The Question is Why?

On May 26, 2021, a disgruntled Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) employee went on a shooting rampage at the agency’s main Guadalupe light rail yard, fatally striking nine co-workers with bullets before killing himself. There was and is universal agreement that this senseless slaughter of innocent people was horrifying and that every conceivable effort should be made to provide optimal care to the victims and their families.

But why, as a result, did the Authority shut down VTA light rail service for over three months?

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Public Agencies, Like Private Companies, Sometimes Need Outside Evaluation

audit

Private companies and large public agencies across the United States and throughout the world are routinely subjected to independent outside management audits.

However in the Bay Area such operational and managements analyses are rare……independent analyses even more so. Here’s what an independent management audit can do for a struggling public agency.

Organizational Policy-making, Management and Operations:

– Evaluate the experience and qualifications of those who sit on boards and commissions. Recommend ways of improving their effectiveness.

– Identify and clearly describe instances where aggressive real estate developers and other narrowly-focused outside parties are unduly influencing public policy decisions.

– Set up a process for ensuring that part time policy makers have access to the information they need to make wise decisions and otherwise do their jobs effectively…without overwhelming with irrelevant detail.

– Examine the management structure of the organization from top to bottom. Carefully review all organization charts, budgets, policy directives, accountability procedures, work rules, coordination protocols, etc. Recommend specific ways of improving efficiency, productivity, internal communication and general effectiveness. Cite specific instances of where changes in supervision or management are warranted.

Capital Improvement:

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James R. Mills

From 1960 to 1982, James R. Mills was a highly productive member of the State Legislature during which he served with distinction as the State Senate’s pro-transit Transportation Committee Chair and later as its President pro tem. During his time in the Legislature he was a consistent champion of improving passenger rail and other forms of public transit. He was justly proud of his legislative accomplishments which helped create the extensive and highly successful San Diego Trolley system and brought significant public transit improvements to many other parts of California. Mills died on March 27, 2021 at age 93.

When Governments Become Dysfunctional

With the federal government poised to lavish $2 trillion or more on State and local governments, now might be a good time to take stock of how well equipped the receiving agencies are to use hundreds of billions of incoming new dollars in prudent and productive ways.

Given the Bay Area’s dismal recent record of managing large amounts of capital, the prognosis is not good. Before identifying causes it is necessary to provide a small sampling of the results. 

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