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New California Transportation Commissioners Sworn In

Tamika Butler, left, when she was sworn in as CTC commissioner. CTC Executive Director Susan Bransen and Commissioner Hilary Norton are with her. Image: Susan Bransen via Twitter

New state transportation commissioners Tamika Butler and Hilary Norton were sworn in yesterday. Their first meeting as commissioners could be in Modesto on October 9.

California Transportation Commission meetings can be watched online. Normally we would never suggest anyone subject themselves to CTC meetings - their length, formality, and predilection for self-congratulatory speeches is best suited as a cure for insomnia. But we are looking forward to a shift.

Butler is not one to hold back when she sees something that needs to be addressed, and Norton has been a solid ally for safe and sustainable transportation. At the very least, neither of the two will be representing real estate development interests, which for far too long have dominated the commission and its decisions about state transportation funding priorities.

Several years ago, environmental justice and sustainability advocates sponsored A.B. 179 to get commissioners who are qualified to address these issues in transportation planning at the state level. A.B. 179 was watered down in the legislative process, but it passed. It was weak enough, however, that former Governor Jerry Brown just ignored it. His last appointments to the commission were simply reappointments, of real estate developer Fran Inman and labor organizer Bob Alvarado, even though A.B. 179 had already taken effect.

Governor Newsom had three empty commission chairs to fill. He reappointed Silicon Valley business leader Carl Guardino in February, but since then seems to have taken the legislative intent to heart. These two new appointees not only bring "expertise in transportation issues" that are not just about building highways out to sprawl development, but at least one - Tamika Butler - who has solid "experience working in, or representing, disadvantaged communities," as called for by A.B. 179.

The agenda for the October 9 meeting is not available yet, but when it is, it will be found here.

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