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Private Citizens Dropped From MTA Board

Mayor chooses to name three councilmen instead, saying they will be more effective and will give L.A. more say in transit issues.

July 14, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

In a move he said is aimed at giving Los Angeles more power in regional transportation affairs, Mayor James K. Hahn announced Sunday that he is appointing three councilmen to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and dropping two private citizens from the panel.

Antonio Villaraigosa, Martin Ludlow and Tom LaBonge will replace former councilman Hal Bernson, who was named to the panel when he held office; banker Paul Hudson; and UCLA graduate student Allison Yoh, the only board member who used the transit system on a regular basis.

"We thought it would be more effective to have council members on the board," said Hahn's transportation deputy, Brian Williams. "It's not a slight on Allison and Paul."

MTA chairman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he is sorry to see the two private citizens replaced.

"Allison was a voice for the bus riders," Yaroslavsky said. He added that Hudson provided the board with invaluable perspective because of his expertise in finance.

As for his new colleagues on the 13-member panel, Yaroslavsky said he doesn't have any comment. "The mayor wants to make a change and he's entitled to make a change," he said.

The MTA board, which oversees a budget of $2.8 billion, includes the five Los Angeles County supervisors and four elected officials from other areas of the county. The mayor of Los Angeles also serves as a member of the board and is entitled to appoint three others -- one City Council member and two other public members, according to the legislation that created the MTA.

The three councilmen meet that requirement as public members, Williams said. He added that the appointments had been vetted by the city attorney's office and MTA lawyers.

Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, an advocacy group, called the new appointments "an incredible, magical wish list of some of the most passionate transportation people in Los Angeles. In the past Hahn has not put transportation on the front burner. Now he's put some serious players with some real clout on the MTA board. It's making a major statement that the mayor cares about transportation."

But Kymberleigh Richards, president of Southern California Transit Advocates, said she has mixed feelings about the ouster of the two private citizens.

The decision-making body oversees a sprawling network of buses and trains as well as providing funding for programs ranging from freeway construction to Metrolink, and it's good to have other voices on the board, she said.

"This will literally put us in the position of having all elected officials on the MTA board," Richards said.

Villaraigosa previously served as a director of the RTD, a predecessor to the MTA, as well as an alternate member of the MTA board. Among the initiatives he spearheaded, he said, was the MTA's clean fuel program. In the state Assembly he headed the transportation committee.

LaBonge, who has indicated support for extending the Red Line subway and opposed expansion of the 101 Freeway, called transportation one of the region's most important issues.

Ludlow and Hudson could not be reached for comment.

Yoh said she would have been happy to remain on the MTA board but had heard earlier from the mayor's office that she might not be reappointed. But she hadn't known for sure until she received a call from a reporter Sunday.

"Thanks for letting me know," she said. "It was a good experience."

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