The Most Dysfunctional Board in the Country?

by James A. Bacon

Talk about a crazy situation… After months of delay, the Washington, D.C., City Council is scheduled October 2 to approve amendments to a bi-state compact with Virginia that would expand the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), giving the Old Dominion greater representation. The amendments were based upon legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Obama at the behest of Rep. Frank Wolf, Va-10.

Assuming the council acts as expected, it still will be behind the curve. Frustrated by “appalling decisions” made by the MWAA board, Wolf has submitted a new bill that would shrink the board and give Virginia representatives an outright majority. The board, which worked actively to block implementation of the previous changes is “dysfunctional,” he says.

The current board lacks transparency and accountability, said Wolf in an August  press release, pointing to a series of “appalling” decisions over the past two years, including a $200,000 confidential settlement with an unsuccessful candidate to run the authority and sweetheart deals for former board members and board staff. He also cited lavish travel by board members.

“MWAA used to have a well-functioning and highly successful board,” Wolf said. “Now it has just dissolved into bitter acrimony. Board members are subpoenaing each other. It is internecine warfare. This cannot stand. It is time to give Virginia control.”

Last week the MWAA board did adopt a new travel policy and hiring policies, as the new chairman, Michael A. Curto, sought to re-establish credibility with the authority’s stakeholders.

After the MWAA board’s session last week, Curto stated:

As I started my tenure as chairman, I laid out three priorities for the organization: increased cooperation with our partners, especially the Commonwealth of Virginia, greater transparency for management and board operations, and the timely and cost-effective completion of the rail project. While it is true that the Authority has made its share of mistakes, and there are a number of issues that have yet to be adequately addressed, I think our harshest critics would also acknowledge that we have made significant progress on those key objectives.

President and CEO Jack Potter reported last week that the Authority was closing out all “sole source” professional services contracts that had been exempted from competitive bidding. In effect, that meant firing former director Mame Reiley, whom he had hired under a multi-year contract for a $180,000-a-year job. Her contract still called for a one-year severance.

The new travel policy would preclude any more junkets, such as one in which then-board member Dennis Martire, a a senior executive with the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) charged MWAA for a nine-day trip to Europe with his girlfriend on the pretext of attending a 36-hour  conference on by the Airports Council International.

At least two other former board members – and a former staff member of the board – have been beneficiaries of sweetheart deals, Wolf said, citing exposes by the Washington Examiner. Last year the board awarded a $100,000 contract to a law firm where a board member’s wife works.

In other questionable activities, the board paid $200,000 to an individual who was “all but promised” – but never offered – the CEO position. The deal was struck to avoid a potential lawsuit.

One issue yet to hit the media involves the confiscation of a board member’s papers left at his seat after a recent meeting, Wolf said. The Congressman stated in the press release that “it was his understanding that” a board member left the July session for a lunch meeting, fully intending to return. The board meeting adjourned, however, before he came back and board staff collected his things. “Instead of just putting the documents in an envelope, the staff read through them and then passed them onto the board secretary, who, I understand, also went through them,” Wolf said. “Believing the documents could be pertinent to litigation involving MWAA, the board secretary turned them over to the authority’s general counsel. This incident has led to series of subpoenas being issued to several board members and others, including me and my chief of staff.”

Another incident revolves around the attempted removal of a Virginia board member — Martire, the labor executive — for cause by Governor McDonnell, Wolf said. The board member has challenged his removal in court and MWAA is paying his legal fees.

“I suspect MWAA will have to start paying the legal fees of other board members who have now been subpoenaed in the case,” Wolf said. “Knowing how fast legal fees can accumulate, I am deeply troubled by these latest turn of events, especially considering taxpayers are footing the bill.”

The problems do not end here, Wolf said.

The terms of all three of the federal appointments have expired and finding replacements continues to drag on and on. The District left an appointee on the board for nearly two years after his term has expired, despite being under house arrest in the Ivory Coast and attending only one meeting between 2009 and 2011. It was going to be that member’s proxy vote to hire the unsuccessful CEO candidate who received a $200,000 settlement. Board members also used to meet with the former chairman the night before meetings to plot strategy for the next day’s meetings, Wolf said.

“All this points to a board that is totally dysfunctional, fiscally irresponsible and tone deaf,” Wolf said.

MWAA’s actions last week come too little and too late for Wolf. “The Congressman’s new bill will “give Virginia complete control” over the MWAA board, Daniel Scandling, Wolf’s chief of staff, told me.

Scandling acknowledged the political difficulties in persuading Maryland and Washington to agree to an arrangement that would further diminish their power on the board, but he noted that the bill enjoyed bipartisan support among Virginia’s congressional delegation and has been backed by leading business lobbies in Northern Virginia. “Never say never.”

McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell did not respond to two phone calls and an email from Bacon’s Rebellion to address the Washington City Council’s action, or lack of it, on the bi-state compact.

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  1. DJRippert Avatar

    Gotta love blowhard Virginia politicians like Frank “the cicada” Wolf. The Cicada digs out of his hole a few months before every election to get his name in the paper. Then, after the election, he burrows right back into the hole and waits for another 18 to 20 months to pass.

    Meanwhile, that bastion of Republican ideals, is the exact kind of “politician for life” that the right wing of the party claims to despise. He has been in Congress for an astonishing 32 years.

    One missing point about the “put Virginia in charge” theory …

    1. Virginia appointed most of the miscreants currently causing problems including Mame Reiley and Denis Martire.

    2. Virginia alone decided to give the MWAA authority over Rail To Dulles after receiving and rejecting five alternate bids.

    Frank “the Cicada” Wolf demanding a Virginia majority for the MWAA board is like an arsonist complaining about the speed of the fire trucks in responding to the fire he started.

    Of course, both Wolf and Jim Bacon are hopelessly transparent. Both hope to draw negative publicity to Tim Kaine in this election season by bleating about lost papers and boondoggles on the MWAA board. They both seem to forget that their pal Tom Davis is a board leader and that Phase I of Rail To Dulles seems to be on budget and on schedule.

    Shame on you, Jim Bacon. If you are going to write pap pieces to further the cause of George Allen you should at least demand that he official endorse your post as a political advertisement.

  2. Gee, Don, If this post is a “pap piece” for George Allen, it sure is funny how I never mention either Allen or Tim Kaine in it. While Allen and the Republican Party of Virginia may have been beating on the MWAA governance issue in recent news cycles — I’ve seen the RPV press releases but I haven’t paid any attention to the Allen campaign — I have been covering MWAA governance issues for more than a year. Face it, the MWAA board is a farce. If MWAA were a Richmond-based institution, you’d be ridiculing it mercilessly and using it as proof of how all things Richmond are incompetent.

    You raise one point worth discussing: Is changing the structure of the board of directors by giving Virginia majority representation really going to really change things? After all, as you observe, Reiley and Martire were both Virginia appointees. I don’t know if restructuring the board is the answer or not. I think the matter is worth discussing.

    But accusing me of shilling for Allen is not only insulting to me personally, it’s a colossal distraction. Try sticking to the point at hand.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      If you didn’t know you were shilling for Allen then you were duped by The Cicada. You should take care not to be duped by insects. It’s embarrassing.

      Frank Wolf is just going to tell Maryland, DC and the federal government to put Virginia in charge? He knows that will never happen. For God’s sake – what has Maryland done wrong?

      Wolf is stirring the pot so voters will remember his name at the ballot box (many think he died some time ago) and he’s throwing some mud on Tim Kaine as a favor to Allen and the rest of the RPV.

      The point at hand is that you show no understanding of the politics of Frank Wolf in this matter and report on his political posturing like it’s something other than a career “do little” politician trying to get re-elected.

      The MWAA is a Richmond – based institution. Who appoints the board members? The Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors? No. The governor in Richmond. In fact, the guy who appointed the board members you seem to like the least is a poverty pimp politician from Richmond named Tim Kaine. He’s also the guy who gave the RTD project to the MWAA. A Richmond politician who became governor did these things. In many ways, it’s been his board.

      “If MWAA were a Richmond-based institution, you’d be ridiculing it mercilessly and using it as proof of how all things Richmond are incompetent.”.

      If MWAA were a Richmond-based institution, they would be sitting under the veranda of the Country Club of Virginia talking about how much better horse drawn carriages are to this new – fangled subway thing-y. Of course, they would all agree that a new subway would have one positive point – a chance to name more things after Confederate generals.

      Finally, I await your opinion of how Phase I or RTD is progressing. It would seem that for all of your bluster and The Cicada’s bluster over misplaced paperwork, one of you might opine as to how the multi-billion dollar first phase of Rail to Dulles is going.

  3. NoVa’s very own ClownShow, eh?

    I’m starting to wonder about these multi-state Compacts. They appear to be agencies that are unto themselves – with no requirement for transparency nor accountability.

    I would think that Va should …rather than advocate for more members, advocate to abolish ….

    MWAA has run amok and it appears to me that they are right now – beyond being reined in.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      “I would think that Va should …rather than advocate for more members, advocate to abolish ….”.

      And then …. use cement and bricks to close off the subway tunnels that go from DC to Virginia? Blow up the bridges?

      C’mon Larry.

  4. Transpomusings Avatar

    In considering a response to DJRippert, I am reminded of the quote against wrestling with a pig because you will get dirty and the pig likes it. But throwing that caution to the wind, here goes:

    However amusing the cicada analogy (and I did chuckle), your haymaker swings at Wolf fail to connect because they are complete non-sequiturs. Wolf is not the problem, MWAA is. Whatever one’s politics, it is shameful that Democrats – including a certain once-and-possibly-future office-holder — are not joining in the call for reform. Doing so might harm some of the special interests upon whom they rely to support their election bids. Given MWAA’s appalling actions – by any standard and (other than the PLA issue) having nothing to do with politics — the “Silence of the Donkeys” is deafening.

    About your criticisms of Wolf:

    First, Wolf’s taking MWAA to task extends back well before anyone was paying attention to his reelection campaign (is anyone even now?). He filed legislation to change the composition of the MWAA board in the spring of 2011. Loooong campaign, DJ.

    Second, while you regularly castigate Republicans for all manner of perfidity and do so in much of this post, you conveniently elide partisan party when noting that “Virginia appointed most of the miscreants currently causing problems including Mame Reiley and Denis Martire.”

    It is apparent to any breathing soul that you avoid partisan comment here because doing so would implicate Kaine as being accountable for the miscreancy of those he appointed to the board.

    As for Tom Davis, it was HIS documents that were seized by the MWAA Keystone Kops. Operating without a moral compass, they riffled through his papers to find information that would help them thwart those evil GOPers. If nothing else (and there’s plenty), few actions could more clearly show this is a “Board Gone Wild.”

    Not long ago, someone observed that MWAA’s actions shouldn’t surprise anyone. They’re merely doing what unaccountable despots do. It’s past time for a little Sic Semper Tyrannis.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Transpomusings –

      You are confused about my politics. I was an ardent anti-Kaine man during his tenure as governor. Truly, one of the worst governors in recent memory. Perhaps you missed my reference to Tim Kaine as a poverty pimp from Richmond in my reply to Jim Bacon. The only Virginia politician that I like as little as Tim Kaine is George Allen. A dime store cowboy from way back, his Mecaca routine still amazes me.

      I like McDonnell. I wish he could run again. I also like Terry McAuliffe and Chap Petersen. Go figure.

      Wolf is my representative and has been since Christ was in High School (or so it seems). They guy doesn’t do much and I don’t like career politicians from either party. Now, the Dems don’t bring the “A Team” to run against Wolf but I’ll vote Democratic this November just so the cicada knows there is someone out there watching him.

      The silliness on the MWAA board is embarrassing but essentially trivial. What are the high cries and misdemeanors they have committed?

      1. Martire, a labor leader appointed by the Governor of Virginia, tried to force a mandatory PLA on Phase II. Gee, if the Governor of Virginia didn’t want pro-labor policies, why did he appoint a labor leader to the board? In any event. Martire’s ploy failed.

      2. Martire asked permission to take a boondoggle and got permission. So, he took a boondoggle. It was transportation related. And, contrary to BAcon’s implication, the MWAA did not pay the expenses of his girlfriend. When the UVA crisis broke, where was our governor? He was on “official business” in Sweden. Funny how the Richmond elite always find the summer to be the critical time to visit Scandinavia on “official business”. Boondoggles by public officials suck but they are a minor problem.

      3. Some guy got a $200,000 severance package because he might have sued over what he called a false promise. Lots of people get severance packages – university presidents, for example. Frustrating but still a nit.

      4. Tom Davis “left for lunch” and by the time he came back the meeting was over and everybody else was gone? I mean, what was he doing for all that time …. uh …. oh …. never mind. Anyway, he leaves some papers sitting out in the open that are so inflammatory they cause a raft of subpoenas to be issued including subpoenas against The Cicada and his chief of staff? Seems like he might have wanted to take those papers with him, no? That whole story is stranger than sending Robert Reich in to block a punt.

      5. Some woman who was on the board was retained as a consultant for her previous salary. Yeah, no politicians ever double dip or sell their Rolodexes to the highest bidder. It will be interesting to see what the Cicada does if and when he ever retires. Maybe just being frozen in amber for eternity will be good enough for Frank. Or, maybe he’ll head off to pad his pockets.

      Seriously, this is penny ante stuff. Not exactly Watergate. Yet, the big question goes unanswered:

      How is Phase I going?

      If Phase I is a disaster, I’ll be first to jump on the anti-MWAA bandwagon. However, if they pull it off on schedule and on budget – I hope the cicada apologizes to the MWAA. Because, God knows, Congress has NEVER done anything on budget and on schedule.

      Hey Frank, how’s that fiscal cliff thing-y? I know it’s not as much fun as bitching about lost paperwork at the last MWAA board meeting bit it’s kind of important to your constituents.

      1. For the record, I never meant to imply that MWAA paid for Martire’s girlfriend’s travel expenses. But the fact that he went to Europe with his girlfriend suggests that business was not a top priority.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          OK. McDonnell’s “trade mission” to Europe cost $164,000 and included his wife who was there to “promote wine and tourism”.

          Beyond Gov and Mrs McDonnell, the nine day boondoggle required another nine people in the Governor’s entourage.

          Jim, I’ve been to Europe perhaps fifty times. I lived in London. Nobody in any European country gives a rat’s ass about individual American states. Do you really think the Swedes were saying, “Thank Goodness you got here, Mrs McDonnell! We almost bought our wine from Washington State. You saved us.”.

          Where was your scathing rhetoric for that boondoggle?

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            And, speaking of foreign trade initiatives ….

            I routinely get inquiries from government officials in Singapore and the German state of Hesse (yes, Germany has states) asking if I would considering expanding in those areas. No, nobody flies over. They just call and send me e-mails.

            I get inquiries from the Governor’s office in Massachusetts about possible expansion in that state. I’ve taken calls from the good people in North Carolina.

            Guess which state never calls or asks anything? Yes, the state where I live and where I already have operations – Virginia. I guess our economic development team is too busy trying to sell Virginia wine to Swedes.

            Your Clown Show in action.

          2. Virginia governors — and governors of other states — have been going on overseas trade missions since time immemorial. Governors, who travel in the company of Virginia trade and economic-development professionals who have laid the groundwork for their trips, do real work. Governors can get doors opened that lower-ranking state officials cannot. They meet with people who are willing to talk business. Visits from governors signal seriousness that a state is committed to making a relationship with a foreign company work.

            Governors like to announce trade and economic-development deals on their missions as if the deals resulted from the overseas trip. That’s usually bunk. The deals typically result from years of work in developing a relationship. And governors do contribute to building that relationship.

            It’s a legitimate question to ask if the state gets its money’s worth from governors’ trade missions. I’d like to see a cost-benefit analysis myself. But it is ridiculous to compare Gov. McDonnell’s trade mission with Dennis Martire’s overseas junket. You are not making a serious argument.

          3. The reason nobody flies over to meet with you, I suspect, is that you haven’t expressed sufficient interest to justify a trip.

            As for the fact that no one in Virginia has ever contacted you, I see that as a real failure on the part of Virginia’s economic development apparatus. There is excessive attention paid to recruiting out-of-state companies and insufficient attention paid to fostering the growth of domestic companies. Our economic devevelopment model hasn’t changed since the 1970s. I have made that point repeatedly.

      2. Valid question to ask: How is Phase 2 going? You seem to have ignored the fact that the board reversed multi-hundred million dollar decisions only because it ignited a political firestorm.

        By the way, I don’t mean to impugn the professionalism of the MWAA staff. If MWAA executes on Phase 2, it will be a credit to the staff — not the board.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          No, the more valid question to ask is how the phase that has been ongoing for years is going. Phase I is nearing completion. Phase II hasn’t really started. Why would you focus your questions on the phase that hasn’t started vs the phase that is almost done?

          I can only imagine it’s because you don’t really want to hear the answer to how Phase I is going. Instead of asking about a $2.8B project, you’d rather complain about a two person trip to a mass transit convention in Europe.

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    “Another incident revolves around the attempted removal of a Virginia board member — Martire, the labor executive — for cause by Governor McDonnell, Wolf said. The board member has challenged his removal in court and MWAA is paying his legal fees.”.

    Who wants to bet me that Martire wins the suit? There was no cause. The boondoggle was approved in advance. Maybe it shouldn’t have been approved in advance but it was. The MWAA is paying his legal fees? Who is paying the lawyers that are trying to get him thrown off the board? The taxpayers of Virginia, perhaps?

    “This incident has led to series of subpoenas being issued to several board members and others, including me and my chief of staff.”.

    I didn’t know you could subpoena a cicada. Is that what Wolf’s temper tantrum is about? He got a subpoena? Dear Lord. Time to go sit on the porch with your feet up Frank. Time to prove that Republicans really don’t accept career politicians. Time to retire.

  6. Why is Maryland on the MWAA board? MWAA doesn’t have control over TM Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Probably to make sure IAD doesn’t bury BWI. Another reason Maryland will not connect to Til Hazel’s outer beltway. Maryland does not want it easier for Marylanders to get to and from Dulles.
    Also, Maryland (and the District) are not paying a dime to build the Silver Line. Why are they on the MWAA board?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Good Lord, TMT. Dulles and Reagan Airports work. Please don’t let them fall into the hands of The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond. Have you ever been to the “major” airports operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia?

      I recall that National Airport is partially in the District of Columbia. If my memory serves, some of the area used for the eastern side of the airport was reclaimed DC mud flat land since DC owned the land up to the Virginia shore. Don’t quote me on that but I seem to recall that story growing up just south of the airport.

      As for the outer beltway – really? Maryland doesn’t want to build it because it would make it too easy to get to Dulles? Wow, quite a conspiracy theory there. As for Til Hazel, how old is that guy? A million? You need new boogie men!

  7. Let’s be clear about the National GOP ticket and mass transit in NoVa.

    If Paul Ryan were the one deciding about Phase II, there would be none or at least there would be no Federal money.

    That may end up being the case ultimately anyhow as the source of the Fed money is the Fed Gas Tax and right not, the budget is about twice as big as gas tax revenues actually generate with the rest coming from general revenues.

    There is in Congress, as there is in Richmond virtually zero chance that the gas tax will be increased. If not mistaken, 1993 was the last time the Fed Gas tax increased – during Clinton’s Term.

    The GOP in Congress right now would gut virtually all transit spending if they felt it would pass the Senate and get it signed.

    If Frank Wolf represented a GOP leaning district, he would be summarily labeled a RINO and dumped by his own party in favor of a hard right guy.

  8. DJRippert Avatar

    “Virginia governors — and governors of other states — have been going on overseas trade missions since time immemorial.”.

    And board members of organizations in any given industry have attended industry conferences since time immemorial.

    I am sorry, Jim but you just can’t have it both ways.

    You hatred of unions has blinded you. Martire did nothing unusual when he got permission to attend, and subsequently attended, an industry conference.

  9. DJRippert Avatar

    “The reason nobody flies over to meet with you, I suspect, is that you haven’t expressed sufficient interest to justify a trip.”.

    Partly true. I have no interest in offshoring software development positions which is what they want.

    In the case of the German state, I am told that the individual states don’t make trade delegations to foreign countries. Rather, they work with the national government on matters of trade with foreign countries.

    What a concept.

  10. DJRippert Avatar

    “Governors, who travel in the company of Virginia trade and economic-development professionals who have laid the groundwork for their trips, do real work. Governors can get doors opened that lower-ranking state officials cannot.”.

    They don’t do squat and they don’t accomplish squat. These are summer vacations for the governor and his staff (and his wife). Real deals are not made by randomly junketeering through multiple countries on a nine day boondoggle. Real deals are done with one company at a time over time.

    Also, funny haw these junkets to northern Europe never happen in the winter. Funny how places like the Slovak Republic and Latvia never make the cut but London and Stockholm do.

    Wake up, Jim!

  11. Don, this is a frustrating dialogue. You keep changing the subject. First, you equated McDonnell’s trade trip to Martire’s junket. When I pointed out that McDonnell was actually working during his trip, you switched the issue to a charge that the trade trip is ineffective.

    Your second charge may or may not be true. I have cited reasons why it may not be true. You have given reasons for thinking that it is.

    The difference between you and me is that I concede that I don’t have enough information to prove you wrong while you simply make bald assertions with nothing concrete to back them up. I say it’s a legitimate open question and that I’d like to see a cost-benefit analysis. You are so convinced of your rightness that you see no need for analysis of any kind!

    Wake up, Don!

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      What’s frustrating is your willingness to assume that there was no reason for a board member of the MWAA to attend an industry transportation conference.

      You have no idea what the agenda was. You have no idea if it was a valuable opportunity to learn about mass transit projects around the world.

      Yet, you bring up the trip to the conference as some kind of huge flaw.

      Here’s a news flash, Jim: Industry conferences are held all over the world and annually have millions of people in attendance. At the height of the recession in 2009, Oracle Open World had 37,000 attendees. Some people who attend these conferences use them as vacations while others buckle down and learn a whole lot that helps them back in their job.

      Want to know what happening in the international telecommunications market? Plan on being at ITU in Dubai this December.

      Want to understand e-learning (something you might consider)? Here is a list of conferences around the world. There are 33 conferences on the topic in October …

      You say McDonnell was working when you have no idea what McDonnell was doing. You say Martire was slacking when you have no idea what Martire was doing.

      Maybe you ought to sign up for a few conferences. You might learn something.

      1. Don, you’re such a cut-up! Martire took a nine-day trip to attend a 36-hour conference in Sardinia. The conference, hosted by the Airports Council International, had a focus of small regional airports in Europe. He was the only American registered at the event. The guy took his girlfriend along.

        Give up. Admit you’re wrong on this one! You can do it. It only hurts for a little while.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          Reagan is a regional airport. Try booking a flight to London, or even Los Angeles from Reagan. I think the furthest west you can go is Denver. There isn’t even a customs operation at Reagan. The one international flight, from Tronto, requires that you clear customs in Canada.

          That’s the best you have? A guy on an airport board attended a conference sponsored by the Airports Council International?

          And just out of curiosity – what’s a 36 hour conference? Don’t they take breaks to sleep? Or, is that the way you describe 4 1/2 days @ 8 hours per day?

          Let me try to see if I can de-Baconize this (and I am just guessing):

          The conference started on Monday morning and went 8 hours a day for Monday – Thursday. Then, on Friday, it ended at noon. Hence the 36 hour claim. Martire left the US on Friday night and got into Sardinia on Saturday. After the conference was over, he stayed Saturday and flew home Sunday.

          Let’s see – that’s a “36 hour conference” and a 9 day trip.

          Is this what your stilted statistics are describing? A week long airports conference with a weekend tacked on to both ends?

          For that, McDonnell has the right to terminate him for cause?

          Who is wasting taxpayer money here – Martire, McDonnell or both?

  12. DJRippert Avatar

    And, I might add, you have still to answer the question of how Phase I is doing. Or, is Denis Martie’s attendance at an industry conference really more important than the status of a $2.8B construction project being run by the MWAA?

    It’s not that you can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s that you can’t see the trees for the bark.

    1. How is Phase 1 doing? Pretty well. But that’s pretty irrelevant. Once the contract was handed over to Dulles Transit Partners, the job was out of MWAA’s hands. Here are more relevant questions: How is the total cost of the project doing? How much has it escalated beyond early estimates? What role did the MWAA board play in aggravating mission creep and higher costs? What would the costs have been had there not been so much pushback from the community, from the McDonnell administration and The Cicada?

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Phase 1 is going pretty well. That kind of disqualifies the MWAA board as the most dysfunctional in the country, now doesn’t it?

  13. DJRippert Avatar

    And … since your headline asks about the most dysfunctional board in the country – let me nominate the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

    1. The board is meant to represent the people of Virginia in transportation funding decisions. However, the nine specific geographic districts haven’t been changed to reflect Virginia’s changing population since 1935. It doesn’t get more dysfunctional than that.

    2. The board is a rubber stamp for the Secretary of Transportation and the Governor. They rarely, if ever, go against what they are told to do by the Richmond political elite. It doesn’t get more dysfunctional than that.

    3. Their core mission is a disaster. Transportation is so badly broken in Virginia it is the largest factor in Virginia’s declining ratings as a place to do business. It doesn’t get more dysfunctional than that.

    Your arguments tend toward Jeffersonian. Long on words and process, short on accountability for results. I prefer the Washingtonian approach – get it done. While both were great Americans, Jefferson spent much of his life teetering on the verge of personal bankruptcy. Washington was one of the most successful businessmen in the United States.

    CTB – nice words, crappy results
    MWAA – bad words, good results

    The function or dysfunction of any board should be primarily judged by whether the organization it governs is able to accomplish its mission.

    Sorry if that statement is a bit too Washingtonian for a Jeffersonian like you.

    1. I agree, the CTB is a rubber stamp board. I see little justification for its existence. The only benefit that I can see is that the CTB meetings do provide some transparency into transportation decision making. Without it, we wouldn’t have a clue of what was going on before it happened. But the board itself is not so much “dysfunctional” as powerless and passive. It is doing what it was set up to do. It is part of a larger, dysfunctional governance system.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        “But the board itself is not so much “dysfunctional” as powerless and passive.”.

        I guess this is where we just disagree. To me, the epitome of dysfunction is to be powerless and passive yet still exist. What’s the point?

        The MWAA (organization) has done a pretty damn good job or renovating Reagan National and Dulles Airports (Dulles is still a work in progress but it is getting better and better). They have also done what I hear is a fairly good job with RTD Phase I (I’ll give them a pass if they hold the budget overrun to 5%).

        Maybe your belief is that MWAA succeeds in spite of its board. I guess that’s possible. However, I’d rather transfer the Washington MSA’s roads to MWAA than transfer the airports (or anything else) to the CTB.

  14. Yes, you have to distinguish between the MWAA as an organization and its board. From what I can tell, the organization is highly professional and competent. The board is a farce.

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