CATS board shakeup likely

CATS board shakeup likely

The new year will potentially bring several new faces to the board overseeing CATS. Because of their staggered terms, four of the nine CATS board members are up for reappointment by the Metro Council, including chairman Jared Loftus, Dalton Honore, Deborah Roe and Marla Williams.

As of Thursday's noon deadline, 16 hopefuls had submitted their names for consideration, including all four who currently fill the slots and are eligible for reappointment. It's likely to be a contentious issue when the council takes it up at its first meeting next week.

Community leaders have made plain their displeasure with the existing board—save for Loftus, who appears to have broad support—and have said they want fresh blood on the board.

"We definitely want to see good board members appointed," says BRAC CEO Adam Knapp. "We have been looking for folks to serve and making calls to folks to encourage them to do it."

Sources tell Daily Report other community leaders have also been working behind the scenes to help change the makeup of the board. Council members, who say they are starting to get calls from interested nominees and their supporters, agree that CATS needs to change.

"We need some new people who are willing to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty," says Councilman Joel Bo, adding that he supports Loftus but not the other three. "This is not a board where you can [only] go to a meeting once a month."

Bo expects to vote on the matter Wednesday, though he says some or all of the appointments could be deferred until a later meeting.

The CATS board will have its hands full in 2013. Among the challenges it faces is trying to live up to the promises it made when pushing last spring for the controversial 10.6-mill property tax increase, which will net the agency some $15.4 million this year. That's still not enough to do all that CATS promised at the time, and it underscores how short CATS has fallen from the goals that were outlined two years ago by a blue ribbon commission.

"I think it's pretty plain that we and everybody has been disappointed with the implementation of the blue ribbon plan," Knapp says. "Everything—our support of the millage—was based on that plan. It's not at all clear the existing board knows how to get there."

The board will also be looking at ways to overhaul the structure of the CATS system, a debate that will be shaped by a consultant's report expected out later this month. TMG Consulting has been retained by the agency to compare CATS to 15 other transit systems of comparable size around the country. Its report is expected to suggest several options, which sources say will include privatization or partial privatization of the system.

"I'm not going to speculate on what they might come up with," Loftus says. "We've told them to evaluate the system, look at other systems and make recommendations based on what's working in systems of comparable size. Then we will make a determination after that."

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