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.