NO SOONER had D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) resigned from the Metro board than some of his colleagues started lobbying to succeed him. But the fact that an elected member of the council has traditionally served on the board doesn’t mean that’s the way it must be. Indeed, we hope that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) doesn’t limit his search for a replacement to council members, but instead carefully considers what kind of qualifications and experience will best serve the interests of the transit agency and those who depend upon it.
Among the priorities for the council when it returns from its summer break will be filling the Metro board vacancy created when Mr. Evans was forced to resign in the wake of the disclosure that he violated the agency’s code of ethics and made false public statements. The Metro board consists of eight principal members, two each from the District, Virginia, Maryland and the federal government. Each jurisdiction determines how it will appoint its representatives, and practices vary.
Maryland, for example, prohibits anyone holding elected office (federal, state or county) from serving, and its required qualifications are written into law. These include experience in transportation, land-use planning, public safety, law, homeland security or engineering. Members also must be regular users of the agency’s bus or rail services. Maryland’s most recent member is state Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn.
The District, like Maryland and Virginia, has a substantial financial investment in Metro and rightly wants its interests represented. Surely, though, it can find someone who would also bring relevant experience and added value to the board. That is especially important in light of the scandal that forced out Mr. Evans and also raised troubling questions about the conduct of the city’s other representative, Corbett A. Price. Mr. Price was a member of the ethics committee that investigated Mr. Evans, and he falsely claimed there was no finding of an ethics violation by Mr. Evans; he explained afterward that he’d been confused. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who named Mr. Price to the board in 2015, continued to back him, and an effort to remove him from the board failed in an 8-to-4 council vote.
Metro is critically important to the well-being of the Washington area. We urge Mr. Mendelson to take care with his selection.