Metro buses stopped at a bus stop. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voiced its opposition Tuesday to a bill that would eliminate three of its members from the Metro Board of Directors, despite promises from the bill’s author to instead beef up the overall number of seats on the transportation board.

The bill, SB 268, was authored by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, and is awaiting a vote by the state Assembly after being passed by the Senate. Through a spokesperson, Mendoza promised an amendment that would allow the county to retain its five seats and grow the board to achieve his goal of more appropriate representation.

Mendoza argues that all of the county’s 88 cities other than Los Angeles are under-represented on the Metro board.

“Senate Bill 268 is a matter of social justice and fair representation. The MTA is an important part of daily life as many people get to work on public transit,” Mendoza said when the Senate voted to pass the measure.

“The MTA was created as state-legislated compromise to reorganize Los Angeles County public transit. What we need to do now is pass this bill and ensure that every corner of the county is adequately represented,” he added.

The county board’s vote was 4-1, with Supervisor Janice Hahn dissenting.

Hahn said South Bay cities in her district saw projects that had been approved under the Measure R transportation plan go unfunded and then get pushed back to “2045 and 2055” when the Measure M regional plan took effect.

“I don’t think they want more, I just think they want what was coming to them,” Hahn said.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl argued, “L.A. will dominate even more” under Mendoza’s structure and pointed out that Mayor Eric Garcetti also opposes SB 268.

Saeed Ali, speaking for Mendoza, told the board that the senator had come to the conclusion that eliminating two of the five county seats wouldn’t be “productive” or “conducive” to regional planning.

Ali said Mendoza acknowledged that a 25-member board, which he proposed in a 2016 bill, was too large, but didn’t say just how many seats he would propose to add.

The Metro board consists of 13 voting members and a non-voting representative of the governor. In addition to the five county supervisors, seats are held by the mayor of Los Angeles, three appointees of the mayor and a representative from each of the county’s four sub-regions.

Mendoza’s original plan was to substitute three members from the county’s sub-regions for three of the county board seats and eliminate the Los Angeles mayor’s three appointees in favor of five City Council members.

The Metro board itself has opposed Mendoza’s bill, as has the Los Angeles City Council.

Mendoza had been a strong opponent of Measure M, a voter-approved sales tax estimated to raise $120 billion for transportation initiatives, and Los Angeles City Councilman and Metro board member Paul Krekorian has accused Mendoza of childish motives.

“This is the legislative equivalent of taking the football and going home because you didn’t get to play quarterback,” Krekorian said last month.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger also questioned the senator’s motivations.

“I don’t know why this board is being targeted,” Barger said of Mendoza’s bill and a separate proposal he’s made to expand the size of county governing boards and require an elected chief executive.

Barger confirmed that amendments were underway, but said, “(These) concerns would have been better addressed while this was being baked.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said SB 268 violated all three of his personal principles for good law.

“It should be reasonable, it should be rational and it should be equitable,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The Metro board oversees the agency’s vast array of bus and rail lines and recently approved a $6.1 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

–City News Service

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