Transit board needs to build leadershipBy Editorial Board
People argue about the value of buses vs. light rail, or the prospects of BART getting built - projects that are the purview of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. But about one thing, there's really no argument: The way the VTA board is set up just doesn't work.
The paucity of experienced, knowledgeable board members was a key finding of a VTA audit last year. Revolutionary changes in the way directors are chosen - such as an elected rather than appointed board - would require state legislation and a referendum. But at today's meeting, the board can and should make some changes on its own.
The objective is to have representatives of small cities stay on the board longer so they can develop expertise and become invested in long-term goals.
San Jose, with half the population of the county, and the county board of supervisors tend to keep the same appointees for multiple terms. Other cities are clustered into three groups, each of which has a representative on the board - but those appointees typically change every two years as the cities within each group take turns making the appointment.
The proposed change is to stop that rotation and have each of the groups simply agree on an appointee and then keep that person on VTA for a longer period. What cities would lose in individual opportunity, they'd make up for in clout with a more knowledgeable representative.
Board vice chair Dolly Sandoval, a Cupertino councilwoman, is an example of the kind of leader the VTA needs. The new policy would make it easier for her to stay on long enough to become chair and accomplish something.
There is no downside to trying this reform. If it doesn't help, VTA can go the long, expensive route later. Why not try the easy way first?
Copyright ©2008 San Jose Mercury News. Published 05/01/2008.