METRO is an independent entity, but Houston’s mayor is charged with appointing a majority of the board members and the chairman.
In her report to city council, Mayor Parker said she did not yet know what kind of changes to expect at METRO. But, she’s certain there will be some based on feedback she heard on the campaign trail.
“I’m not trying to slow anything down, I’m not trying to interfere with any relationships we have with transit agencies in Washington and I’m not going to go out and retrade routes. What I’m trying to find is what is the current status, how can we be helpful, what is the — and to bring some transparency to the process.”
Parker says she’s heard complaints for years about lack of transparency at METRO and has appointed four subcommittees to examine different aspects of the organization.
“I said I wanted to see a METRO that was transparent and accountable that provided necessary services that the citizens of Houston could embrace and support. In order to get there, we have to start with the openness and transparency part and that is what my task force is doing — they are going to gather information so I can see what the next step is going to be.”
One of the first changes Parker will likely have to make is the replacement of current METRO Chairman David Wolff. Wolff, who plans to step down as soon as March, says he welcomes Parker’s scrutiny of the transit authority.
“I think that a lot of the rhetoric that happened was sort of campaign rhetoric because METRO has traditionally been a pretty good target. But I think that when she really sees what this METRO board has accomplished, which I feel is more than any transit authority board has accomplished in the country in the past six years, I think she will be very happy and very proud and I look forward to working with her.”
Wolff met with members of Parker’s transition team this week to discuss issues such as the expansion of light rail and the ongoing debate over METRO’s share of the local sales tax. As far as who will replace him, Wolff says he prefers to discuss that privately with the mayor. For her part, Parker says she’s not ready to name a new chairman.
“Once I get the information back from the transition team I’ll be better prepared to make a choice on who my appointees to the METRO board will be because I will know what skill sets need to be added to the board.”
Parker says she does not have a short list of candidates, but has asked for a report on METRO by the end of February.