Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Rail board picks ignored the public
Saturday 17 Nov 2007, 04:18
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad

I’ve been waiting one this one, to see if another one would pick it up, after all they’re quick to dump on the NCRA. Here you have the Marin County Supervisors dumping on the public process of selecting new representatives for the NCRA board, calling it a “charade”. Instead of seeking public input, the citizens of Marin County received hand-picked appointments.

OPEN GOVERNMENT should never be viewed as a “charade.”

Three Marin County supervisors voted for expediency over serving the public interest when they named two new representatives to a regional rail agency that is embroiled in controversy.

Former Novato Mayor Bernie Meyers and Tom MacDonald, a Novato businessman, will serve on the North Coast Railroad Agency, which is planning to resume freight service on tracks that run through Novato.

Meyers and MacDonald are qualified to serve on the rail agency, which is being sued by Novato. But supervisors, in their hurry to fill the openings, did not seek applicants for the seats.

That was the wrong approach. And that mistake was made despite the protests of Supervisors Susan Adams and Charles McGlashan, who voted against the appointments.

Supervisors were told by the county’s lawyer that they could proceed the way they did. Adams, however, hit the nail on the head Tuesday when she said the issue was about open government and process. “I’m not at all comfortable with the way this came to us today,” she said.

Residents have good reason to be cynical when such hand-picked appointments are made by their elected officials – especially ones regarding controversial issues.

major fight is brewing over freight service through Novato – the same tracks that would be used by Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit if voters approve passenger rail when it is on the ballot next year. The two seats on the rail agency were open because Novato-area Supervisor Judy Arnold and Novato Councilman Jim Leland resigned from the rail agency board after Novato filed its lawsuit.

Arnold had pushed for the appointments, saying it was important to have Marin’s seats filled before a rail committee meeting on Monday.

We appreciate her sense of urgency, but that doesn’t trump the public’s right to be involved in the process. Other residents should have had the opportunity to apply for the openings and make their case.

Supervisors Steve Kinsey and Hal Brown went along with Arnold and voted for Meyers and MacDonald.

Kinsey even said that allowing others to apply for the seats and holding public interviews would have amounted to a “charade.”

That was a poor choice of words. The public deserves better. After all, those two citizens are representing all of Marin on the North Coast Railroad Agency board. Rail service is an important issue and we would have liked to have heard all the applicants articulate where they stand on the subject.

Not the NCJ, nor the HH wrote about it.

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