City Council opposes bill to alter makeup of MTA board

LOS ANGELES — The City Council unanimously opposed a state Senate bill May 19 that would drastically overhaul the governing board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The bill is Sen. Tony Mendoza’s third attempt in two years to overhaul the board of the county’s transit agency and increase the representation of cities in areas outside the city of Los Angeles.

Mendoza, D-Artesia, contends the county’s other 87 cities are underrepresented on the board and its projects often benefit Los Angeles at the expense of smaller cities.

The MTA board is made up of 13 voting members and a non-voting representative of the governor. The board oversees the agency’s vast network of public buses and rail lines. The board is comprised of the mayor of Los Angeles, three appointees of the mayor, all five members of the county Board of Supervisors and a representative from each of the county’s four sub-regions.

SB 268 would eliminate three members of the Board of Supervisors from the MTA board while adding three members from the county’s sub-regions. It would also eliminate the Los Angeles mayor’s three appointees in favor of five City Council members.

The current publicly available text of the bill does not include mention of the three additional members from the county’s sub-regions, but a spokesman for Mendoza said it will be added soon.

“SB 268 runs counter to the spirit of local control by changing the membership of the MTA board without local consensus,” Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin wrote in a letter to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. “These changes set a dangerous precedent for state control of local transportation boards and agencies.”

Bonin is the chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee and also one of Los Angeles’ representatives on the board.

“The primary reason for the bill is to ensure that there is fair and equal voting rights for other parts of the district,” said Tim Kirkonnell, communications director for Mendoza.

“The communities that currently don’t have as much influence on the board will have more ability to have a larger voting percentage.”

Mendoza introduced two bills last year that sought to increase representation of the smaller cities, including one that would have replaced three of the county seats with a post for Long Beach and for appointees of the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly, and another that would have added 10 new seats. Both were shelved by the Senate.

The new bill comes as the MTA and the county are making plans for spending the estimated $120 billion that will be generated by a half-cent sales tax increase stemming from voter approval of Measure M in November.

“SB 268 also comes at a time when the MTA is making historic investments to transportation to improve services across Los Angeles County,” Bonin’s letter said. “This bill would disrupt that process and make it more difficult for [the MTA] to make critical investments that will create jobs, reduce traffic, and reduce pollution.

“SB 268’s top-down approach is unnecessary and does not accurately reflect our region.”

The City Council approved the resolution by a 10-0 vote.


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