The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), with a 10 – 6 vote decided to move forward with the $179 million acquisition and renovation of an office building in San Francisco. MTC Commissioners immediately went into a closed door session and began private negotiations for the real estate deal.
In response, Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, issued the following statement:
“MTC is disconnected from those they serve,” said DeSaulnier. “By refusing to await an independent review by the State Auditor, today MTC became a prime example of what is wrong with government. MTC needs to be held accountable for their use of toll payer money. I am also concerned that if MTC is spending reserve revenues for this acquisition, there may not be sufficient funds available for an emergency.”
“MTC has not demonstrated an immediate need to spend $179 million of toll payer funds on a building in San Francisco,” said DeSaulnier. “After MTC’s behavior I plan on introducing comprehensive legislation next year to drastically overhaul regional governance in the nine county Bay Area region. Government needs to be more transparent and responsive to the people they serve.”
The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will also hold hearings this fall to examine MTC’s governance structure and statutory scope of authority. The Committee’s review may include but not be limited to the following: (The State Auditor is also scheduled to examine much of this.)
- How did the MTC AdHoc Committee (charged with making a recommendation to the Commission on this deal) do its research to make its recommendations? Did it meet in public? If not, why not? As the Committee took an official vote, was the AdHoc Committee governed by the Brown Act? If so, how did the AdHoc Committee comply with the Act?
- The promise MTC made with voters to spend excess toll proceeds for transportation improvements: Is it legal and appropriate for MTC/Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) to spend toll revenues on the purchase of an office building?
- Should the Commission have sought legislation to amend the law to provide the authority for this deal? The Legislature regularly analyzes changes in law to provide specific statutory authority for real property acquisitions and disposal. Why didn’t MTC/BATA seek such authority for this project and the creation of the Bay Area Headquarters Authority, where it could be fully vetted and debated in public?
- Where did MTC/BATA get the $179 million available for this project?
- Are there projects that will not be built because MTC/BATA is tying up toll revenues for decades to pay off bonds issued to finance the building?
- If there are no projects to spend this money on, doesn’t that imply that the tolls are too high and can be lowered?
- If these are bond proceeds, does that mean MTC/BATA issued too many bonds and are keeping tolls unnecessarily high to support them?
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