McAuliffe calls on Bowser, Hogan to support smaller Metro board
by Amanda Iacone, WTOP.com
WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe implored his counterparts in Maryland and D.C. on Wednesday to agree to shrink Metro's governing board to five people in order to help set the troubled transit agency back on track.
McAuliffe said he wants to convince Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Muriel Bowser to agree to the smaller board by the end of the year to help convince members of the General Assembly to support long-term, dedicated funding for Metro, which needs as much as $15 billion to replace outdated and worn out components like rails, power equipment and even trains.
He said Virginia lawmakers want to see action.
The current 16-member board is made up of political appointees — most of them local elected officials. He said the board's inaction — like not replacing major components of the system in 2006 after three decades of wear and tear and taking a year to hire a general manager — still make him angry.
"We've just got to show leadership and get this off the table," he said.
McAuliffe has suggested that the smaller, nonpolitical board would serve for three years.
McAuliffe has pledged to include dedicated funding for Metro in his two-year budget proposal due in December. He has not said what form that funding would take — such as a tax increase or a new tax — nor how much he would provide.
Hogan has proposed that each of the four jurisdictions that serve Metro — the two states plus the District and the federal government — should each chip in an extra $125 million per year over the next four years to provide a temporary funding boost and buy officials more time to hammer out a longer-term fix to Metro, which has lost revenue as ridership has declined.
"We call ourselves the capital region — we always love to talk about the greatest region in the world. Let’s start acting like it. And we need a world-class transportation system."
A report that will recommend changes for Metro — including to bus service and staffing costs — from former Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood is due out in the next few days. McAuliffe, who has been briefed on the report's contents, said the document contains no surprises.
Clinton campaign research on Trump's ties to Russia
McAuliffe, who is a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, said he was not surprised that her presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for opposition research on her opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump.
He said he didn't know anything about the group hired to do the research, which compiled a dossier on Trump's alleged ties to Russia — connections that are now being investigated.
And he downplayed suggestions that the source of the dossier gives more credence to Trump supporters who suggest that a federal investigation into Donald Trump's Russia connections.
McAuliffe led Clinton's first run for president in 2008. He played a secondary role in her campaign last year but still helped her to carry Virginia.
A governor's race in the gutter
The governor feels confident in Democrats' chances when Virginia voters head to the polls in two weeks. He said Virginians are generally happy with the job he's done and with the direction the state is going. Meanwhile, they are not happy with the direction the nation is heading under President Trump's leadership.
He said that those two factors would help drive turnout on Election Day. Virginia's off-year gubernatorial elections typically draw fewer voters than presidential years. McAuliffe is bared by term limits from seeking a second term.
Polls show the top two candidates for governor Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, who is McAuliffe's lieutenant governor, are running neck and neck and the number of attack ads has grown as the race nears the final stretch.
Northam's campaign has associated Gillespie with those who took part in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in a new campaign mailer.
McAuliffe defended Northam's record of public service and accused Gillespie of running a divisive, "gutter campaign."
"He’s trying to scare people," McAuliffe said.
He said that Gillespie's ads on the MS-13 street gang and restoration of rights for felons are playing on the fears of Virginians and stoking bigotry.
McAuliffe defended his approach to restoring the civil rights of felons — automatic restoration once they've completed their sentence and restitution. He's given the right to serve on a jury, vote, and be a notary back to 168,000 felons and called it his "crowning achievement."
Northam has said he supports automatic restoration for all felons and Gillespie has said he would narrow the criteria for who would be eligible for rights restoration.
Restoration does not include gun rights, which requires a separate judicial process. Successive governors have streamlined the rights restoration process in order to grant relief to more offenders how have completed their sentences.