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McDonnell trying again to take WMATA seat from NoVA

The Virginia Senate rejected Governor Bob McDonnell's attempt to move control of WMATA down to Richmond, but he's trying again with a budget amendment. Meanwhile, the Maryland Senate didn't act on Governor O'Malley's bill that would have set up some good rules and also some bad ones for appointing Maryland board members.

Photo by jcolman on Flickr.

McDonnell wants state law to give him the right to appoint one of Virginia's voting members to the WMATA Board. But he hasn't shown that he'll act in the best interests of the region if he gets the power.

He basically sat out the Congressional budget continuing resolution, where severe cuts to WMATA were being discussed. For three weeks, he dithered and equivocated on whether he would ask Congressional Republicans to keep the needed capital funding for repairs, while almost every other Northern Virginia official stood up for the funding.

Rather than keep pushing legislative sledgehammer solutions, McDonnell could try to work constructively with Northern Virginia leaders. He could have some of his staff work with them more closely to devise solutions and policies. He could make some recommendations on his own and publicize them, to lead by espousing ideas.

But that's not McDonnell's approach. Instead, he just says, "give me power because I should have it." Northern Virginians have been skeptical of this claim, knowing that McDonnell doesn't consider them his political base and that he has already sought to weight transportation spending away from the Washington region.

Now, he's submitted his list of budget amendments, including one (#50, on page 23) to seize the Board seat. The legislature should reject this budget amendment, as they did the earlier attempts.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, senators paid attention to advocates' concerns about a bill to set criteria for WMATA Board appointments. Transit groups praised provisions that would require appointees to be regular riders and disclose how many meetings they attend, but wanted to strip out rules that elected officials couldn't serve and that set up professional qualifications.

The Senate committee didn't reach consensus on how to fix the bill before "crossover day," the deadline to send bills to the House of Delegates. That makes the bill almost certainly dead for this year. There were some good ideas in there, so Governor O'Malley should resubmit it next year without the objectionable elements.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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A republican governor trying to amass power for himself and possibly limit the voices of those who may not share his views? Unfortunately this is childs play to whats been happening in other states regarding this.

by X on Mar 31, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

Commence the seizing.

by Lou on Mar 31, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

Sentence cut off:

"and that set up professional The Senate committee"

Professional what? Wrestling? I'd be down with wrestling.

by OctaviusIII on Mar 31, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

I wonder whats behind Mcdonnell trying to take the SEAT from NVA when WMATA dont serve richmond

by Jerome on Mar 31, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

How come it is acceptable for Maryland to have representation, but not Virginia? This is typical Washington garbage -- different standards for the same body.

by tmtfairfax on Mar 31, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

So much for that "local control" shtick

by Thayer-D on Mar 31, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

McDonnell to NOVA: "Let them eat Corporate HotLanes".

by stevek_fairfax on Mar 31, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

What is the difference except that one Governor is a Democrat and the other is a Republican.

ANNAPOLIS, MD - Governor Martin O'Malley announced today that he will nominate former Maryland Congressman Michael D. Barnes to serve on the Board of Directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA). Mr. Barnes will represent Montgomery County and will fill the seat of Peter Benjamin, who has completed his term.

Let's play "heads, I win; tails, you lose." Watch not a single person will even try to answer this one.

by tmtfairfax on Mar 31, 2011 5:39 pm • linkreport

tmtfairfax: I've discussed this many times, but am happy to reiterate.

The RAC's report on governance, which I authored, said that we thought Maryland should have a stronger role for local officials.

However, the state government pays 100% of the funding for Metro out of state money (mainly transportation trust fund). In Virginia, most of the money comes from local taxes.

I don't think it's a bad idea for the governor of Virginia to have a seat. However, the governor of Virginia should start by explaining what he would do with the seat and why it would make things better. He hasn't.

Having the governor of Maryland appointing the voting WMATA reps means that Maryland is often the hardest jurisdiction to work with. They realize that Metro is valuable, but it just serves a small portion of the voters; if Montgomery and Prince George's were more involved in the decisions then it might be very helpful.

by David Alpert on Mar 31, 2011 6:33 pm • linkreport


That is a ridiculous argument. If Virginia pays all of the money similar to Maryland, that simply means NoVA residents are funding most of the money. NoVA funds so much of the state's operations that it's often cheaper to pay locally.

For example, Mark Warner's 2004 tax increase cost Fairfax County residents $107 million. Warner sold his tax increase on the basis of aiding K-12 education. So how much new money did Fairfax County get for schools? A little more than $7 million. Moreover, 49 local jurisdictions were able to reduce their local tax support for public schools the next school year. Yet these simple-minded buffoons we have in local government in NoVA thought it was wonderful.

WMATA is the worst managed agency in the United States. It has no financial controls and has failed to adopt a reasonable compensation system and cannot manage outside contractors. But the same local government buffoons have failed to force change. Give me control from Richmond any day -- Democrat or Republican.

WMATA cannot manage what it has, yet we are expanding the system by 23 miles in Virgina. We have an elevated line through Tysons because our local leaders wanted to kiss Bechtel's %%& rather than bid the project for a tunnel. We saw Gerry Connolly vote to add a $50 million station in front of his employer's building. We saw businesses buy their way out from the tax district through contributions. We are paying billions for the Silver Line that will carry a smaller share of the Tysons traffic than even Bethesda and will force a three to five lane expansion of the Dulles Toll Road. We have local officials in Fairfax County wanting taxpayers to fund 58% of the $1.5 billion road expansion while 100% of the profits go to the developers.

Virginia's local governments are equally as corrupt as Chicago, New Jersey or Louisiana; they are just more sophisticated. We need a grand jury to investigate Dulles Rail and Tysons Corner redevelopment.

by tmtfairfax on Mar 31, 2011 10:27 pm • linkreport

@David; your argument about money is a bit stale. Virginia isn't asking for all the seat, like Maryland does. They are asking for half.

Where does the money come from:

1. Gas tax in NoVa
2. Counties
3. State

and finally riders.

Now, even by NVTC standards, the Commonwealth is paying 30% of Virginia's share. What would be a fair solution -- one seat?

The Governor's position is the gas tax + state fees is 50%, since technically the gas tax money is coming through Richmond.

The Governor's argument seems sound. I don't trust him, don't like his politics, but there is a certain essential honesty there.

Putting your hands in your ears and saying "maryland is different" is nonsense.

by charlie on Mar 31, 2011 10:39 pm • linkreport

@ charlie:The Governor's argument seems sound. I don't trust him, don't like his politics, but there is a certain essential honesty there.

No there is not. There is a governor that is using an honest argument with dishonest intent. That invalidates the honesty of the argument. You know that McDonald only uses this argument because it serves his (unstated) purpose, not because he believes the argument. It is the worst form of hypocrisy.

by Jasper on Apr 1, 2011 11:02 am • linkreport

McDonell lost all credibility on WMATA issues with his dallying and tepid support for the $150M of federal funding. In that situation, he was clearly more concerned with his national reputation as a budget cutting conservative than what's best for Virginia. If he can't even manage his current responsibility and power regarding WMATA well, why would we want to give him more?

by Falls Church on Apr 1, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

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