Have you seen the agenda for Friday’s board meeting? It’s packed! Every board vote is important, but the three that have understandably generated the most feedback are the FY2011 budget, MetroAccess policy changes, and the January 2010 service changes.
Many people spoke very passionately at public hearings for all three issues in the last few days. People expressed their worries about how these proposed changes and budget decisions will affect them.
Originally I was going to blog about how these are difficult decisions, etc. But I think our board chair, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, summed it up really well at the end of yesterday’s budget public hearing, with an additional comment from Vice Chair John Langmore. So here it is in their own words (with transcript pasted below the video clip along with additional comments from today’s Finance/Audit Committee meeting):
Chairman Mike Martinez: I want to just make a few closing comments. Obviously we take your input very seriously. And we are making some very difficult decisions. I realize that an increase in any fare where there was no fare at all is extremely difficult to accept and understand. But those aren’t the only things we’re doing. And it isn’t the only folks that are being impacted by the decisions we have to make. You saw the service changes earlier. Those are- many of our other customers as well that ride fixed route- they’re going to be impacted. We have to create efficiencies but at the same time maintain the service as much as we possibly can. Some of the things you see in the budget this year, these are cost drivers. These are not add-ons. These aren’t things we are adding to this year’s budget. We knew that a $4 million payment would be due for our MetroRail cars. We knew that when we purchased them several years ago. We knew that the cost of our labor contract with StarTran was going to cost us this year. A million dollars, almost, to pay our employees a fare wage and give them a raise in a very difficult time. We’re trying to balance all of these things out, and they’re not always easy. And there’s still more time. And this board will certainly take all of your input into account with any final budget that we adopt this coming Friday. So I want to thank you all for your participation and your input. And yes… we have a lot of questions as well. Online you’ll find every single financial transaction that this agency makes, from 2-cents all the way up to the highest number possible. We encourage you to look at that. We encourage you to help us. Your ideas don’t fall on deaf ears, your suggestions. We are a mere board of eight members, and we sincerely need your input and help in putting any changes in place to make the agency better.
Vice Chair John Langmore: I just want to thank everybody for coming out. Irrespective of how we vote relative to your individual position- some of these things that the group has advocated for today and over the course of this long time of looking at the budget – some of them are mutually exclusive. If we do one person’s cause, we’re not going to be able to do another’s. So all I want to say is that we really appreciate everyone coming down and making themselves heard. I know it’s time out of your day and rest assured that we factor your comments into our votes on the budget later this month. I just want to thank you for your time.
And here are few quick comments from this morning’s Finance/Audit Committee meeting which included discussion about the critical importance of improving the accessibility of bus stops (these may not be exact quotes, but they’re close):
Langmore: [In the past] we haven’t done right by the disability community… I don’t want us to be in that same position next year.
President/CEO Linda S. Watson: We’ve got to get the projects done. We’ve got to make good progress on this. We can find some people to work on the permitting [to speed up the process]. We’ve got to make it a priority.
Regarding proposed changes to the MetroAccess policies:
Board Member Ann Stafford: We’re adopting a policy based on the long-term well being of our customers and the community at large [not the immediate financial need in one fiscal year].