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Applicants for Capital Metro board appointments revealed

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 by Josh Rosenblatt

Supporters of Austin’s in-progress commuter rail line, MetroRail, can rest a little easier tonight, knowing that the project’s top critic, Jim Skaggs, won’t be joining the Capital Metro Board of Directors any time soon.


Skaggs, a longtime critic of the agency who was instrumental in defeating the light rail referendum in 2000 (“Costs too much, does too little”) and who has staged a relentless media campaign against Cap Metro’s commuter line for years, recently applied to be one of three new board members representing the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Yesterday, however, CAMPO’s nominations committee determined that since Skaggs does not live within Cap Metro’s service area, he is not eligible to serve as a CAMPO representative on the board. 


Skaggs did have one surprising booster—Jay Wyatt, president of the union for Cap Metro’s drivers, ATU 1091. Wyatt was fired from his Capital Metro job in September but continues as union president.


Under a new state law sponsored by State Senator and CAMPO Chairman Kirk Watson, the Cap Metro board will be expanded for this upcoming session from seven members to eight, three of whom must be CAMPO appointments. The guidelines for those appointments, though convoluted, speak to Watson’s belief that the best way to fix the problems that have plagued Cap Metro for the last few years is to include more business people in its governing body.


According to Senate Bill 1263, all three CAMPO appointments must reside in Cap Metro’s service area, and two must live in Austin. One must be an elected official from a jurisdiction in which Cap Metro’s tax is collected and whose presiding officer serves on CAMPO; one must have at least 10 years of financial/accounting experience; and one must have at least 10 years of executive-level experience. At the moment, the nominations committee is concerned with only the two non-elected-official appointments.


As of the Monday afternoon meeting, the 10 applicants before the nominations committee were: Ernest Auerbach, former divisional vice president at AIG; Rick Burciaga, former chair of the Austin Chamber of Commerce; Norm Chafetz, former Cap Metro director of government relations; Frank Fernandez, a current member of the CAMPO Transit Working Group; Glenn Gaven, former president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1549 and current Cap Metro bus operator; Thomas Griebel, a member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce transportation committee; Richard Maier, an Envision Central Texas board member; Mike Manor, CAMPO’s current appointee on the Cap Metro board; Skaggs; and Tom Stacy, a downtown developer and real estate broker.


However, Griebel and Stacy, like Skaggs, don’t live in the service area and will therefore not be considered.


All appointments to the Cap Metro board must be made by Dec. 31. At Watson’s request, the committee agreed that by noon this Friday, each member of the committee will have ranked his/her choices for the two slots, followed by interviews with the top three or four candidates next Friday, Oct. 30, beginning at 10am. He hopes the committee’s recommendations will be determined in time for the next CAMPO policy board meeting Nov. 9.


The CAMPO board will name its elected official to fill the third slot in the coming weeks or months. According to the new law, this elected official must either be a member of the Travis County Commissioners Court, the Williamson County Board of Commissioners, or the Austin City Council. According to Watson, the smart money is on a Council member. That is likely to be Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, who serves on the current board. The City of Austin also gets an appointment, likely to be Council Member Chris Riley, who just joined the Cap Metro board. No one else on the Council has expressed an interest in the seat.

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