Pima County Supervisor Call For Firing Of PAG / RTA Executive Director

streetcar
The RTA funded the riderless Tucson streetcar [Photo from City of Tucson]

The executive director of the taxpayer funded organization responsible for providing roadway, bicycle, pedestrian, safety, and transit improvements across Pima County has come under fire for poor leadership, culminating in a call for his immediate termination by one member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Matt Heinz made a motion to request the firing of Farhad Moghimi, the longtime day-to-day manager of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and the Pima Association of Governments (PAG). The motion called for Supervisor Rex Scott, who represents Pima County on the nine-member RTA board, to push for Moghimi’s removal.

“Transportation investment in our region is too important to be guided by leadership that is not committed to a more open and transparent process,” Heinz tweeted, adding that Moghimi “must do” due to what Heinz called the executive director’s “mismanagement of the RTA and continued obfuscation.”

Most Pima County residents have never heard of PAG, a powerful taxpayer-funded metropolitan planning organization comprised of Pima County and the various municipalities and tribes located with the county. One of its responsibilities is the RTA which oversees the 20-year, $2.1 billion RTA Plan approved by voters in 2006 through a one-half cent countywide sales tax.

Heinz’s motion failed to pass but Chairwoman Sharon Bronson has also expressed some concerns about PAG and RTA. After the meeting, Heinz explained his call for firing Moghimi, who has run the two organizations for nearly a decade without a comprehensive performance review in more than five years.

The origin for Heinz’s position stems an expected “significant funding shortfall” which threatens the completion of projects already approved to be built by June 2026 under the 2006 RTA plan.

There are a lot of explanations being put forth to justify the shortfall, Heinz noted, including the Great Recession shortly after the RTA Plan was approved, the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact funding areas have not experienced the anticipated levels of growth. Those reasons “make sense,” Heinz admitted, but he pointed to several other reasons for the shortfall “that demonstrate poor leadership.”

Among those reasons are underestimating project costs, overestimating revenues, adjusting for the recession years after it happened, never adjusting for inflation, allowing scope changes to early projects and using regional dollars for those expansions without voter approval, he noted.

Heinz also suggested Moghimi may not be sharing the most timely nor most accurate data with the RTA Board or with the transportation professionals who serve on various RTA committees because it could “point to a record of poor decisionmaking at the top” of the RTA.

 

He also noted another possible reason why the RTA Board and the public would not be provided up-to-date information – that it is part of a scheme to manufacture support for extending the RTA past its 2026 end.

The RTA Board established a citizens’ advisory committee in 2018 to assist in developing another RTA plan of projects, referred to as RTA Next. That proposed 20-year extension would be funded by continuing the current RTA sales tax; the tax extension and RTA Next plan would need to be approved by Pima County voters.

In addition to Pima County, the RTA Board includes representatives from the Arizona State Transportation Board, Marana, Oro Valley, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Sahuarita, South Tucson, the Tohono O’odham Nation, and Tucson.

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5 Comments

  1. Would be a good start but as noted below the ENTIRE WORTHLESS BUNCH of supervisors need to be sent packing. The dems love to point fingers at others but are VERY silent on what they are doing, just another example of why they need to be fired at ALL LEVELS as not a one has represented the people of this county or the state at the higher levels.

  2. The RTA vote was fraudulent,. We want a full accounting of the billion dollars we have already spent. Another Pima County boondoggle brought that we have to pay for thanks to several members of the Board of supervisors and the disgraced Huckleberry who should be in prison for his fraudulent accounting

  3. It’s refreshing to see ANY attempt at oversite for this taxpayer boondoggle.
    And who can forget Sen. Steve Farley, one of the streetcar’s early advocates, who shared a poetic moment with the journalistically challaged Sarah Garrecht Gassen about the first time he saw a streetcar running in Tucson. “It was like a majestic whale” and “It was so big and so smooth and so silent and graceful,” Farley said. I’m guessing he forgot to mention the excessively wasteful and expensive aspect of that observation.

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