the election served a great purpose in getting the issues before the public. It’s never easy to pass an issue involving another level of government. For example, it took us four ballots to pass the hospital district. You don’t just have one election and then give up; I’m reasonably certain that this will just be right back on the ballot in one form or another,” Tucker said. “What you’re looking at in the future is the City of Houston buying the bus company [Rapid Transit, Inc., has lost $500,000 since the first of the year] . That’s the first thing the board would have done with their finances,” the aide continued. “Now the city will have to find the funds to buy and operate the bus line. And that’s about the only plan available to us now. That’s it.” Castillo is much less pessimistic. “This transit election was the first step in deciding whether or not we would grow like the other cities in this country; whether or not we would make the same mistakes as the others. In defeating the referendum, we gave Houston an opportunity to try a new style of transit. “There is no need to form another governmental unit to tack on to the bureaucracy,” the controller said. “It’s quite possible that what should be done is consolidate the city and county governments and perhaps assimilate some of the smaller units into one unified governing body. We could build a transit department without creating another jurisdiction. And, if we made good use of our existing tax sources, .we would have plenty of revenue without producing another tax. We don’t need more power structures, we need fewer,” Castillo said. .”Houston could do quite a bit in the way of mass transit for a minimum amount of expenditure. Subscription bus services, peripheral parking lots, mini-cabs, computerized car-pools, jitney services all would alleviate transit problems for a low overall cost. These have all worked in other communities,” Castillo said. Since the defeat of HARTA, several other suggestions have been advanced. Most of these \(with the exception of recommendations made by the Voorhees study, are exercises in farcical futility. As . Castillo puts it, “I think we have prevented a bad course of action, but we have really not yet moved in a good course of action. I consider the election simply a victory in terms of round one.” University of Texas brass hats have a perfect story as to why the lights at Memorial Stadium do not cause too great a drain on energy in these days of crisis. They’ve had UT researchers prove that enough Longhorn fans leave their TV off while attending games to make up for the electricity used by the big lights. San Antonio Express November 2, 1973 19 BIG THICKET MUSEUM Saratoga, Texas Open Saturday through Thursday, morning and afternoon. 1 Support Your Big Thicket Association
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