By Steve Hymon, February 21, 2014
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Holden, whose district includes Pasadena, Altadena and other parts of the northern San Gabriel Valley. The bill proposes adding two voting members to the Metro Board of Directors, bringing the total to 15 -- and those two members would be appointed respectively by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee.
That's a radical departure from the current practice with every Board member either being someone who was elected by voters in parts of Los Angeles County or appointed by someone who was elected by voters in our area. In other words, the bill (as written now) could allow elected officials from outside Southern California to choose who sits on the Metro Board.
By law, the Metro Board is comprised of each of the five County Supervisors, the Mayor of Los Angeles and his three appointees and one City Council member or Mayor from four subregions in the county.
So what's this really about? The very same issue discussed in the above item about tensions between core urban areas and suburbs when it comes to transit service and where to build projects. An example: the proposed Gold Line extension to Montclair that is in Metro's long-range plan and is currently unfunded (along with other projects), which some in the San Gabriel Valley have alleged is the result of the the Board being too L.A.-centric.
Is it? The city of L.A. has its four members on the Board in addition to representation from the five County Supervisors who all have part of the city of L.A. in their districts. Each of the five supervisors also has other cities in their districts, meaning they have to consider a lot of different and often competing interests.
City of Los Angeles officials have long countered that the current arrangement makes sense, given that Los Angeles tends to have the heaviest population densities and transit use in L.A. County. Others counter back that the city has about 38.5 percent of the county's population, meaning 62.5 percent of Los Angeles County residents are not living in the nation's second-largest city but are helping pay for transit service there.
We'll see if the bill gets any traction and whether the Metro Board takes a position on it. I'm guessing the bill will also attract the interest of other transit agencies who have a view one way or the other whether the Legislature should be involved in selecting their Board members. One thing to keep in mind is that transit agency boards don't just make decisions involving what gets built transit-wise -- they also choose contractors and approve of labor contracts and under state law, the Assembly and Senate could potentially gain a say in those matters.