Metropolitan Transportation Commission debates proposal to create new seats for Oakland and San Jose

At its last meeting of the year, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) debated over whether a controversial proposal to create two new commission seats for Oakland and San Jose should be included in the commission’s 2012 legislative program—a package of proposed measures that the commission seeks to support or sponsor in the coming year.

The proposal, AB 57, would add two seats to the MTC board to increase representation of the region’s most populous cities—Oakland and San Jose. The new commissioners would be appointed by each city’s mayor. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority opposes the measure, arguing that commission’s make-up has never been based on population and that giving Oakland and San Jose more representation would dilute the voting power of other counties.

Scott Weiner, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee to the commission, singled out AB 57 as problematic among other measures in the commission’s legislative program, moving to indefinitely postpone the commission’s continued support of the proposal in 2012.

“I have yet to hear any articulation of why this is necessary or of how San Jose or Oakland have been underminedby the current commission structure, Weiner said, adding that, if a new seat were to be created, “San Jose has a stronger claim than Oakland.”

Commissioner Scott Haggerty (Alameda County) challenged that assertion, saying, “If I was able to read between the lines of what San Francisco is saying, it’s that maybe they can deal with San Jose and cut Oakland out because they don’t think Oakland should have that seat. This is an important bill to have the mayors of the city of Oakland and of San Jose to be at the table, along with mayor of San Francisco… If you’re going to try to cut Oakland out of that I can’t support that in any way.”

The MTC approved the change in structure last February, on the grounds that increasing representation of both cities —which collectively employ one-third of the Bay Area’s work force and represent more than half of its transit commuters—would be essential to achieving long-term, regional sustainability goals. Because the commission needs state approval to authorize the change, Assemblymember Jim Beall (D-San Jose) sponsored AB 57, which was approved by the state assembly last summer.

“It’s perplexing that the largest city in Northern California doesn’t have a seat,” said Commissioner Mark Green, who represents the Association of Bay Area Governments, in support of AB 57. “If you add the populations of Santa Clara and Alameda counties, you get close to the half point of the population of all of the Bay Area.”

After considerable debate, the commission voted 11 to 5 against postponing the bill and, in another motion, approved the final 2012 legislative program, including AB 57.

The proposal is currently being considered in the state senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee.

In other business, the commission passed a resolution to adopt the 2012 Regional Transportation Improvement Program, which will provide about $143 million for new projects in the Bay Area’s nine counties. The resolution now moves to the California Transportation Commission for approval.

The next MTC meeting will be January 25, 2012.

 

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