June 2010

Commonwealth to fulfill promises to Metro.

Commonwealth to fulfill promises to Metro.

It’s scary how people in charge of things can be very misguided some times.

So I was doing some thinking today on what exactly would happen if the Governor did in fact manage to strong arm (yes he is strong arming) his way onto the Metro Board.  The way the current law is written he only has 3 options really:

1) Change the Metro Compact that has been in existence for over 40 years to allow for the Governor to make direct appointments to the Metro Board.  This solution would require approval by the DC Government (I believe this would mean Congressional approval too, but not too sure on that), the Maryland Government, and the Virginia General Assembly.  This will not happen because neither the MD Government, nor the DC Government have shown any willingness to take this step.  Either way, it would have to be approved by the General Assembly which is not back in session for several months; he needs to make a choice in the coming days.

2) Change the Virginia Code that prescribes how the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is made up.  Current law is very specific with regards to who exactly sits on the NVTC.  Currently, the Governor only has 1 appointed representative.  If he is demanding 2 reps on the Metro Board, and those reps must also be members of the NVTC, and the NVTC only allows by law for one rep of the Governors selection, then how exactly would this be done unless the law was changed to allow 2 reps of the Governor’s choosing?  His obvious problem is that this would also require GA approval like option 1 above and the GA will not convene until January; a decision is needed in days.

3) Force the NVTC’s hand by withholding much needed funds unless they place on the Metro Board 2 current members of his choosing.  Since he obviously wants more Republicans on the Board, he has to choose from his current representative Thelma Drake, Del. Tom Rust, Del. Barbara Comstock, Del. Joe May, or Sup. John Cook.  Herein lies yet another problem: none of these members have a single metro station in their district.  Why would you appoint a member of a governing board that is not affected by the activities of the organization the board governs?  Does that make any sense?

I predict the Governor will select door #3.  He has already gone out on a limb and bluffed withholding funds, now its too late for him to recant and give the money over.

Speaking of money……let’s look at exactly what the Commonwealth has given to Metro via the NVTC.

Contrary to popular belief in some circles, the Commonwealth contributed very little to Metro in the grand schemes of things.  Below are some facts that were compiled by the NVTC in a presentation they put together hilighting their search for more permanent funding measures.

A)  The Metro Compact that went into effect in 1967 began receiving funds from localities immediately, but the Commonwealth did not start contributing until 1973.

B)  Local funding to Metro since FY 2001 has totaled $2.6 billion, funds from the Commonwealth in the same period totaled $827.5 million.  A far cry from the billions provided by Northern Virginians.

C)  The Commonwealth already controls all new funding sources to Metro from the NVTC.  Meaning that any new means of funding that the NVTC or localities come up with must be approved by Richmond.  Despite the calls for more funding from localities, and despite the need for capital improvements, and despite the need for more local money to remain here locally, the General Assembly has not lifted a finger to solve the problems thus far.

D)  The Commonwealth has defaulted on 95% of its internal statutory funding goals for Metro.  This brings the total in non-delivered funds since FY 2001 to $831.6 million (in case you didn’t notice that’s more than they actually coughed up).

E)  Even with the additional $5o million that Sec. Connaughton has used as a reason to demand more representation the ration of local funds to Commonwealth funds for FY 2011 is 71.7% versus 28.3%.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.

It is pretty clear that the Commonwealth is not justified in demanding that NoVA give up half it’s representation to the Metro Board based on funding.  This begs the question; if not for funding, then why?

And I will again pose the same question about safety; what is going to improve metro safety faster and to a larger extent, 1) nearly 500 brand new cars with upgraded brakes, or 2) another government bureaucrat paid with tax dollars?

So since it’s not really about the money, and any monkey with half a brain can see that the money will improve safety faster than the Governor’s proposal, the question is simply WHY?

I believe it should be reiterated that politicizing the Metro is dead wrong no matter what party is doing it, period.

Then there is this.

Sorry for these bumps along the way. I’m still working on the new rednova8.com, but for now we’ll still be using this current theme and template.

Thank you for your patience.

-Not Jim Moran

This will be the first post of a two-part article on the current controversy of Virginia’s representatives to the Metro Board.  This post will talk about the legal and political aspects of the Governor’s request the second post will talk about the policy of Metro funding.

At first glance, it is easy to understand why there is a call for new leadership with the Metro Board.  After being plagued with track problems and accidents over the past year or so, many riders and locals have become disillusioned with the service being provided; especially considering the constant rise in rates.  After the accident on the Red Line over a year ago now, questions still remain.  Recently, the Washington Post ran an article highlighting a call by Gov. McDonnell to replace 2 of the 4 Virginia members of the WMATA Board of Directors with his own appointees, one of which could be a full-time paid staffer.  The current make-up of the Board on the Virginia side is 4 representatives of the local government, including Supervisors Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) and Jeff McKay (D-Lee).

While I can understand the desire of the Commonwealth to control half our representation to the Metro Board of Directors, I believe this represents a dangerous game that no one should start playing.

In case you were wondering, Virginia’s 4 members of the Metro Board are selected by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission which was created by the General Assembly in 1964 to govern the Northern Virginia Transportation District.  Two years later, in 1966, the General Assembly approved the Metro Compact and agreed that the members of the Metro Board from Virginia would be chosen by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.  Before I continue, statements that the Governor does not have representation in any way to the Metro Board are simply not true.  The Governor does have a voice on the NVTC which is has the sole authority to appoint the Virginia members of the Metro Board; that voice is currently the Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation who reports directly to Transportation Sec. Sean Connaughton.

From a legal standpoint, the obvious question is whether or not the NVTC could even appoint a representative of the Governor since current law only allows for the Commission to have 1 representative of the Governor serve on the Commission, the appointee of the Secretary of Transportation.  The NVTC only appoints members of the NVTC to the Metro Board, so since only 1 member of the NVTC is from the Governor, how can 2 seats be given to the Governor without some legal problems?

Since the Board appoints 4 seats, 2 Directors and 2 alternate Directors, the second question is which position would the 2 representatives of the Governor get?  Would they both be the Directors, or would 1 be an alternate?  Or, would both be alternates?  In the past, the appointments have been 1 Director from Fairfax with a corresponding alternate from Fairfax, and 1 Director from Arlington with a corresponding alternate from Alexandria.  If the Governor gets 2 seats, who loses out?

I said earlier that this is a dangerous game to play.  The problem here is that the Governor is showing a willingness to hold up desperate capital improvement needs, to include hundreds of new cars with upgraded braking systems so as to avoid the crashes that result from faulty brakes like the one last year.  Sec. Connaughton cited the concern of the Governor that the current NVTC appointees are just part-time local government officials and not experts in transportation issues; also citing a desire to hire a full-time staffer.

The obvious question that I feel should be answered honestly by the Governor should he continue to delay the funding that has not been delayed at all in the past decade is simple: what do you think will make Metro safer for riders right now, 1) hiring a paid staffer i.e. bureaucrat, or 2) replacing nearly 500 out dated cars with brand new ones to include upgraded braking systems?

From a more abstract and opinionated point of view, the political side, I am left wondering exactly what makes the Governor (Richmond) think he deserves a place at the WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA Transportation Authority Board of Directors?  The VAST majority of funds comes from NoVA, not Richmond.  The WMATA system has nothing to do with Richmond, period.  Now, before anyone starts attacking me for speaking out against a Republican Governor, I don’t care what party you are, attempts to control that which is not yours to control are flat out wrong.  It is wrong for Richmond to exercise control over Metro.  It is wrong because Metro has nothing to do with Richmond.  If Richmond wants a say in how we Northern Virginians get from one place to another, how about you change your convoluted funding formulas that drastically underfund NoVA interstates.  Let’s start with that and see how it goes.  Maybe once who fix that mess we can come back to the drawing board.

This leads to my post to come about the financial aspect of the Commonwealth’s funding history versus local (NoVA) funding history.

Check back later for the next post.

Chris broke the news earlier this week, and people cried foul because they wanted to know his sources.

Well, look what I found. Click here.

I wonder if this means Tom Davis is still running. That would be an interesting primary…

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