Norton Says Resignation by Current Metro Board Members to Allow for Temporary Smaller Board Could Speed Reform and Help Region Achieve Federal Funding
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), ranking member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), today called on current members of Metro’s Board of Directors to resign to make way for the smaller five-member temporary board recommended by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Norton said that reducing the board would be the quickest way to begin Metro reforms and would help her and other regional congressional Members of the House and Senate in their uphill battle to renew the 10-year, $1.5 billion authorization for capital improvements, which expires at the end of the upcoming fiscal year. Resignation by board members would demonstrate that the region is committed to making necessary sacrifices to reform and improve Metro. She said the region will need to make some good-faith initiatives on its own to make its case for federal funding. Under LaHood’s proposal, chief executives of the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and the U.S. Department of Transportation would each appoint a temporary board member, who would then elect a board chairperson. According to press reports, the initial response of the three regional executives appeared to be tentative but positive.
“Secretary LaHood’s recommendation to reduce the size of Metro’s board is not proposed as a solution to Metro’s overriding financial problems,” Norton said. “It is only a temporary measure, but it would show that the region is prepared to begin the necessary process of structural reform of the system. Resignation by board members would entail some sacrifice for the good of the region and Metro, and would avoid a new, lengthy dispute on the size of the board, which has been criticized for being unwieldy and parochial. These have not been criticisms of the members of the board; rather, the unique tri-state structure of the board virtually encourages existing divisions among board members from a diverse region. Faced with a growing financial crisis, we must show that the region is capable of compromising on a temporary governance structure to give momentum to solving Metro’s long-term financial problems. If the region cannot even agree on a temporary structure to begin reform, it will signal that it does not have the capacity to take on larger issues of permanent reform, leaving Metro in a stalemate. As it is, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is being unfairly left to engage in reform of a broken system in need of good repair and complete overhaul without the needed policy consensus on even basic steps. Resignation by current board members would be a step that encourages renewed confidence in Metro by regional residents and, perhaps, even Congress. We must face our obligation to rebuild WMATA into a great transit system.”