WESTSIDE ‚Äî For the first time in more than decade, Santa Monica will likely be without a representative on the Metro Board.
A committee made up of representatives from 19 cities in southwest Los Angeles County opted not to nominate City Councilmember Pam O‚ÄôConnor for reappointment to the Metropolitan Transit Authority Board on Thursday morning.
The group, the Southwest Corridor cities, instead put forward Inglewood Mayor and former Santa Monica Police Chief Jim Butts for appointment.
Butts will need to be confirmed by the City Selection Committee ‚Äî which represents all the cities in the county except Los Angeles ‚Äî in January.
“We only have one nominee at this point: Jim Butts, who‚Äôs going up there for approval.” said Beverly Hills Councilmember John Mirisch. “They would have to almost give you a reason. He‚Äôs the guy who we want to represent us. There‚Äôs no reason for him not to be.”
O‚ÄôConnor said she‚Äôs thankful that she got to serve as long as she did.
“I have been doing it for 13 years so that’s a long time,” she said. “It’s a time commitment but of course there will be some things I miss.”
She‚Äôs proud of establishing the board‚Äôs Sustainability Committee in 2007 and of her work on incoming Expo Light Rail.
O‚ÄôConnor joked that she‚Äôll be invited to Expo‚Äôs Santa Monica opening, which is scheduled for 2016, whether she‚Äôs on the Metro Board or not.
“From 2001, my first motion, vision and intent, was to take it to Santa Monica,” she said of the light rail. “At that point there was some talk to deviate it and go into Venice. We got the board to say, ‘no.’ Vision and intent: Take it to Santa Monica.¬† I have a feeling ‚Äî with less than 18 months left and a separate construction authority building it ‚Äî that it‚Äôs pretty safe whether I’m on Metro Board or not.”
Each city‚Äôs vote total in the Southwest Corridor sector is weighted based on its population size. Torrance, the largest city in the Southwest Corridor, gets the most weight, followed by Inglewood. Small cities, like Hermosa Beach and El Segundo, get significantly fewer votes. To win a nomination from the sector, Butts had to procure votes from more than half the cities and from more than half the votes, as weighted by population, Mirisch said.
Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells nominated O‚ÄôConnor, Mirisch said. O‚ÄôConnor got votes from herself, Sahli-Wells, and some of the smaller cities on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Mirisch said.
All the other representatives in attendance voted for Butts, he said.
O‚ÄôConnor pointed out that South Bay cities hold 75 percent of the weighted vote.
“So I‚Äôve been lucky to hold it for 13 years, frankly,” she said. “I‚Äôve always been aware that no matter how good I do, I‚Äôm not South Bay. And if there‚Äôs ever a serious South Bay contender, the politics might not go my way.”
Mirisch, who seconded Butts‚Äô nomination to the board, is concerned that the city of Los Angeles‚Äô four-member representation is disproportionately large when compared to its population size.
O‚ÄôConnor has said that this is an issue to be dealt with by the state legislature and the League of California Cities, not by a member of the Metro Board.
“This is something I mentioned to Pam more than a year ago and she was literally not interested in doing anything about that,” Mirisch said.
Mirisch is looking forward to seeing Butts take his turn.
“It’s really a matter of fairness,” Mirisch said. “Fairness is good for all of us. It’s time to give someone from a South Bay city a chance. And I think Jim is committed to dealing with the issue of disproportional representation and to make sure that all of us within the sector, that we have a voice that is willing to listen to us and I’m thrilled about that.”
In November, Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to back O‚ÄôConnor for reappointment.
“Jim Butts is a terrific leader and served Santa Monica well for years,” said Councilmember Terry O‚ÄôDay, who put forward the resolution to support O‚ÄôConnor‚Äôs reappointment. “I’m confident he will serve us well as we finish Expo, and as the light rail comes to his city, will ably lead the charge to connect our whole region. We are fortunate to have had Pam O’Connor’s leadership at Metro for 13 years. No doubt she is already planning new ways to apply her experience to take the region to the next level in affordable, sustainable mobility.”
Butts lauded O‚ÄôConnor‚Äôs service.
“I was honored to be nominated by the electoral process and I‚Äôm proud to serve the Westside cities as a representative on the board,” he said. “It‚Äôs big shoes to fill. A great person to follow, following Pam O‚ÄôConnor. I look forward to that service and to her advice as I transition into this new role.”
O‚ÄôConnor, who survived a close council election in November, placing third in a race for three seats, was recently asked to serve on the California Road Usage Charge Pilot Program Technical Advisory Committee by the California Transportation Commission.
“I‚Äôm thrilled,” she said. “One door closes and another one opens.”