April 22, 2010
The Capital Metro Transportation Authority needs to cut costs, reform its financial and accounting systems, and enhance the safety of the commuter rail line, according to a long-awaited state review of the agency that was initiated by Senator Kirk Watson.
Senator Watson has called a press conference for 10:30 a.m. Friday to discuss the report. The press conference will be in the Lieutenant Governor’s Press Room, room 2E.9 in the Capitol Building.
The report, conducted by the Texas Sunset Commission, serves as a top-to-bottom review of Capital Metro’s operations. While the Sunset Commission traditionally focuses on state-level government and agencies, it launched the evaluation of Capital Metro as part of a reform bill that Senator Watson authored during the most recent legislative session.
“This review, resulting in a detailed report, is exactly what I wanted – and what this community has needed – for some time,” Senator Watson said. “Since I was elected to the State Senate, I’ve been working to bring reform to Capital Metro. This report builds on changes I’ve already made to the agency through legislation affecting its practices and its board. It represents the next step in this process.”
“The Sunset Commission report puts in black-and-white the many issues that have concerned Central Texans for some time, from financial management to the implementation of MetroRail,” said Representative Eddie Rodriguez, of Austin, who sponsored the legislation in the Texas House of Representatives. “It’s now incumbent on the agency and the broader community to implement these necessary reforms.”
Capital Metro Board Chairman and City of Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez affirmed his commitment to lead Capital Metro’s Board of Directors in the implementation of the recommendations.
“I have been working with the new Board of Directors to begin addressing a number of the issues raised in this report since January,” Chairman Martinez said. “Sunset’s review has been an illuminating process and I’m committed to working with the community, the board and staff to implement their recommendations and transform Capital Metro into a respected, effective and efficient transportation provider.”
Senate Bill 1263 required two thorough operational reviews by the Sunset Commission – one conducted over the last seven months, and another seven years from now. But other reform provisions in the bill have already taken effect.
The measure, which Governor Perry signed in June, requires at least one Capital Metro board member to have 10 years or more of executive-level business experience. Another board member must have at least 10 years of experience in financial or accounting work.
In addition, the agency’s auditor now reports directly to the newly constituted Board of Directors. The bill also required annual reports to member jurisdictions regarding the agency’s finances.
Senator Watson also said of the Sunset report:
“The Sunset report provides a roadmap for where Capital Metro needs to go from here. It’s now up to the board to implement these recommendations.
“I want to be clear, though, that they cannot do this alone. Riders, administrative staff, contractors and employees must all take ownership and responsibility for the changes Capital Metro must make – and the transit provider it must become. The community will be watching, the Sunset Commission will be watching, and I will be watching.
“This will not be a short, easy or pain-free process. Every group and constituency must work together, and work hard, to re-make Capital Metro into a successful, financially sustainable agency that provides efficient, high-quality services to the entire community.”
The last comprehensive state review of Capital Metro was a performance review performed in 1997 by then-State Comptroller John Sharp. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization conducted a peer review in 2008, comparing Capital Metro’s operations and services to peer agencies around the state and nation.