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Travis Commissioners opt for citizen rep on Cap Metro board

Thursday, October 22, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Pct. 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez was the sole dissenting vote on Tuesday when the Travis County Commissioners Court approved a motion to appoint a citizen, rather than one of its own, to be the county’s representative on the reconstituted Capital Metro board of directors.

 

The court has until December 31 to make its appointment.

 

Commissioners agreed that whomever their appointment turns out to be, knowledge of the federal regulatory process, especially as it pertains to rail and labor, is an important qualification. As well, the motion included calls for “a knowledge of funding sources and mechanisms including their political and equity implications.”

 

CAMPO, which is also currently vetting its own appointments to the board, is looking for someone who has relevant “executive experience” or has worked in finance management. State Senator Kirk Watson’s SB 1263 was  proposed and passed in the hopes of increasing the level of managerial and financial expertise on the board. 

 

Deece Eckstein, Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator, informed the court that, according to SB 1263, any representative they choose must be either “a qualified voter in Travis County or have his or her principal place of employment or business in the portion of Travis County that is within the Cap Metro service area.” Three of CAMPO’s applicants were disqualified earlier this week because they did not live in the Cap Metro service area.

 

Commissioners agreed that, in addition to having the required finance and/or executive experience, their appointee should support mass transit. When Gomez asked whether bikes and trails counted, Eckstein noted, “They have those bicycles built for two, but otherwise, bikes are not usually considered mass transit.” Applicants can contact igr@co.travis.tx.us for more information.

 

Gomez told In Fact Daily, “I thought that since we’re elected to represent Travis County it makes sense that a member of the Commissioners Court is good for the county.” In addition, she said, an elected official can be held more accountable for his or her actions. “You have to go to meetings; no one keeps a record of attendance. We know that (we) have to be accountable, that we have to be present.”

 

She added, “Ordinary citizens are not familiar with the fact that you post an executive session item and that’s all you can talk about … if you don’t, the attorneys run the risk of losing their law license.”  Gomez said that if she had her way she would choose Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt to be the court’s representative because precinct two “voted itself into the Capital Metro service area when it was first created.”

 

The court voted unanimously to demand all applications by Thanksgiving then take “a couple weeks” after compiling a short list to finalize their decision. The court will announce its appointment on or before December 22.

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