As the board of the Southern California Rapid Transit District privately interviewed candidates for a new general manager Monday, a Republican alternative to the transit reorganization bill vetoed last year by Gov. George Deukmejian was unveiled at a Los Angeles news conference.
The Assembly minority leader, Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), the vice chairman of the Assembly's Transportation Committee, William Duplissea (R-San Carlos) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum were present to give the bill--designed in part to alter the RTD's relationship with its unions and to lower RTD costs--a send-off.
Although the measure is given little chance by most observers to win the approval of the Democrat-controlled Legislature, Schabarum declared it the only bill that Deukmejian would sign, and he, Nolan and Duplissea resisted making any acknowledgment that they were outlining a GOP-Deukmejian bargaining position.
The main provisions of the Republican plan are:
- A new entity, called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to combine all policy-making functions of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the RTD.
- An 11-member authority board to be composed of the five county supervisors, the mayor of Los Angeles, a member of the Los Angeles City Council and four members from other area city councils. Such members would probably be more conservative than those called for by the vetoed Democratic proposal, which would have included more representatives from liberal groups.
- Establishment by July 1, 1989, of at least two subsidiaries by the MTA, one to assume oversight of transit operations, the other for rail construction. The MTA board would be responsible for policy, and the boards of the subsidiaries responsible for operations.
- The right of the MTA to set up transportation zones by majority vote and competitively contract for services from private companies, thus bypassing present union relationships, and determine the operator of its rail lines.
- That if transit costs go above a certain amount per vehicle mile after accounting for inflation, state subsidies would be cut off and the overrun diverted to streets and highways.
In his press conference statement, as drafted, Schabarum said he thought "the single-interest RTD labor unions may oppose us." As delivered, he changed that phrase to "might not at first feel comfortable."
In any event, Earl Clark, chairman of the United Transportation Union, lost no time in telling callers that he considered it a union-busting bill.
And even before Monday, based on details that had leaked out, Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) had proclaimed it "a flat-out attack on working people. . . . This is another example of Pat Nolan running (something) up the ideological flagpole, as opposed to finding solutions."
The Republican lawmakers, however, displayed a chart indicating that, after inflation is taken into account, transit costs have increased by 48.3% in Los Angeles in the last 10 years even as they declined by 7.8% in San Diego. They said it is time to cut costs, even if union arrangements are disrupted.
Nolan, Duplissea and Schabarum claimed that RTD Board President Jan Hall "wholeheartedly supports our effort," but three hours later, appearing before reporters at RTD headquarters, Hall stopped well short of that. She pledged that she and the board would "take a good look at this bill."
Under questioning, she welcomed parts of the bill that would mandate change in the RTD's labor relations, but was critical of the suggestion that, if costs mounted, state money would be diverted away from the RTD.
Hall, meanwhile, would not confirm reports that the board was interviewing Alan Kiepper, general manager of the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority, and James O'Leary, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, in a nearby room as one of the final steps in selecting someone to succeed the much-criticized former general manager, John Dyer.
She would not say when the new general manager will be selected. She said the deadline was April 1, but she hoped it would be done sooner.
An RTD public relations aide quickly corrected her, saying the deadline is May 1.