Lawmakers should look at allowing voters rather than the governor choose the overseer of the Texas Department of Transportation, a member of a legislative body studying the controversy-stirring agency said today.
"I think that we ought to have everything on the table," said Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, a member of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, at a hearing on possible changes at TxDOT. "We ought to look at leaving it like it is. We also ought to seriously look at an elected commissioner."
McClendon asked Sunset staff -- who earlier issued a report urging other major changes at the agency, citing an atmosphere of frustration and distrust -- to study the pros and cons of an elected commissioner.
Critics of TxDOT and the commission that oversees it applauded the idea, and one man said, "Amen!"
The idea was seconded by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, who said the proposal would make a "bold statement" that the agency must rebuild trust and address the state's transportation needs. She said 76 percent of people who have commented during the review process want an elected commissioner.
"I think that if we did not look at that, we would be as guilty as TxDOT is of not listening to the public," Harper-Brown said.
The idea met with resistance from Gov. Rick Perry's office. His spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said that TxDOT "is part of the executive branch of government, and the governor believes that's where it should stay."