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CAMPO starts process to name new Cap Metro member

Friday, July 11, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

It appears that the committee charged with naming a new member to the Capital Metro Board of Directors will take its time in arriving at a decision. On Thursday, a Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization committee met to establish procedures for naming the next member to the Capital Metro board, a job that may or may not entail chairing the panel.


Long-time Chair Lee Walker announced his departure from the board at the end of March. Vice Chair Commissioner Margaret Gomez is serving as chair in the interim. County Judge Sam Biscoe chaired the CAMPO committee to review the procedures for determining which of six candidates might be the next representative of CAMPO on the board.


The board’s final decision was to provide proposed written questions to CAMPO Executive Director Joe Cantalupo by Monday. After some internal discussion among committee members about priorities, Cantalupo intends to send e-mails out to the candidates by July 17, asking them to respond to approximately six questions. Those responses will be due back to the eight-member CAMPO committee by either July 22 or July 23. The committee will meet again on the morning of July 25.


The committee could choose to interview two, three or even all six candidates. Due to various vacation schedules – Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt intends to participate in the July 25 meeting by telephone since she will be out of town – the goal is to set the face-to-face interviews sometime during the week of Aug. 4.


Capital Metro’s bylaws note that the Board elects its own Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary. Because the chair has always been the CAMPO appointee – implying that, like CAMPO, the representative can represent both urban and rural interests – it has traditionally been this person who has been named by the CAMPO Board to be its chair.


That means that candidates for this CAMPO appointment now include two people already serving the board – Austin Council Member Mike Martinez and Leander Mayor John Cowman – as well as four outside candidates. Those are former CAMPO Board Member John Trube, who was mayor of Buda but now lives in Austin; long-time transportation planner Paul Hamilton; former transit association director Norm Chafetz; and social worker Mike Manor, who put the issues of economic and racial equality at the top of his agenda.


Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty noted the assumption always has been that the CAMPO appointee would be voted chair of the Capital Metro board.


“We’ve identified that might not be the case with this, but there must obviously be something going on here, or we wouldn’t have two present board members applying for this appointment,” Daugherty said.


Council Member Lee Leffingwell noted two issues: the assumption, by tradition, that the CAMPO appointee would be chair; and the underlying issue of proportional representation. “The City of Austin now represents 90 percent of the ridership and 90 percent of the funding for Capital Metro,” he said. “There’s been a feeling for a long time that there needs to be a realignment of representation on the board.”


That reasoning echoes the reasons Martinez outlined in his letter of application for the CAMPO appointment. Leffingwell and Martinez are close allies on City Council.


Leffingwell’s concern was that the committee might be under some time crunch, but he was assured that the time frame was nothing out of the ordinary. Council Member Brewster McCracken noted that the appointment was not likely to be pressing until September, when the new fiscal year is about to start.


During informal discussion, the committee members noted areas of concern, including labor issues and outsourcing; the role of Capital Metro in future rail; the future of the service area and how to achieve it; the relationship between Cap Metro and the CAMPO; and relevant experience to the task at hand.


Surprisingly, Daugherty, one of the two Republican members of the committee, was the one to raise the issue of racial diversity. Daugherty asked whether jurisdictions could decide to change appointees, in case the Capital Metro ends up without representation from Austin’s African-American community.


Members of the committee include Biscoe, Leffingwell, McCracken, Daugherty, Eckhardt, Austin Council Member Sheryl Cole, Austin Mayor Will Wynn and Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long.

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