Under pressure from a majority of local cities, directors of the Orange County Transportation Authority reversed themselves Thursday and voted to support state legislation to add more municipal representatives to the OCTA board.
They were a day late.
The bill by Assemblyman Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) was killed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday despite the possibility that the OCTA board might change its past opposition to the measure.
"This is like watching sausage being made," said OCTA Director Todd Spitzer, who is also a county supervisor. "It's unfortunate what happened in Sacramento."
On a motion from Spitzer, directors tried to salvage the intent of Harman's bill by voting 10 to 1 to support and implement proposals to add more municipal representatives to the board. They also said they would work to incorporate the language of the defeated measure in another state bill.
OCTA Director and county Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad opposed Spitzer's motion, saying more time was needed to debate the possibility of increasing city representation.
Board members originally opposed Harman's bill on the grounds that it would concentrate decision-making power in one area of the county and erode what the agency calls its regional focus. They also contended that nothing was wrong with the present arrangement, which includes six city representatives with voting powers.
Before the board reversed itself Thursday, Richard Dixon and Ralph H. Bauer of the Orange County chapter of the League of California Cities called for OCTA to endorse the legislation. They noted that 22 of the county's 34 cities support Harman's bill.
"Orange County has grown dramatically," said Bauer, a Huntington Beach city councilman. "In the interest of fair play, we believe more cities should be involved in the process."
Appropriations Committee sources said Harman's bill, AB 476, was defeated after Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) recommended that Harman change the bill so it could take two years to get through the Legislature, something he did not want to do.
The measure would have increased the voting members of the OCTA board to 15 from 11. The number of directors from county cities would have been raised to 10 from six, two from each of the five supervisorial districts. It further called for the elimination of the board's three alternate directors.
"More cities should have a share in the agency," Harman said. "We are approaching some major decisions on mass transit. The ridership is going to come from the cities."