Marta Gets The Grady Treatment

April 28, 2010 9:22 am

by Icarus · 24 comments

A couple of years ago, when Grady Hospital’s financial troubles could no longer be ignored even by suburban Republicans, a series of compromises was made on all sides to place Grady on tenable financial footing. The major concession by Grady was a complete reconstitution of its board of directors.

Marta stands next in line for the Grady treatment, according to the AJC, with an amendment to SB 22 poised to remake the Marta board. Again.

House Speaker pro Tempore Jan Jones said that the legislation (an amendment to SB 22) would reduce the current MARTA board from 18 to 13 voting members, with three appointed by the state. The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker would each appoint one voting member to make up that three. In addition, the Department of Transportation commissioner and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority director would have non-voting seats.

Jones said it was to ensure balance on the board and make sure Fulton and DeKalb taxpayers were protected.

According to a copy of the amendment, this is how the 13 voting seats would break down:

State – 3

City of Atlanta – 3

DeKalb County – 4 (at least 1 from north DeKalb, at least 1 from south DeKalb)

Fulton County – 3 (1 from south Fulton, 2 from north Fulton)

Jones pointed out that nearly all of Fulton County’s population lives in municipalities, so it only made sense for mayors to make the appointments. She also said it was about protecting taxpayers.

I recommend clicking the link and reading Ariel Hart’s entire article, to get the true flavor of the points of contention, and the motivation for the change.

Jan Jones is still trying to deliver fiefdoms for a still non-existant Milton County, making Fulton/Milton significantly “more equal” than DeKalb in the allotted board seats, presuming that the City Of Atlanta doesn’t select board members who live in the sliver of Atlanta that encroaches into DeKalb.

There is also the question of what MARTA receives for this new board setup. When Grady was forced to accept a new board, it came with new funding avenues. There was a nice carrot to accept that stick. The changes at MARTA seem to be mostly stick. I’d love to be a new board member at MARTA who would understand with my new appointment that I would be running an organization where the beatings will continue until Morale improves.

Should this amendment pass and become law, I have a quick suggestion for one of the appointments at the State level. The Gov, Lt. Gov, or Speaker should appoint Dick Williams to one of the seats. He would balance the ratio of DeKalb/Fulton ratio, lack of transportation planning is one of his greatest pet peeves, and it would give him some quality time with Representative Jill Chambers, should she be re-elected.

The material that this appointment would provide may not change MARTA one bit, but it would certainly liven up Sunday mornings again.

rugby April 28, 2010 at 10:26 am

So the state is getting 23% of the votes yet contributes to 0% of MARTA’s budget?

Seems fair.

griftdrift April 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

Or at least, normal

Scott65 April 28, 2010 at 11:21 am

Jan Jones needs to get a grip and not try to out do Jill Chambers in trashing MARTA. It might cost Jill her seat since she has a credible challenge this time in Elena Parent. One seat by the Governor I can see…but THREE? Also, where are the restrictions on all other mass transit in the state…dont see them? Its because they are nonexistent. Why the state needs to be a MARTA control freak is beyond me.

B Balz April 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Because MARTA’s current 18 members are not really the best stewards of public trust? Just like Grady’s old Board was not really looking out for the poor ol’ taxpayer?

Rep. Chambers speaks the truth about MARTA, from the standpoint of a virtual forensic accountant. That much credit is due. Anything to the contrary is political trash.

Rep. Jones has a very clear understanding of MARTA’s current situation. Both Reps. Jones and Chambers , know MARTA is important to the Atlanta region because MARTA is the de facto backbone of any regional transportation system.

Upstart darling of Sutherland Law firm, Ms. Parent has lots of pricey intown ‘suits’ giving her dough, but few actual voters in the 81st.

Why is that? More importantly, how does that help the 81st?

Scott65 April 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I dont think anyone is going to argue that the board needs to change. I think Jill Chambers “crusade” and thats what it is, wastes time and money…how many audits do you need? I think Beverly Scott has done a remarkable job with what she has. I think the tone Jill sets is the problem…the threats and such. That doesn’t lead to any kind of consensus to fix the problem. Also, as mentioned there is just the stick, no carrot here. These people forget that what they do to/for MARTA has an impact on people getting to work, and employers like myself who depend on their workers getting to work. Also, like it or not, the ridership needs to have some sort of voice on this board

B Balz April 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

“Ineptly structured financial transactions” is one of Mr. Williams favorite, and oft repeated phrases about City of Atlanta government.

MARTA has a humdinger: MARTA leases much, if not all, of their rolling stock to investors that take the tax break(s) associated with this sort of transaction. One side effect is with any lease, the leasee cannot sell property it doesn’t own.

Which means that, MARTA is forced to repair equipment well beyond it’s economic service life. Very costly.

The transaction made sense then, because MARTA is/was so strapped for cash, but now it is onerous from a cash flow basis. Not necessarily ‘ineptly structured’, more symptomatic of the only major US metro transit system unfunded by the State it serves.

And much like Grady, the problem can no longer be ignored as MARTA cannot survive by gnawing away at its’ reserves. In the words of POTUS, “It is time to put away childish things…. ”

To me, the thought of Rep. Chambers and Mr. Williams sharing a committee table together conjures up an image of Khrushchev banging his shoe on the UN podium….I’m just not sure would be doing the bangin’!

gt7348b April 28, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Most of the Lease-Lease back deals have been unwound – http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/auditors-marta-made-119-185076.html

Also, rail cars have a 25-30 year life-span and most of MARTA”s vehicles have just been rehabilitated and are good for another 25 years so right now those cars are not as costly to maintain.
http://www.itsmarta.com/textver/update.aspx?id=6725

Link

WestsideATL April 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm

But MARTA has never explained why they have far more railcars than they actually need. According to 2008 National Transit Database reports, MARTA only needed 188 cars to support peak service, yet they had 264 available. That’s a 40% spare ratio. With the upcoming service cuts, they’ll likely need even fewer for peak service.

Peer systems built in the 70s alongside MARTA only reported 24% (BART) and 30% (WMATA) spare ratios. So, why is the spare ratio so high? To the common bystander, it sure looks like they were stocking up on capital assets (i.e. railcars) to maximize their LILO profitability.

ByteMe April 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Wondering if this is that law of unintended consequences of having the state-imposed 50/50 split for revenue spending even in years when no capital projects were planned. Not saying it was, just wondering if that might have something to do with it.

Scott65 April 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm

There is no way to compare BART or WMATA to MARTA. Those systems have been growing constantly and thus are using the extra capacity. Plus, WMATA retired a bunch of rail cars after the last accident which might have something to do with the excess cars (not sure on that one). The Washington rail line has also grown tremendously since conception, unlike MARTA which is geographically limited

WestsideATL April 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Well, Dr. Scott always talks about MARTA relative to San Fran and DC so I used them as examples. Regardless, the 40% spare ratio is way out of line with industry standards – which is generally only 20%. What’s even more bizarre is that MARTA actually bought a whole new set of trains in the midst of their refurbishment program.

On ByteMe’s comments about the 50/50 split, that’s a definite possibility. I’m sure MARTA has made some unnecessary purchases in the past due to the “money burning a whole through your pocket” phenomenon. Armour Yard wasn’t really necessary but they built it because they could. The vehicle purchase might have been the same sort of thing.

To get on my soapbox for just a minute, I just wish the Authority could have been more strategic and used their capital surplus to pursue operating efficiencies (for example, installing more efficient lighting and finding a way to turn the outside lights off during the day or replacing the air conditioning units in stations with higher efficiency equipment – and BTW, I don’t think MARTA even runs their A/C any more) instead of squandering it on unnecessary items. Is this too much to ask?

Jane April 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I do not cry for Grady or MARTA. I would consider increasing my nominal support if the people who rely on Grady and MARTA express real appreciation, politically, to those who foot the bill in the world.

rugby April 29, 2010 at 9:32 am

Wow.

Scott65 April 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Jane, you ignorant slut (sorry couldn’t resist)…last time I checked, the only source of revenue was fares and the 1 cent sales tax in Fulton, Dekalb, and City of Atlanta, so in my estimation, everyone foots the bill to some degree because everyone purchases something and pays sales tax, and the ridership does pay a fare. Jane, so whom do you think we need to bow down to and thank for MARTA’s sustenance…you? Not hardly

rugby April 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

WOW..

Republican Lady April 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm

There is no call for you using the “s” word, which is highly offensive to say the least. Make you feel manly?

Scott65 April 29, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Republican Lady, perhaps you are just too young to remember the Saturday Night Live reference to the Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin skit in “Point Counterpoint”(it was truly funny, and I’m sure on online somewhere…here in fact)
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=22112906
If the word slut is offensive to you after watching that and seeing the context of the remark, apologies. I do, however, stand by the use of the term ignorant.

Icarus April 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm

The moderator allows a pass, in fact a +1, for a historical comedy reference which outweighs normal language standards.

And, Jane is asking for it.

polisavvy April 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Scott, being a long time viewer of Saturday Night Live, I couldn’t help but laugh. (I had a flashback). Kudos for creativity.

Jane April 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Atlas is Shrugging and the dead weight is going to fall off.

ByteMe April 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Are you sure you won’t be tossed out of the lifeboat first?

Jane April 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm

kisses and a wink to Sott all in fun as long as it does not raise my taxes.

Scott65 April 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

My manhood thanks you Jane (is now the time to mention I’m gay…lol)

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