McDonnell Plays Politics With Crucial Metro Funding, Risks Trashing System

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    For anyone who still thinks Bob McDonnell is a “moderate” or a reasonable guy in any way, I present to you, “Virginia threatens to withhold funds from Metro”.

    Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s administration threatened Wednesday to unravel a $1.5 billion federal funding plan for Metro unless the state gets two members on the agency’s board of directors.

    […]

    If Virginia reneges on the pledge to match the $150 million from the federal government, the repercussions would be immediate, Metro officials said: An $886 million contract for 428 rail cars that the federal program will fund will be in jeopardy.

    The first $12.5 million of Virginia’s share is due July 1. “I personally don’t plan [on paying it] until we have an agreement,” said William Pittard, chief financial officer of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

    That’s right, Bob McDonnell is willing to risk trashing Metro unless he gets to stock it with his political allies. In short, McDonnell wants to put Republicans (most likely ones who love cars and hate public transportation) on the Metro board, instead of Democrats like Cathy Hudgins, Jeff McKay, Chris Zimmerman, and Bill Euille. And, if he doesn’t get his way, apparently he’s going to take Virginia’s pledged contribution and go home.

    Other than risking the deterioration and/or collapse of Metro, Bob McDonnell also risks – as noted by D.C. Council member Jim Graham – “a serious breakdown of regional cooperation, which has been the essential element of Metro.”

    In short, Bob McDonnell’s decision to play politics with the future of Metro is about as wildly irresponsible as he can get.  It’s almost like staking the future of Virginia’s transportation system on hypothetical offshore oil drilling revenues that were almost certainly never going to materialize.  It’s also like putting a guy who ripped off another state’s pension funds in the position of “reforming” our own state government.  Or, how about allowing his Commerce and Trade Secretary to remain on the boards of the same large corporations he’d be overseeing?  Etc., etc.

    More to the point, I’ll leave you with the following words used in the Post article to describe what McDonnell’s doing here: “startling,” “arbitrary,” “shuffling the deck chairs while the Titanic is sinking,” “criminal.”  Just keep that in mind as you get on an overcrowded Metro train this morning, or as you sit stuck in traffic. If Bob McDonnell gets his way and Metro completely collapses, just imagine how much worse it will be.

    • VA Blogger

      First, the various quotes you say are “used in the Post article” are, gasp, not only from Democrats who are opposed to Bob McDonnell for partisan reasons (like you), but are politicians who stand to directly lose power and authority. From my experience, politicians (from any party) usually handle that well.

      Second, nothing in the article says anything about “stocking it with his political allies”. It does, however, say something about appointing people with more expertise and time to devote to a system rife with accountability issues. The horror.

      Third, McDonnell’s “way” is not the collapse of Metro, and contrary to your misguided opinion, Republicans don’t hate public transportation. In fact, I can’t think of a Northern Virginia Republican who hasn’t ran on increasing public transportation. The difference is that while Democrats in the region are the “Party of No” when it comes to any road improvements, Republicans encourage looking at all options that might improve transportation, and going after the most cost-effective ones with a watchful eye towards taxpayer dollars.

      Certainly you of all people, Lowell, can appreciate that, given that the most cost-effective method of building the Dulles expansion would have been a tunnel, and not above-ground. And had the project been competitively bid, with an emphasis on cost-effectiveness, rather than a handful of Democratic politicians shoving the final plan down everyone’s throats, we may have gotten it.

    • kindler

      While Republicans claim to believe in Federalism — basically, that state power should be bolstered to balance out the Federal government, they oddly — at least in Virginia — seem to believe the opposite when it comes to the state/local relationship.

      The way Repubs in Richmond treat NOVA may best be described as “colonial” — and here’s another huge example of that. How dare NOVA jurisdictions presume that they have any autonomy over their own transportation needs?

      In this Dillon Rule state, locals already have permission to do everything short of use the bathroom. Now McDonnell wants to put us even further under the thumb of state govt.?

      I don’t, BTW, necessarily have a problem with adding seats for MD and VA state govt reps to the existing board. But seeking to replace local officials, and doing it in such a nasty, hardball way, reeks of politics — basically just trying to replace Ds with Rs and threatening the system in order to get his way.  

      Message to Metro — stand your ground, talk with McDonnell, but never give in to his bullying.  

    • McDonnell expects the Metro Board to alter its founding documents in two weeks or else he’s going to cut off funding.

      Typical Richmond politicians, always wanting to micromanage everything in Northern Virginia.  If this goes through and Metro caves in to McDonnell, I’m going to call out Connaughton on their appointments, whom he said would have more expertise.  I sincerely doubt that they would be anything more than Republican hacks who don’t give a damn about the needs of Northern Virginia commuters.