Obama Administration Denies BART $70M in Stimulus Funds Citing Civil Rights Failures
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2010
Obama Administration Denies BART $70M in Stimulus Funds, Citing Civil Rights Failures Funds Shift to Bay Area Transit Operations
Federal Transit Administration Chief Peter Rogoff today [February 12] sent a letter to BART and MTC rejecting BART’s corrective action plan to address Title VI violations found in an investigation prompted by a complaint from civil rights, transportation and environmental advocates. Due to action taken by MTC at its January meeting, the funding will now be reallocated to transit projects across the Bay Area, where it is desperately needed to preserve jobs and transit service.
In the first action of its kind, the Obama Administration has pulled $70 million in federal stimulus funds from a proposed Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project due to multiple civil rights violations by the Bay Area Rapid Transit district (BART). The strong action underscores a recent promise made in the President’s State of the Union address to continue “prosecuting civil rights violations.”
In a stern letter to BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Chief Peter Rogoff rejected BART’s “corrective action plan” seeking to address violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and advised MTC to reallocate the funds before a March 5 deadline. FTA’s action resulted from an administrative Title VI complaint filed with FTA in September by nonprofit law firm Public Advocates Inc. on behalf of Urban Habitat, TransForm and Genesis.
"I am required to reject your plan…Given the fact that the initial Title VI complaint against BART was well founded, I am not in a position to award the ARRA funds to BART while the agency remains out of compliance,” Rogoff wrote. “It is imperative that BART, as a recipient of FTA funds, come fully into compliance with Title VI as soon as possible.”
Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by recipients of federal funds. U.S. Department of Transportation Title VI rules require federal fund recipients to analyze projects closely to ensure there will be no discriminatory impacts and that minority and low-income communities will share equally in the benefits of public investments. FTA’s investigation found that BART failed to prepare the required “equity analysis” of the OAC project. FTA uncovered other violations, as well.
“We applaud Administrator Rogoff for bringing civil rights enforcement to the forefront,” said Richard Marcantonio, Managing Attorney for Public Advocates. “Low-income people and communities of color will now have the chance they were denied at the start of this process to shape the project and to share fairly in its benefits.”
“The FTA, by halting the spending of $70 million because of Title VI violations, is government at its best—listening to the concerns of low-income people and people of color, and then using the power of the purse to make agencies accountable. It signals seriousness on the part of the Obama administration to uphold its commitment to civil rights and work courageously to expand opportunity for all,” concluded Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO, PolicyLink.
Rogoff concluded that MTC must now work together “to ensure that [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] funds can create and preserve jobs in the Bay Area.” Under a resolution MTC adopted on Jan. 27, the $70 million in stimulus funds will now be distributed among all Bay Area transit systems. Most of these agencies, including BART itself, face dire operating deficits, similar to those faced by transit systems across the nation.
“FTA is sending an unmistakable message that projects are not shovel-ready until they are fair,” said Public Advocates staff attorney Guillermo Mayer.
FTA is not only focusing increased scrutiny on BART but is also investigating MTC, the regional agency responsible for the distribution of federal transportation dollars and for ensuring the civil rights compliance of its subrecipients. In a separate letter to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger on February 3, Administrator Rogoff stated that “the fact that BART has not conducted the necessary service equity analysis for the OAC project or fare equity analysis raises concerns that your agency does not have procedures in place to monitor its subrecipients.” FTA ordered MTC to provide information within 30 days.
“This should be a wake up call to state and local agencies across the country that they will be held accountable for making sure all taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately and wisely, whether from ARRA, the upcoming Jobs Bill or any other federal funding,” said Bob Allen, Transportation Program Director at Urban Habitat.
|Feb 12 BART MTC Letter.pdf||86.73 KB|
|FTA OCR compliance letter to MTC 2-3-10-1.pdf||182.34 KB|