Kudos to the Los Angeles Times for its excellent obituary memorializing former Metro CEO Julian Burke.
His tenure was during the period when I actually attended Metro Board meetings. These days I figure between Steve Hymon of The Source, Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times and our own Damien Newton you don’t have to attend to know the scuttlebutt about what happened. Albeit I do read selected staff reports for agenda items to educate myself.
The Times doesn’t exaggerate when it describes the turmoil that Burke found when he was recruited to head Metro. Multiple “recovery plans” for the dysfunctional budget had gotten thumbs down from the feds. Land had been condemned for the east-side extension of the Red Line but the agency had no money to build it. Then Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan had labored mightily to recruit a new head for the troubled agency only to be frustrated at several turn downs including the amazing case of the thin skinned New York transit official.
The L.A. Times coverage by Richard Simon of this surreal situation includes hilarious quotes by L.A. County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich — I guess they needed to laugh to forestall crying in frustration at the seemingly endless search for a new Metro CEO after the previous CEO, Joe Drew, quit in disgust in response to back stabbing sniping remarks by Board members appearing in the press. And note Simon confirms Burke was supposed to be a temporary fill-in; he ended up serving 4 years.
A high point of the Burke era is when he was able to find 20 new buses to expand the fleet as I have written about previously. But what I didn’t mention in my previous coverage is Burke announced this at a Metro Board meeting, describing the extraordinary circumstances under which staff had found new equipment without the long wait that ordering from transit bus manufacturers usually entails. The Board received this news without comment, not even a simple thank you. So I used my public comment later in the meeting to express appreciation on behalf of the bus riders for what Mr. Burke had done. I think he smiled in response. Frankly it just felt like the right thing to do. Read more…