Excerpts from BATWG Letter to Contra Costa County’s City Selection Committee

Excerpts…..(similar letters have been sent to other MTC counties)

City Selection Committee of Contra Costa County
Secretary Jami Napier                                                    c/o Contra Costa Mayors’ Conference
Chief Asst. Clerk of Board of Supervisors                  Attn. Gary Pokorny, Executive Director
County of Contra Costa                                                  2221 Spyglass Lane
651 Pine Street, 1st Floor, Room 106                           El Cerrito, CA 94530-1883
Martinez, CA 94553

VIA E-MAIL: gjpokorn@Lmi.net; Jami.Napier@cob.cccounty.us; etc.

Re: March 7, 2019 City Selection Committee Meeting, Item 4: MTC Appointment (2019-23)

Dear Mr. Pokorny, Secretary Napier and the City Mayors of the Selection Committee:

Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) is an all-volunteer organization formed in 2012 to keep up with and respond to ongoing Bay Area transportation issues and events. We are dedicated to finding ways of easing regional traffic congestion by improving the reliability and general appeal of the region’s passenger rail and bus systems.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is a powerful body that controls billions of dollars of transportation funds and shapes housing policy in the nine-county Bay Area. Contra Costa County’s 1.1 million residents have a stake in MTC’s decisions. The City Selection Committee’s appointment to MTC for the next four-year term (2019-23) is very important.

BATWG has long looked for ways of improving the performance of this important regional planning body. In line with that objective, and along with Attorney Jason Bezis, BATWG recently looked into and evaluated how the various MTC Commissioners around the Region were being selected to guide MTC policies and oversee the MTC staff. To this end, on February 7th BATWG submitted a set of questions (see below) to the various Selection Committees around the Bay Area which we felt would help ensure that candidates for the position possessed the qualifications, experience and degree of interest required to make them effective Commissioners. To underscore our concern with how things presently stand in Contra Costa County, BATWG sent a representative to speak at your February 7th meeting, who unfortunately was not permitted to do so until after the selection had been made. This appears to be a violation of the Brown Act.

It appears from your agenda that the item will again be discussed at tonight’s March 7th meeting. It is requested that the final MTC appointment be delayed until after the Selection Committee has had the opportunity of repeating the local selection process, this time with proper public notice, especially regarding the right to apply for and be considered for the MTC position. The appropriate way of doing this is set forth in the City Selection Committee Enabling Act (beginning at Section 50270 of the California Government Code) and in MTC Enabling Act Sections 66503-04 of the California Government Code).

Please consider our request, particularly with respect to giving interested City Council Members, transportation planning and engineering professionals and qualified members of the public an opportunity to be considered for the MTC position. To help with this evaluation process, it is suggested that each candidate be required to submit a written application and that at least the three leading candidates be interviewed and invited to answer questions relative to the position for which they are being considered. Some relevant questions are listed below.

And finally, we believe that Contra Costa County would benefit by having its MTC representatives hold at least two town hall meetings a year in the County during which the two commissioners could report upon and publicly answer questions about MTC and their own roles in helping to set its policies and conduct its affairs.

In order to give the City Selection Committee the time needed to run a fair and well publicized selection process including the interviewing of at least the leading three candidates,  pursuant to Government Code § 1302, the incumbent commissioner would remain on holdover status.

Contra Costa County and the Region needs a highly efficient and responsive MTC operation that both demonstrates regional leadership when the situation calls for it and remains in close and constant communication with county and city officials and the public. We believe that a better MTC selection procedures would contribute to this objective.

Sincerely,

GP Cauthen

GERALD CAUTHEN, PE
President, Bay Area Transportation Working Group
510 208 5441
www.batwgblog.com

Questions for the Candidates

Following are questions which BATWG believes each candidate for a MTC Commissioner position should have the opportunity to answer. It is therefore suggested that these and other relevant questions be directed to them:

(1) Regional Measure 3 (RM3) increases bridge tolls by $3.00, a 60 percent increase. Last June this was rejected by 56 percent of Contra Costa County voters (including 14 of the county’s 19 cities). The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA), controlled by MTC, proposed and promoted RM3. Did you support or oppose RM3? Why? Do you feel that on balance the benefits to Contra Costa County warrant the added bridge tolls that Contra Costa County travelers will be paying? Do you agree with the RM3 provision that allows BATA/MTC to henceforth increase bridge tolls without ever again having to seek voter approval?

(2) The Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) is a major new MTC initiative concerning housing that proposes new taxes and gives MTC significant new powers over residential development in the greater Bay Area. Contra Costa Supervisor Candace Andersen voted against CASA at the January 17th Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) meeting. Contra Costa MTC Commissioner Amy Worth voted for CASA at the December 19th MTC meeting. Do you support or oppose CASA? Why? Do you agree with critics like BART Director Elizabeth Ames who says that job-related transit-oriented development is more crucial than residential projects to alleviate the jobs/housing imbalance in suburban areas?

(3) The Contra Costa Mayors’ Conference and ten Contra Costa City Councils (Brentwood, Concord, Danville, Lafayette, Martinez, Orinda, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, San Ramon and Walnut Creek) all voted last year to oppose AB 2923, a bill that essentially exempts most BART-owned property from local land use controls. Despite this vote, at the May 23, 2018 MTC meeting MTC commissioners Federal Glover and Amy Worth voted to “support” AB 2923. Do you agree or disagree with the vote of these two MTC commissioners?

(4) MTC spent $256 million (53 percent over budget) to build a new headquarters in San Francisco (several blocks from BART). Do you agree with MTC’s decision to divert more than $100 million in bridge toll revenues to cover the costs of moving its headquarters from the Oakland Lake Merritt BART Station to its expensive and out-of-the-way new location in San Francisco?

(5) MTC lost another $100 million in a failed Wall Street “interest rate swap” investment scheme. If you were to be appointed Contra Costa County’s MTC commissioner, what actions would you take to prevent such fiscal mismanagement from occurring in the future?

(6) A July 2018 East Bay Times editorial stated in part that the outgoing MTC Director “touts his agency as ‘action-oriented and project- based,’ but that has translated into piecemeal construction, pathetic planning and a lack of long-range vision. The agency merely hands out money for one politically popular project after another with little sense of where it will all lead.” Do you agree? As a Contra Costa County MTC commissioner, how would you assert your oversight responsibility over the actions of the MTC Staff? How would you work to ensure that MTC’s regional transportation plans are sound and in the long range best interest of the Region?

(7) The San Francisco Chronicle revealed that some BATA/MTC-funded ferry boat routes receive subsidies of nearly $100 per passenger per round trip (Matier & Ross, “Ferry loaded with subsidies,” March 17, 2013). Do you believe that is excessive? How will you ensure that MTC spends the tax and toll dollars that pass through its hands every year transparently and cost-effectively to reduce traffic congestion?

(8) Federal law requires “public participation” in MTC projects and programs. Is MTC currently fulfilling this requirement effectively? Why or why not?

BATWG requests that prior to your final City Selection Committee appointment vote that each MTC candidate be given an opportunity to answer these and other relevant questions concerning their plans for improving the operation and effectiveness of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

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