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Letter: For WMATA Board, think Greater Greater Washington

We received this letter from Josh Lopez, who was recently a candidate for DC Council at-large.

At-Large Council Member Michael Brown (I) has announced that he is stepping down from his position as one of the DC Board members to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) due to a busy schedule.


Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

This sudden announcement led me to think of a sound appointment to WMATA from a deserving group, Greater Greater Washington. This dedicated group of regular contributors is led by David Alpert and they have been at the forefront of transportation issues here in DC.

The appointment of a GGW member to the WMATA board would also be an asset in supporting Council member Tommy Wells (Ward 6) who also serves as the other appointed DC board member. Council member Wells currently chairs the Committee on Public Works and Transportation.

Mr. Wells has worked extensively with GGW over the years when it comes to transportation and developing new policies to encourage residents to get out of cars and use alternative means of transportation in DC. Although Mr. Wells brings new ideas and progressive policies to the table, he is only one voice.

The possibility of adding a second voice to support Mr. Wells would be great for the city. For years, DC has appointed members who may either not take the role seriously or have no background in transportation. This is a great opportunity to bring something new to the table. The appointment of a non-traditional transportation expert on the board will send the message that DC welcomes new ideas and will look at different and new ways to improve WMATA service for District residents.

Chairman Kwame Brown has the power to appoint a new board member to WMATA. I encourage him to explore this great opportunity. This potential appointment could be a win win for everyone. I encourage you to call Mr. Brown's office at 202-724-8032 or email him directly at kbrown@dccouncil.us and ask him to meet with Greater Greater Washington to discuss possible appointees to the WMATA board.

Greater Greater Washington occasionally posts letters that raise questions or make points we feel our readers would enjoy seeing and discussing. If you would like to submit a letter, please send it to letters@ggwash.org. If you have feedback on an article you would like to share with other readers, please post it in the comments section of that article instead. 

Comments

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Adding a "blog". Horrible idea. Who is to say one "blog" is more deserving than another.

A DC resident needs to serve, and if Alpert or one of his DC resident contributors/readers wants to as a District citizen then fine, but including a "group" or "blog" is a ridiculous idea.

by freely on Jun 9, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

Ridiculous. GGW is accountable to whom?

by Trulee Pist on Jun 9, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

@freely, @Trulee Pist:
If it's not clear from the letter, the author is suggesting that DC choose as it's next representative a citizen of the District who happens to be a contributor.

Mr. Lopez is not suggesting adding a category of "blog" from which members are drawn.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 9, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

I don't believe Lopez is saying appoint GGW, but rather someone from GGW such as Alpert, Johnson or anyone else listed here: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/about/. Many members of GGW have extensive backgrounds in transportation and so it's a good pool to choose from.

It's also not the exclusive pool and I read nothing in Lopez's letter that indicates as such.

And finally, @Trulee Pist: the appointee would be accountable to the person who appoints him, CM Brown, since (presumably) appointees can be removed by the appointer. I'm naive on the workings of the Board, so correct me if I'm wrong.

by 7r3y3r on Jun 9, 2011 12:36 pm • linkreport

@7r3y3r:
Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I'm not a resident of the District. I live in Prince George's County.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 9, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

This is silly, but it's certainly not insane to appoint an expert member of the community to the board.

(That said, such a procedure could be hugely open to corruption.)

by andrew on Jun 9, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

Don't do it David. You can't have an open forum blog and tie yourself to the nasty politics of WMATA.

by Jasper on Jun 9, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

Regardless of whether a GGW contributor is appointed, I think a requirement should be that whoever is appointed has a written body of work describing their transit philosophy and positions on key positions. Just like we wouldn't appoint a judge who had not written about their positions and philosophy, we shouldn't be appointing someone to this important position based solely on a resume. I want to know their ideas in addition to their credentials.

That said, what WMATA needs is not more ideas but better governance and accountability. We need someone who can make the trains run on time, dammit.

by Falls Church on Jun 9, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

David could arguably be nominated...he's already on the Riders Advisory Council.

But Jasper has a point...he'd have to walk an even finer line with GGW posts if he were to become a WMATA board member.

by Froggie on Jun 9, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

I agree that there likely are members/contributors of GGW who are qualified and could serve an important role.

However, I don't think the overture should be made based on being members of a blog community - but the experience that person brings to the table.

Sorta like, DAL (Ken Archer, Matt etc) was chosen for the board based on his experience with transit-related issues RATHER THAN..chosen based on being a member of GGW.

GGW is a supplement to the experience not the other way around.

Josh Lopez...isn't he the Fenty anti/Gray guy?

by HogWash on Jun 9, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

I'm on the fence about this. On one hand, David, Matt (the most qualified in my opinion), and the rest of the folks at GGW are extremely intelligent when it comes to transit. They express data-informed opinions and have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong with DC area transit options, including WMATA.

However, the site would be at risk of losing its independent voice if a contributor was on the board. I think we need GGW to remain unaffiliated with WMATA in every single way lest it becomes a mouthpiece of the organization. I think a better solution would be to press the candidates to begin taking GGW and other transit-related communities more seriously. There's nothing wrong with soliciting input from the knowledgeable people around here. I think WMATA considers it an admission of weakness to get ideas from others.

by Sam on Jun 9, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

Can't they just appoint one of the Freemasons from the Committee of 100? :-)

by ed on Jun 9, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

I'd rather have an engineering Director or VP on the board --someone with extensive systems and management experience.

Metro doesn't suffer from a lack of "neat-o" ideas, it suffers from a lack of sufficiently intelligent leadership that's schooled in the world of costs and design tradeoffs.

Besides, I'd be more likely to vote the bloggers at Un-Suck DC Metro than GGW.

by eb on Jun 9, 2011 1:27 pm • linkreport

Can we reappoint Jim Graham? Oh plese! Oh please!

I wonder what the going price is for a seat on the board, and who all's constituent services funds you'd have to donate to?

by @SamuelMoore on Jun 9, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

While I think Tommy Wells brings an important voice to the board, I'd rather have another board member that is a transit professional with experience in other systems like Acosta or Downey rather than a transit advocate on the board.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 9, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

I vote for Malouff!

by tom veil on Jun 9, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

What an idiotic idea. Here are the facts. Many GGW writers do NOT have any formal experience in planning or managing transportation systems. David Alpert merely has an "interest" in urban issues according to a City Paper profile on him and no professional experience. Writing a blog doesn't count as professional experience. He and many of the other GGW contributors got to Washington about 5 minutes ago and have little to no understanding of the city's history, why previous decisions were made, why many of the ideas posted to this blog are pretty much DOA (or should be), etc. They also don't give a damn about anyone in the suburbs, the board members need to have a regional view that encompasses many different types of lifestyles and the needs of many different types of people, and GGW writers generally don't do that. All GGW and David Alpert have proven to the world is that one guy can strike it rich, post a bunch of things to the internet, and become an authority on a topic when he probably shouldn't be. There are plenty of other people who are far more qualified to write about, discuss, debate, and decide on important issues pertaining to WMATA and other urban issues throughout the DC area other than David Alpert, including the people who work at WMATA today. Unfortunately, they actually have to work for a living or are bound by organizational rules and regulations that don't allow them to blog about their work (as it probably should be, complete transparency isn't always a good thing).

by OTP on Jun 9, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

This is obviously just a plot for David Alpert to get an Escalade at DC tax payers expense. I'm not falling for it.

by Doug on Jun 9, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

I would do it, but then - in order to fit in - I'd have to stop riding Metro, and I just don't think I could give it up.

by David C on Jun 9, 2011 3:41 pm • linkreport

Whoever gets named can't be much worse that Michael Brown. His leaving the WMATA board is clearly a case of addition by subtraction.

by Not a fan of Hoops Brown on Jun 9, 2011 4:05 pm • linkreport

DC's WMATA board positions are unpaid.

It would be nice to appoint a board member who is reliant on transit. Forcing people to live with the consequences of their decisions will bring a fresh point of view.

by Eric Fidler on Jun 9, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

I think thisbwas a bold move by Mr. Lopez to begin this discussion. No matter which side you fall on, the need for conversations like this are taking place.

by Janet on Jun 9, 2011 9:32 pm • linkreport

OTP is exactly right. Hanging out with a lot of doctors doesn't allow you to practice medicine and David Alpert and GGW's hugely anti-car bias demonstrates a clear lack of knowledge in how a majority of people in the metro area get around the area.

You could also insert Ezra Klein in for David Alpert and essentially say the same thing about his opining on health care.

by Burger on Jun 10, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

Let that dog lie. you must be crazy. Tommy Wells, you better leave that clown alone.

by native_resident on Jun 11, 2011 12:50 am • linkreport

I think having a social worker and a social blogger as DC's representatives to a metropolitan area transit authority makes perfect sense. They are the kind of representation we have on other boards -- people with no experience! This pair have the ability to be extraordinarily insulting and self serving so it sounds like a perfect fit.
Great suggestion Josh.

by karl on Jun 11, 2011 9:52 am • linkreport

did you just nominate yourself, @karl? ; )

by 7r3y3r on Jun 11, 2011 1:55 pm • linkreport

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