Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Metro Board Report for March 2012

And I thought last month was boring …

This month saw practically every significant agenda item carried over to the April meeting cycle, including:

  • Approving the Regional Connector environmental impact report (which had, you may recall, already been carried over from February’s meeting after a lot of wasted public comment);
  • Approving a contract for 135 light rail vehicles, to be used on the Expo and Crenshaw Lines, and replacements for the oldest Blue Line cars (which will be 25 years old by the time the replacements arrive);
  • A proposal to allow CEO Art Leahy to execute contract modifications at higher levels than present without Board approval (despite the fact that the present levels have been requiring more and more of the Board’s time to approve, Zev Yaroslavsky wanted more oversight, and Antonio Villaraigosa held the matter in committee until staff can determine what other large transportation agencies’ policies are); and
  • Updates to the Transit Service Policy, withdrawn by Leahy right before the Operations Committee meeting.

There was, however, the usual amount of public comment related nonsense, with much of it centering on the “usual suspects”, the Bus Riders Union as they continue their campaign to convince the Board that their vision of Title VI civil rights compliance is the correct one, despite the Federal Transit Administration saying otherwise. This month they claimed they had met with both the FTA and the Department of Justice; although no proof was offered of said meeting, Barbara Lott-Holland claimed DOJ called Metro “a poster child for discriminatory transit systems”. They also accused Metro’s planners of deliberately creating discrimination by circumventing the process, with organizer Sun Youngyang claiming all budgetary alternatives have to be considered (wrong, according to the FTA, said Metro’s Dan Levy). And organizer Esperanza Martinez claimed that the FTA “is still determining if Metro is in violation for past service cuts” … again, without offering any proof of said statement. Given the BRU’s penchant for rhetoric, it was no surprise that none of their arguments had any effect, although it did get Gloria Molina’s attention for about a half-second (see the Quote Of The Month).

I did get a chuckle when the BRU withdrew their request to speak at the Operations Committee after it was announced by Metro’s Conan Cheung that the Title VI review of the upcoming June service changes were already approved and reviewed by the FTA. We can all guess what they had planned to say, can’t we …

But that was nothing compared to the hour spent at the beginning of the Board meeting hearing public comment from members of the Crenshaw community and their supporters, continuing to insist on the forthcoming light rail line being underground. What I found sad is that they had no new arguments to present, and several substituted shouting at the Board for the lack of content. Hint to our fine African-American citizens: A loud, strident attitude not only doesn’t get you what you want, it practically guarantees that the Board won’t reconsider the matter. Even Mark Ridley-Thomas looked uncomfortable listening to what at times sounded like a good old revival meeting …

And, despite Art Leahy’s admonition that local employment concerns cannot be considered by the Board when awarding contracts that have federal funds (lest the FTA withdraw approval for said funds), several business owners commenting on the light rail vehicle procurement contract at the Operations Committee (before it was held over again) proceeded to focus their comments almost entirely on the creation of “local jobs”. The biggest offender was once again the County Federation of Labor, whose representative was completely focused on that potential employment for their members, although a close second place would have to go to the Siemens Corporation, who as one of the competing bidders should already know about the FTA regulations. I suppose what it’s going to take to stop this nonsense is Metro losing federal funding over such public comment being allowed … at which point I reserve the right to point fingers.

Quote Of The Month: Gloria Molina, after berating Dan Levy for not being more comprehensive in his monthly presentation on civil rights compliance: “I know all the information is in the full staff report, and I know I have the responsibility to read the whole report … but who has time?”

Next Metro Board Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, April 18 & 19
Next Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, April 26

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Metro Board Report for February 2012

Since there was nothing earthshaking at the February meetings (which is also why I procrastinated until mere days before the March meetings to file this report), we present a special edition of the Metro Board Report entitled Quotes Of The Month (and other misconceptions) ...
  • During public comment on the Regional Connector EIR approval, the downtown business owners still insisted on a 5th/Flower Station (uhh, no, we've been down that road with you before, remember?), one resident of Little Tokyo wants a shuttle bus instead, an attorney claimed the Planning & Programming Committee couldn't move the approval to the Board because the comment period didn't end for another five days (but it did end before the Board meeting itself the following week), and one hotel owner wanted easements moved to prevent clauses in his contracts with clients from being invoked (oh, so it's Metro's fault you have these kinds of clauses?).
  • Mel Wilson, chairing the Finance, Budget & Audit Committee, first asked to "go back to" a non-existent slide on sales tax revenue, then when advised by Metro's Chief Financial Officer Terry Matsumoto that said slide only appears in his presentation once per quarter because that is how often the State Board of Equalization provides the accounting data with meaningful information, asked: "What does 'meaningful' mean?"
  • Later that same meeting while the committee was considering hiring a firm to consult on debt financing capital projects, Mel said "I don't mean to be dense." No comment.
  • (Mel also, at the Executive Management Committee, thought the Blue Line had higher ridership than the subway.)
  • Zev Yaroslavsky, at the Executive Management Committee meeting, responding to Chief Communications Officer Matt Raymond's report on the fare gate locking test that there are still unresolved issues with Metrolink fare media: "I don't want Metrolink to be the tail wagging the dog." (By the way, Raymond's report made it sound as if 20% of Metro Red Line passengers are fare evaders; it took until the Sheriff's Department presentation on the locking test at the Operations Committee meeting the next day to learn it was closer to 4%.)
  • Sun Youngyang, of the Bus Riders Union, trying to stop the Operations Committee from approving the Title VI audits: "The FTA isn't going to approve of your methodology." It turned out the FTA was "satisfied and impressed" by the review, according to Metro's Civil Rights Compliance Officer Dan Levy ... it was the BRU who wanted systemwide impacts included, not the feds. At the full Board meeting, the BRU's Barbara Lott-Holland made the further misstatement that service cancellations had to be withdrawn if there were any discriminatory impacts at all (and had to be reminded that FTA guidelines say otherwise). Damien Goodmon not only agreed with the BRU but said the Crenshaw/LAX EIR needed to be withdrawn on the same basis because of the at-grade vs. tunneling issue.
  • And gadfly Arnold Sachs, upon being told by Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa that the "F*ck U" shirt he was wearing was considered offensive: "What? It's my alma mater!"
Next Metro Board Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, March 14 & 15
Next Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, March 22