Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Torrance Mayor Seeks to Boot O'Connor from MTA

 

December 8, 2014



Torrance Mayor Pat Furey is seeking to oust his Santa Monica counterpart as the regional representative on the Metropolitan Transit Authority board, a role Pam O’Connor has held since 2001.

O’Connor, a bus rider and professional planner who is a transportation policy wonk and “strong advocate for public transit,” has never been challenged during her tenure.

But her most recent four-year term has expired and the mayors of the 19 South Bay and Westside cities that make up a subcommittee that recommends its representative to the full Metro board are due to vote on the matter at a Thursday meeting in Carson.

“It is my feeling a closer association with the Metropolitan Transit Authority will greatly assist the transit projects that benefit the South Bay, such as the Green Line extension,” Furey said at the outset of Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

O’Connor, who is seeking another term, said she was surprised by the unprecedented challenge because Furey had initially pledged to support her when she spoke to him three weeks ago.

“I came back (from out of town) Friday night and heard he was running; he never told me that,” she said. “Pat threw his hat in the ring at the last minute.

“The surprise is more that I had talked to him and he did not in that conversation say there was a problem,” she added. “I bring years of transportation experience both at Metro and regionally before that to the table; I don’t know what his transportation experience is.”

Furey has not been active with the South Bay Cities Council of Governments, which deals with transportation projects on a regional basis. He did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday afternoon although he said Tuesday he has received “encouragement” to run.

Torrance and other local municipal officials over the years have expressed dismay with the amount of money Metro allocates to the area for transportation projects.

For example, tens of millions of dollars in Measure R-funded road and transportation improvements are underway in the South Bay to offset the amount spent on light rail lines elsewhere in the county.

Furey would need 51 out of 100 available votes to prevail. Votes are weighted by population; Torrance, for example, has 15 votes, while Santa Monica has nine.

It’s unclear whether Furey has the votes he needs.

“The district is skewed more toward the South Bay, there’s no doubt about that,” O’Connor said. “My message will be I’ve worked hard for them.”

Indeed, O’Connor distributed a three-page letter listing her accomplishments for the South Bay at a recent Metro board meeting.

Judy Mitchell, the outgoing mayor of Rolling Hills Estates, said O’Connor has the necessary experience, knowledge and relationships on the Metro board that have proven invaluable to the South Bay.

“She’s invested a lot of time and energy to know the issues for the region and that’s an investment that I value because it puts her in a good position to understand what the needs are for the community and to implement policies that represent our interests,” Mitchell said. “Metro deals with a huge amount of money and it’s very important we have people who think independently who serve as our representative.”

 

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