Meet the New Metro Board Chair…Same as the Old Metro Board Chair

Pam, we hardly knew ya.

Unless I’m reading my Metro Board Rules and Procedures incorrectly it appears that Metro Board watchers will be experiencing a little back to the future next week, because on Tuesday, July 1 current Metro Vice Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will succeed Pam O’Connor as Chair of the Metro Board of Directors.

 For a lot of people, this will probably be bad news.  After all, while the Mayor has been an outspoken supporter of congestion pricing and the sales tax increase he’s also the guy that takes advice from a transportation deputy that cruises around in a hummer and has been accused of not knowing what the word "bicycle" means.

But what is clearly bad news is that Pam O’Connor’s term is over.  While Streetsblog, and Street Heat before it, have been critical of the way Metro Board meetings are run; it was nice to have a Metro Board Chair who lived a car-free lifestyle and knew her way around a transit system even when she wasn’t going to a press conference.  Hopefully her initiatives such as the online chat with the board chair and the sustainability committee continue through and past Villaraigosa’s years as chair.

Wikipedia gives a summary of Villaraigosa’s actions when he was Board Chair:

As chairman, Villaraigosa oversaw the final approval of the EIR for the proposed Exposition Line, the opening of the Orange Line busway through the San Fernando Valley, and the beginning of tunneling on the Eastside extension of the Metro Gold Line light rail. One of Villaraigosa’s main transportation related goals is to extend the Purple Line subway down Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica, although no plans have yet been completed. In order to convince Congressman Henry Waxman
to reverse the federal policy he created which banned tunneling under
Wilshire Boulevard following an unrelated methane explosion, Waxman and
Villaraigosa appointed a board to study the geologic risks. After the
panel declared that any risks could be mitigated, Waxman sponsored
legislation to repeal the ban, which passed in 2006. More recently,
Metro has determined that it will cost $4.8 billion (U.S.) to complete
the subway, at $300 million a mile, and would take approximately 20
years.

So what say you Streetbloggers?  Is Villaraigosa’s re-ascension to Board Chair a good thing, a bad thing or does it not matter at all?

Image: MitchGlaser.com 

 

  • cue the split screen to the opening of apocalypse now…
    (this is the end, my only friend, the end…)

    the “subway” mayor… as in, the only mayor who’s never ridden a subway. this is bad news.

    how much weight does the board chair hold? is it more symbolic, or is there weight to the position?

  • Speaking of how the meetings are run…

    Yesterday’s meeting was a zoo.

    There were several people representing various organizations who waited for up to four hours to speak, but did not, but the Bus Riders “Unions’ was given a ten minute block of time as a group, plus several individual comments on their behalf. Other organizations managed to give their point of view by one person in the one minute allotted time.

    Here is a letter I wrote in response to what I saw yesterday at the meeting.

    —————————-

    Dear Metro Board of Directors,

    Thank you for having today’s meeting and accepting feedback on the proposed Long Range Transportation Plan. I have addressed the substance of the plan in other correspondence, so I would like to address my concern with the meeting itself.

    My heart and appreciation goes out to Chairwoman O’Connor. It must have been very difficult to chair the public comment portion in a meeting like today’s.

    However, I have a huge concern about how the Public Comment portion was structured for Items 51 and 54 on the agenda, regarding the Long Range Transportation Plan and the proposed Sales Tax Increase.

    I understand why the various service sectors were each given 10 minutes to address their concerns. They each represented many cities and groups with different points of view.

    I do not understand why the so-called Bus Riders “Union” was given a 10 minute block of time when other advocacy groups were not. In addition, several of their supporters were also able to speak additionally during individual comments. This is unfair.

    There were many people representing various organizations who waited hours to speak and were not given a chance to address the Board. Other transit advocacy organizations had one person speak for the alloted time giving that organization’s point of view. Southern California Transit Advocates had one person speaking for one minute, as did the Rail Riders Union, and every other group present. The “BRU” is simply one advocacy organization out of many in Southern California. No one organizations deserves that kind of special privilege just because their members are loud and demanding. The BRU speakers were repetitive in their comments. One person from the BRU could have stood up and given their point of view in one minute, just like every other organization that was there. That would have allowed enough time for probably 15 other individuals and organizations with differing points of view to address the Board.

    In the future, I ask the Board do the one of the following in the spirit of fairness:

    A) If the BRU is given a significant time slot, that the following other transit advocacy organizations: Southern California Transit Advocates, The Transit Coalition and the Rail Riders Union, also be given the SAME amount of time as the BRU; Or,

    B) Do not give the BRU a block of time, and let one individual speak in one comment period for the whole organization, as happened with the other advocacy groups today.

    The time has long since come to stop giving the BRU special privileges it doesn’t warrant, especially when their speakers all had the same basic rant.

    I am not trying to take away their freedom of speech or their right to their opinion. I absolutely defend the right of the BRU, and of any advocacy group, to speak and address the Board like any other organization. I ask in the future that the BRU be given the same treatment as every other advocacy organization, no better and no worse.

    I feel really bad for those 15 individuals and organizations who waited for up to four hours to be heard by the Board, and didn’t get a chance to speak, but could have if it weren’t for the special privilege and extra time given to the BRU. No more special treatment, please.

    Best regards,

  • Damien,

    I appreciated your comments on pedestrians in the meeting.

    Looking at the faces of the Board Members, I remembered that old Missing Person’s record, “Nobody Walks in L.A.”

  • I’m more critical of the way the board does public comment that probably anyone. But, the Subway to the Sea Coalition, Foothill Extension folk, and BRU groups were given 10 minute slots because they had more than 10 people in attendance and signed up to speak. In lieu of all of those individuals coming to the microphone (that would have made the meeting even longer) those groups chose to speak as one entity for 10 minutes.

    I’ve tried to do the same when I brought down people to speak, but was denied. Nonetheless, if bike riders unions and other organizations want the same, you need to do as they did and coordinate it ahead of time.

  • Even though Mayor Villaraigosa has proven to be something of a gasbag with respect to policy, he still has a lot of political juice he brings to whatever office he occupies. The man was Speaker of the Assembly and is the current Mayor of L.A. He flys around the world on someone else’s dime networking with the ruling class.

    The only hope I have is that his closest advisors don’t sell us out and recommend building more highways with MTA money that should be going to non-car uses.

    To me, the story isn’t aboutthe mayor, but who is close to the mayor on transportation policies and politics. He will bring home some money as chair of the MTA board – but will that money go towards what this County needs?

    I don’t know how to judge that.

  • Well, I sat directly in “Tony’s” line of view with my bike shirt on. For two or three hours. Sitting behind the ever-loveable freak show that is Mr. Walsh. I think next time we need to just say that we are an established group of bicyclists (think LACBC) and DEMAND that we be given time to speak!!

    I will say this though….I thought Tony was pretty much on the money with most of what he said….even his cookie metaphor….oh TONY! Eh! TONY!

    I came away from the meeting sincerely believing that he can make the metro plans happen. just looking at the last 4 years we can see a dramatic increase in new construction projects. Too bad the people of L.A. had to get snookered out of the money we raised through tax increases for transit projects…

    They all used the phrase “grow the pot” a lot as well. I think if anyone can do that it will be Tony and (god-willing) Barack Obama. If he gets in the White House I am quite sure that L.A. could finally get some federal money to complete our transit system.

    On the whole I was pretty impressed with the projects on the table. Now to complete them!!

  • Dan, I had no idea you were there…next time stop over and say hi.

  • I wanted to say hello. I was looking for you after you had spoke, but I was working and had to follow my boss around.

    But, you were great to remind them that everyone of all modes of transportation walk.

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