Thursday, June 28, 2007

State wants say on Port Authority board

State wants say on Port Authority board: "State wants say on Port Authority board
Harrisburg Republicans complain of subsidization without representation"
I've been worried about the fact that these boards are hand-picked and never accountable for years. But I want the boards to be accountable to the citizens, the voters, the public. The fat-cat legislatures want the accountability to reside with them. They want power in their pockets.

Nuts to them.

Make Authority Boards, all of them, subject to "retention votes."

Upon appointment to a board, the board member begins service. At the next election, that person needs to win more than 50-percent approval to retain the seat.

In two years time, that person comes up for another retention vote. Then the bar is raised and that person needs to get a 70% vote for retention.

In two additional years, at four years, that vote needs to be at 80% for retention vote.

In two additional years, at six yeas, that vote needs to be at 90% for retention.

Every year after, the board member needs a 90% -- a super-doper majority -- to retain his seat.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thursday, June 28, 2007
By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG -- The Legislature provides two-thirds of the Allegheny County Port Authority's budget, and yet legislative leaders have no appointments to its nine-person board.

But yesterday state Sens. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, and John Pippy, R-Moon, moved to change that. Senators approved a measure sponsored by Ms. Orie to have General Assembly leaders name four of the PAT board members, with the other five continuing to be appointed by Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato. He now names all nine.

GOP senators contended that with the Port Authority regularly racking up budget deficits, new oversight is needed.

The Orie amendment was approved 30-20 on a largely party-line vote with all but one of the 21 Democrats opposed. Sen. Anthony Williams, of Philadelphia, was the only Democrat to vote with the GOP. A final vote on the amended bill, Senate Bill 857, will be taken today and then the legislation will move to the House for action.

The main part of bill calls for the state auditor general to audit Port Authority books annually.

"The state provides about two-thirds of the Port Authority funding," said Mr. Pippy. "That's one of the highest percentage subsidies in the nation. Most state governments only provide about one-third of a transit subsidy."

He said Allegheny County only provides about 10 percent of the PAT budget, with the rest coming from the fare box revenues, federal funds and advertising.

Under the Orie amendment, the Senate president pro tem, the Senate minority leader, the House speaker and the House minority leader each would get to name one member of the Port Authority board.

Rep. Chelsa Wagner, D-Beechview, said she has a bill, House Bill 1642, that would give state officials five seats on the PAT board. Legislative leaders would each have one appointment and Gov. Ed Rendell would have the fifth. Mr. Onorato would only get four appointees.

Ms. Orie said that changing the board's makeup "is about reform, accountability and oversight. With the amount of money the state provides, this [change] shouldn't even be an issue. We owe it to the public to have such oversight."

Mr. Onorato couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, denounced the Orie amendment as "wrong-headed and inappropriate." He said the change in board makeup would hurt Mr. Onorato's efforts to make changes at the Port Authority and control costs.

Mr. Ferlo said he realizes that Mr. Onorato "is stepping on a lot of toes, upsetting a lot of people," such as riders and unionized workers, due to the tough measures he and Port Authority Chief Executive Steve Bland have been taking to reduce the deficit. About 15 percent of the bus routes were cut this month, and about 250 workers were laid off. An additional 10 percent of routes are due to be eliminated in September if additional state aid isn't forthcoming, and fares are due to rise in January.

Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said Mr. Onorato "has worked with the board to get costs under control. Many reforms have already been made by the current board. Give them a chance to implement these changes."

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