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February 09, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, February 09, 2005

SamTrans may alter how it picks members SamTrans may alter how it picks members (February 09, 2005)of its board of directors

** Political storm: Will Mike Nevin stay on the board?

By Marion Softky

Almanac Staff Writer

The next act of the political drama involving former Supervisor Mike Nevin's appointment as a public member of the SamTrans board will play out Wednesday, February 9, at the SamTrans board meeting.

Stung by criticisms of cronyism and no public process for making appointments, the board of San Mateo County's transportation agency will consider adopting a formal policy for future appointments of the three members representing the public.

Supervisor Jerry Hill, who chairs the nine-member SamTrans board this year, is proposing a policy to promote diversity among the public members, who are appointed by the SamTrans board.

The proposed policy would commit SamTrans to consider geographical, ethnic and gender diversity in making its appointments, and to create a public process for filling vacancies.

Specifically, the proposed policy would require that:

** Two public members be from different geographical areas of the county. (The third public member is required to live on the Coastside.)

** No public member can have held elective office for one full year before being appointed.

** Public member positions be filled by a public process involving advertising vacancies, interviewing applicants, and making appointments at a public meeting.

The proposed policy responds to the local political storm caused by Mr. Nevin's appointment as a public member of the board that runs San Mateo County's bus system, immediately after he left the Board of Supervisors in January, due to term limits.

Mr. Nevin has been a major player in county transportation issues throughout his 12 years as a supervisor. By remaining on the SamTrans board, he can serve on both the Joint Powers Board that runs Caltrain, and the Joint Powers Authority that is planning a new TransBay Terminal in San Francisco to accommodate both Caltrain and future high-speed rail. This year he has been elected chair of both.

In addition, Mr. Nevin still represents San Mateo County on the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and chairs its Bay Area Toll Authority.

With Mr. Nevin's appointment, Daly City continues to dominate the SamTrans board with four of nine members.

The other public member is Shirley Harris of Daly City; Daly City Councilman Mike Guingona is one of three city representatives. And the Board of Supervisors also appointed freshman Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, also of Daly City, January 6 on a 3 to 2 vote.

Supervisor Rich Gordon's effort to nominate himself in order to get more geographic spread on the SamTrans board failed when only Supervisor Mark Church backed him.

Numerous articles and editorials in local papers challenged the two appointments, and called for more diversity on the SamTrans board, and a better process for making appointments.

The proposed policy -- an outgrowth of still more disputes -- appears to have the support of most of the major players. Supervisor Gordon supports it; so does Mr. Nevin.

"It looks like a package I could fully support," Mr. Gordon said.
Focus on Nevin

The bigger question overshadowing the local flap is the future of Mike Nevin and the 8th District state Senate seat held by Sen. Jackie Speier, who is termed out in 2006.

Mr. Nevin is engaged in a fierce three-way fight for the Democratic nomination for the seat. Former Assemblyman Lou Papan, a long-time political enemy of Mr. Nevin, and San Francisco Assemblyman Leland Yee also are running for the seat, which represents parts of San Mateo County as far south as Woodside and Portola Valley.

A year of leadership on county and regional transportation boards would help Mr. Nevin's campaign.

When the SamTrans board adopts its guidelines for appointment of public members this week, the big question will be whether Mr. Nevin will keep his brand-new seat as a public member, or whether he will be forced to step down.

Supervisor Hill expects that Mr. Nevin will, at the least, serve out this year. Mr. Hill said he thought the new policy "would take effect when the next vacancy occurs."

Meanwhile, Mr. Nevin has been using his position to plug for San Mateo County and the Bay Area in the jungle of regional transportation funding. Last week, he testified in Santa Clara, before the Senate Committee for Transportation, against cuts in transportation funding in the governor's budget.

"I am trying to save some of our local tax dollars for transportation," he said. "I want the (SamTrans) board to allow me to finish out this year."

SamTrans will consider the proposed board-appointment policy Wednesday, February 9, at district headquarters, 1250 San Carlos Ave. in San Carlos. The meeting starts at 3 p.m. For information, check

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