City Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem said he wants funding taken away that pays the salary for current city Transportation Director Blythe Bailey, but the Berke administration said it is standing behind the appointee to the new department.
Travis McDonough, chief of staff, said in a letter to Chairman Hakeem sent Tuesday, “Over the past 11 months, the Transportation Department has been connecting neighborhoods to each other, people to opportunity, and businesses to markets. We are confident we have the best people in place to implement sound policy to benefit the entire city and not let personal agendas drive decisions.”
The chairman said he was talking about defunding the transportation director post as now filled by Mr. Bailey, not eliminating the department that was carved from public works.
Chairman Hakeem said there has been a pattern of Mr. Bailey not providing him with requested information, and he said he has had meetings with Mayor Berke to discuss his concerns.
He said the issue came to a head recently when Mr. Bailey sent him an email saying he would not attend a meeting he was trying to set up regarding a working relationship between CARTA and the taxi industry.
Chairman Hakeem said Mr. Bailey in the email said what was being considered would violate city policy and he was not going to be a part of it.
The chairman said, "How hard would it have been for him to have picked up the phone and said something to me?"
He said, "If I as the chairman am not going to be able to get information from the transportation director, then what about my colleagues and department heads?"
Chairman Hakeem said the planned meeting involved Tim Duckett of Millennium Taxi because he said he had come up with research and ideas about expanding taxi opportunities. But he said any contract would have been bid and would not necessarily have gone to the Duckett firm.
Here is correspondence between the two last week:
Councilman Hakeem –
Thank you for providing these discussion points.
After careful review, I have reservations about moving forward in this direction. In the past I have indicated my support for conducting a thorough review of all transit options including vehicles for hire, shuttle, bus, etc, and will continue to support such a review.
I believe that naming a specific vendor on the front end of a policy discussion involving a significant financial expenditure may be a violation of purchasing policies and therefore I respectfully decline this meeting.
I will continue to be available to discuss this or any other policy decision without the expectation that it would benefit a specific company or vendor, however I will not be attending Monday’s meeting.
Administrator - Chattanooga Transportation Department
SENT ON BEHALF OF CHAIRMAN YUSUF HAKEEM:
I had an opportunity to share with Mr. Duckett about my desire for all parties in this matter to come together and start the process that would be a win-win for all involved. As a result of my discussion with Mr. Duckett, please see below for the list of potential discussion points at our meeting. If this list is too broad for one session, let us narrow it down to targeted items that we will agree upon during the meeting. I have concluded, after discussions with most of the parties, that the meeting should take place on Monday, March 17, at 1:00 p.m. at CARTA. I look forward to our discussion then.
Chairman Yusuf Hakeem
Chattanooga City Council
Transportation Discussion Points between CARTA and Millennium
Mission: The public and private sector seeks to establish a partnership that will better serve Chattanooga and surrounding areas. The partnership is set to establish a cost effective transportation system that moves as many Chattanoogans at the lowest possible cost to have a long-term positive impact on reducing Chattanooga's transportation costs.
Problem: Vehicle for hire industry in decline and taxicab utilization problematic
Free Rides: Downtown free shuttle adversely affects vehicle for hire demand day and night
Big Buses: Running all day and part of night nearly empty or with very few passengers - Not cost efficient
Demand Requirement: Require RPA to prepare overall ridership and demand study because its long-term transportation plan excludes taxicabs in its planning.
Solution: Cooperative agreement between the public and private sector involving principle stakeholders City of Chattanooga, Millennium Taxi and CARTA
1. Lowering long-term transportation costs through a more efficient public and private operational partnership with Millennium Taxi that seeks to improve services and Chattanooga's overall transportation system.
2. Reducing Big Bus operational costs through a public voucher partnership system with Millennium Taxi.
3. CARTA and the City agreeing to establish an electric taxicab pilot program through the initial use of providing funding for 40 Nissan e-NV200 taxicabs to Millennium Taxi to compliment CARTA's operational fleet which is authorized through TCA 7-56-107.
4. CARTA reducing its downtown free shuttle operational hours to expand its partnership with Millennium through a green initiative to use all electric taxicabs of Millennium to increase demand in the for hire transportation sector through its partnership with Millennium. The combination of the electric shuttles and the Nissan e-NV200 electric taxicabs is expected to further reduce CO2 emissions and serve the downtown and community markets.
5. CARTA and the City providing support services including insurance and maintenance to Millennium's Nissan e-NV200 taxicabs fleet.