Legislation Would Change Composition of Metro Board, Adding Two Appointees of State Legislature

L.A. County residents have long complained that they don’t receive a fair share of funds from Metro, noting that many transit projects take place inside of the City of Los Angeles. Now, legislation by Assemblyman Chris Holden, seeks to change that reality by adding to new seats to the Metro Board of Directors.

State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass. Image: ##http://asmdc.org/members/a41/news-room/photo-album##Office of Chris Holden##
State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass. Image: ##http://asmdc.org/members/a41/news-room/photo-album##Office of Chris Holden##

“Beginning with my tenure on the Pasadena City Council and continuing to my service in the California State Assembly, I have long heard complaints about the allocation of funding, and regional representation on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro),” writes Holden. “Too frequently I hear that although all residents of Los Angeles County pay to fund county wide ballot measures, only select residents receive their fair share of the benefits. I felt this simmering discontent reach a boiling point last summer when the Metro Board amended Measure R’s expenditure plan to deemphasize projects that voters were convinced would be a priority when voting for the sales tax in 2008.”

Assembly Bill 1941 would add  two voting members who would be appointed by the Speaker of the State Assembly and the State Senate Committee on Rules.

Currently, the Metro Board is made up of 13 voting members. Five are county supervisors, one is the mayor of Los Angeles, three are appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles, and four represent the local “Council of Governments.” There is also a representative of Caltrans on the Board, but that position is non-voting. If AB 1941 becomes law, Metro would be the only transit agency with state appointed representatives. A report prepared by staff for today’s Metro Board meeting encouraged the Board to vote against the legislation for that reason.

“While there may be no perfect solution to the allocation of limited resources to address what seem to be limitless needs, AB 1941 represents a dialogue about who does and does not have a voice in the planning of community’s infrastructure needs,” Holden continued. “Many of us, while not a member of the Metro Board are heavily invested in the success of this agency and passage of another countywide measure to fund the county’s transportation priorities.”

When Holden speaks of “de-emphasizing” projects, he is referring to Metro’s efforts to speed up certain transit projects funded by the Measure R sales tax. When the Board voted last year on an acceleration plan, it specifically excluded the proposed I-710 Big Dig, the Gold Line Extension to Azusa and other projects.

Not surprisingly, Metro Board Members aren’t excited by Holden’s motion and they aren’t shy about letting state officials know it. After the Board quickly and unanimously passed a motion against AB 1941, Streetsblog talked with some of the Board Members.

“Increasing Sacramento influence over regional transportation decisions, while Sacramento’s investment in regional transportation needs is diminishing, makes no sense,” writes Paul Krekorian, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and Mayoral Appointee to the Board. “This bill would simply diminish the City’s role in meeting the needs of our residents and it should be rejected.”

There has long been friction between the Board Members who represent the City of Los Angeles, or part of the City of Los Angeles, and ones from the rest of the County. One Metro staffer, who was speaking off the record, jokes that the only thing the County Supervisors and COG representatives can agree on is who their enemy is: whoever is the Mayor of Los Angeles. However, that doesn’t mean that those not representing the city see AB 1941 as a good bill.

“The last thing we need on this already political board, is to inject two new players with no stakeholders and no constituents to answer to, only the politicos in Sacramento,” writes Ara Najarian, Glendale City Councilmember and the representative to the Metro Board from the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments. “A huge mistake and not a well thought out piece of legislation. Now, if we wanted to add directors who actually had constituents to answer to…then fine.”

“Ara’s right. The Metro Board was blindsided by this motion, he (Holden) didn’t work with us. He didn’t even call us.” responded Mike Bonin, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and another mayoral appointee in a further show of Board unity. “The Metro Board has traditionally fought efforts to change its composition, unless the change is being pushed by a broad coalition of citizens.”

Bonin and Krekorian have introduced a Los Angeles City Council motion urging the legislature to reject Holden’s proposal. The motion is seconded by City Council President Herb Wesson.

A fact sheet provided by Holden’s office offers two different explanations for the need for AB 1941. It states that with the state mandating greenhouse gas reduction goals for municipalities throughout the state, that state representation on the Board would help Metro meet state goals. The fact sheet states:

California’s continuing efforts to develop regional solutions to greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on vehicle miles traveled requires the development of a comprehensive transportation solution. By adding a statewide perspective to the Board of LA Metro, California’s largest county will continue to develop sustainable solutions for the state’s transportation future.

A second potential explanation explains that many Metro projects have regional impacts outside of L.A. County, thus broader representation would be helpful for the agency to understand the impacts of its decisions. The fact sheet states:

These members, appointed by state leadership, will enhance the regional perspective required for a modern transportation board. Currently, projects including the SR 605 and SR 405 interchange project, the SR 14 carpool extension and the Metro Gold Line Foothill extension all require LA Metro to coordinate projects that extend to the county border and beyond.

Because legislators can only introduce a limited number of bills each session, it seems a little odd that Holden would use one of his to insure better representation on the Metro Board for people he doesn’t represent. Holden’s father was a major player at Metro for years. Nate Holden served as a Board Member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, Metro’s successor agency, and the Metro Board itself, when Metro still referred to itself as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In an ironic twist, Nate Holden is credited with leading the charge to increase the representation on the Metro Board by the City of Los Angeles from 2 members to 4 members in the late 1990’s.

AB 1941 was referred to the “Local Program” committee and could be heard as soon as March 22.

  • The legislature’s database of pending bills can be a great tool to track legislation as it works its way through the process:

    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB1941&search_keywords=

    You can register to subscribe to bills and receive update e-mails when they are amended, scheduled to be heard and voted on, analysis by staff posted, etc.

    The Riverside County Transportation Commission has 34 members, which is an example of this sort of stakeholder crowding leading to a cacophony.

    http://rctc.org/about-us/commission

    The old saying too many cooks spoil the broth comes to mind.

    There are already consultation processes in place that facilitate being comprehensive and regional like the Regional Transportation Plan process that the Southern California Association of Governments oversees. The Metro staff report notes that regular consultations occur with the Transportation Commissions of adjacent counties.And we have a California Transportation Commission that is a forum for cooperation and dialogue on a statewide level.

    http://catc.ca.gov/

    This could result in having foisted on us some ex-legislators desiring an appointment that keeps them in the public eye while scouting for the next office to run for. Does my lack of enthusiasm at this show?

    The scattershot explanations for its purpose shows this is a solution to a non-existent problem. I say nay!

  • It is just a sign of how desperate the local politicians are to try and get Phase 2B (and even 2C) built. The ridership numbers don’t pan out and Metro has no desire to get saddled with the Albatross of running Light Rail east of Asuza (actually anything east of the Maintenance Barn in Monrovia is going to get interesting in terms of revenue),

    I can’t wait til you all see Irwindale Station!

  • calwatch

    The argument for Holden’s perspective, which he apparently can’t make for himself, is that the AQMD board is this way and works well. The AQMD board had three members appointed by the state – one from the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Senate Rules Committee. Sahra can discuss how the AQMD is handling issues such as Exide, but the state representatives are often more responsive to issues about the environment and interested in protecting the air than board members who are from local constituencies. For example, with the beach bonfire restrictions, the local board members were swayed by public comment that wanted to keep it as is while the state representatives all voted for the restrictions on the basis that they would better protect public health. While local board members often will take jobs over the health of surrounding communities, the state appointees will lean more towards health.

    AQMD board members, contrary to what Dana notes, are not political hacks just biding time. Most of them have been there for many years. Bill Burke is the chair and although he is Yvonne Braithwaite Burke’s husband, he is an environmental leader in his own right.

  • antiqueshopper

    There’s another option for better representation for non-LA communities on the Metro Board besides legislation to add new board members…appoint a more effective representative. Possibly this could all be about the SG Valley’s Gold Line extension not getting proper attention, and I agree that it’s not.

    But i contend that it’s because our representative, Board Member Fasana, is pushing the “bad” multi-billion SR 710 extension toll tunnel highway project much more to the detriment of the “good” Gold Line extension which has universal support in the Valley. It’s easier to look afar and blame Los Angeles for your problem, rather than look in your own back yard for the villain.

    I’ve been involved with both transportation projects for over 20 years and have an intimate knowledge of all the political comings and goings. The alliance of advocates from Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena had to fight hard to get the first phase built and we were ultimately successful as is the Gold Line. For the last ten years, the Gold Line extensions to Ontario Airport should have been a slam dunk for funding, but they weren’t because of the SR 710 toll tunnel talk (a project that can never be built) sucking all the oxygen out of the room as well as the funding out of the pot.

    If the 710 highway project were eliminated from the SG Valley list of projects, the Gold Line would rise to the top very easily and we wouldn’t have to work so hard get it extended. I doubt that that could ever happen with John Fasana as our representative on the Board. It’s time for a change!

  • Fasana was the proponent of the Measure J provision that would have allowed funding to be shifted between projects in a sub-area. That could have allowed de-funding the 710 in favor of the Gold Line. Sadly 710 opponents were too fixated on having J eliminate the 710 for funding outright and so helped defeat J only belatedly realizing that was a wrong-headed approach. Fasana is responding to the pressures of the various stakeholders in at least in public extolling the 710. Having him replaced would not change the underlying dynamic.

    Please explain how “the Gold Line extensions to Ontario Airport should have been a slam dunk for funding” given the dismal ridership projected?

  • Is this an argument the two appointments would necessarily actually bring a statewide perspective based on the AQMD example? Does the legislation specify qualifications for these state appointments to the AQMD? Holden offers nothing specific as to who can be appointed.

    Political hacks fill a lot of Commissions. It is a well known practice. And the Holden bill provides no protections against it happening.

    You might want to re-think touting Burke as proof the AQMD is a bastion of public spirited appointees: http://chipjacobs.com/blog/?p=968

    calwatch, are you actually in favor of the bill or for the sake of discussion stating what in your view the benefit the state appointees to the AQMD Board provide as a counter to my concerns?

  • rdm24

    I think this is a step in the right direction, but it would be better if transit issues were managed by regional, multi-county agencies. Crossing the LA/OC/Riverside/San Bernardino county lines should be a lot more seamless–for cars and transit alike (but especially transit).

  • wqjackson

    Metro has a plan line from LA to Santa Ana and the OCTA is working with Metro to study and build the line. San Bernardino and the City of ONT needs to extend the Gold line from the LA County line to ONT airport. Riverside is to far for Metro to work with. Metrolink serves Riverside, LA and OC.

  • wqjackson

    I think it is time for the City of LA to impose a Transit Tax to its residents/property owners for all future projects. LA has already benefited the most from Prop R. It is time to spend more outside of the City of LA. The Transit Tax could help pay for the extend of the subway to the westside and the rail line planed for LAX.

  • rdm24

    Ah yes, but I would like to get there from my home Long Beach without going through downtown LA. As it is, I can take LB Transit plus two OCTA buses, which takes about 2 hours. If I took LB Transit plus Metro plus Metrolink, it takes even longer. I’m not asking for public transit to compete with a 20-30 minute drive, but it’s so much ridiculously longer that I can’t even consider it. I think having transit agencies operate at the county level means that they undervalue the need for inter-county transit options.

  • calwatch

    The purpose of this discussion is that there are many ways to governance. Some boards are directly elected (BART, AC Transit), some have more cities and also include public members (OCTA), while others are one city one vote (Omnitrans). When the state needs to approve legislation to allow for a reauthorization of Metro’s sales tax (i.e. Measure J) to go on the ballot, the Metro board members acting petulant and biting the hand that feeds them is not very politically prudent. It is my opinion that no form of governance is inherently good or bad – a form of governance relativism perhaps, but one that I firmly support.

    It should also be noted that, under Dillon’s Rule, ALL entities are creatures of the state – anything given by the state can be taken away. Metro is not a “charter city”, and even so the state can preempt charter cities, such as with the California Voting Rights Act that is forcing cities to introduce district voting. Holden’s bill should be allowed to play itself out without everyone jumping down his throat.

  • OCTA has proposed a freeway express (Route 722) that would connect the Depot at Santa Ana to the City of Long Beach(7th Street and Channel Drive) via State Route 22 with intermediate stops at Harbor Boulevard, Beach Boulevard, and the Santa AnaCivic Center area. It is being deferred for now due to budget issues. Maybe you should lobby the legislature to fund pilot projects that address the sort of inter-county transit needs you think are important.

    http://atb.octa.net/agendapdfsite/11337_Staff%20Report.pdf

  • Some years ago the Bay Area counties had the option to place a local gas tax for transportation on the ballot. They never even tried. The benefit districts for the early stages of subway construction caused such backlash that they basically were phased out by MOS 3.

    Our region benefits from providing service where jobs and density exist, not lnes to far-flung areas just to service “fair share” myopia. The folks using the Purple Line to commute to UCLA will include many from various parts of the region.

  • That would take state legislation. And who has the clout, financial resources, etc. to take up that crusade?

  • wqjackson

    The Gold extension to Montclair/Claremont might be considered a “line to far–flung area just to service “fair share” myopia” considering that Metro hasn’t funded the projected yet. As the largest county in the nation Metro must serve all of our residents by building a rail system to services every area where the ridership projections supports the service.

  • “where the ridership projections supports the service”

    That is the rub. The foothill extension has dismal numbers. Plus once past Pomona it parallels the existing Metrolink service. How about at that point we have a cross-platform transfer like between the Coaster and Sprinter and not go farther east? Rail lines are too expensive to build on such a flimsy basis as “we want our share”.

  • I am well aware transit agency Boards have various configurations from my years maintaining the calendar of transit meetings that includes many of them

    http://www.brownbearsw.com/freecal/socata

    Politically prudent? Was it prudent for Holden to launch this without even having a coherent argument? And this isn’t just about the Board members being petulant. I foresee the League of Cities and Association of Counties (both heavy hitters in 95814) taking aim at this. Does it even have any substantial support? Like from the San Gabriel COG or Metro’s unions? I find it laughable the notion this will have any effect on the Measure J extension legislation. Holden isn’t that big a player that I am aware of. Bills often are introduced and quickly vanish into a void — my money is this one will do just that. One wonders what Holden was thinking putting himself in the cross-hairs without a solid justification or game plan.

    I am no booster of the current way the Metro Board is set up but recognize it reflects heavy political forces (city of L.A., the Supes, the 87 other cities). Unless we have some scandal of huge proportions I don’t see who sits on the Board changing anytime soon.

  • rdm24

    That sounds helpful, but it kind of proves my point: Why doesn’t it connect with the multi-agency transit center in downtown long beach? It sounds like their goal is to make as little progress across county lines as possible.

  • Metro’s experience with the 577 extension to downtown Long Beach may have influenced their planning. From what I hear connecting with the transit center hasn’t produced all that much additional ridership.

  • unclechumley

    Aren’t there enough politicians on the Metro Board? What about more public representation?

  • Who would appoint them? And how would we be able to convince the legislature that is a good idea? The history of “public” appointees by the city of L.A. has been mixed. Some have been important voices of reason. Others just warm bodies.

  • unclechumley

    I understand that members of transit boards in the bay area are elected.

  • AC Transit and BART to be specific. At one point having an elected Board was floated by Richard Polanco. It was squelched by the unusual suspects. If labor which has clout in 95814 wasn’t able to make it happen, who is?

    http://articles.latimes.com/1995-07-11/local/me-22553_1_board-members

  • unclechumley

    Thank you for the link to the LAT article about Sen. Polanco’s bill. It’s been almost 20 years since the bill was introduced and Metro still needs to be more accountable and transparent. It is 2014, we need new thinking on transportation and governance if we are to create the infrastructure that supports mobility, eliminates toxic emissions and reduces greenhouse gasses. And I don’t mean solutions that focus only on single occupant vehicles and trucks, electric or not. I agree with you that a bill supporting an elected Metro Board wouldn’t pass now as it didn’t then. But that doesn’t mean that an elected Metro Board is a bad idea. Los Angeles County desperately needs more public participation in the governing process.

  • There are plenty of ways to make a difference through being appointed to Metro’s Service Councils or Citizen’s Advisory Council. Or working with stakeholder groups such as the local Sierra Club chapter Transportation Committee or the Bike Coalition, Walk L.A. or Transit Advocates. The public has to work if it wants to be heard, which calls for more than making posts on a blog.