Curt Pringle and Two Others Appointed to CHSRA Board
I was going to post a “2010 in review” article today, but there’s actual breaking news on the final day of the year: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made three appointments to the California High Speed Rail Authority board:
With his time to make appointments coming to a close, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday announced the reappointment of former Assemblyman Curt Pringle to the High-Speed Rail Authority.
Pringle, 47, was mayor of Anaheim until earlier this month.
Schwarzenegger also appointed Thomas Richards of Fresno and Matthew Toledo of Malibu to the authority. Compensation is $100 per diem, and the positions do not require Senate confirmation.
Richards is president and chief executive officer of Penstar Group, a Fresno-based developer. Toledo is publisher of the Los Angeles Business Journal.
So Pringle is reappointed after all, despite controversy over his possible holding of “incompatible offices” related to his post on the Orange County Transportation Authority board, which he will relinquish at the end of this month. Pringle did not run for re-election as mayor of Anaheim this year.
Matthew Toledo replaces Richard Katz, who resigned in November in the wake of the “incompatible offices” controversy (he chose to leave the CHSRA board in order to remain on the LA Metro board). In addition to publishing the LA Business Journal, he served this year as chair of the LA Chamber of Commerce, which has been strongly supportive of HSR. It’s not exactly easy to find out much information about him, though Toledo has been active in supporting Metro’s 30/10 plan.
Tom Richards replaces
Fran Florez Rod Diridon and is a Fresno developer:
Richards, 61, has been president and chief executive officer of the Penstar Group since 1981.
He is the developer of the 11-story United Security Bank office building, which is on M Street near the convention center, and with developer Ed Kashian has proposed the Fancher Creek project in southeast Fresno.
Richards also chairs the Fresno Workforce Investment Board.
Toledo and Richards are therefore very similar figures – leaders in their local business communities, active in promoting economic development efforts. They do not have a background in transportation policy or planning, although they’ve been active in supporting local transportation projects.
Their appointments are likely a reflection of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ideological belief that businessmen are better at managing government projects than politicians and transportation experts. It’s far from clear that’s actually the case, and Arnold’s own tenure in office seems to prove that a lack of previous government experience is not exactly a good thing. On the other hand, both Toledo and Richards will likely be able to maintain private sector support for the project. And besides, most project planning will be done by the CHSRA staff itself, with particular responsibility resting with CEO Roelof van Ark. So it is far too early to tell whether these two appointments are wise or not.
Reappointing Pringle, on the other hand, is almost certain to cause further friction with the state legislature. Senator Alan Lowenthal and Pringle do not get along, although to be fair to Pringle, Lowenthal opposes the HSR project anyway, so he will not be inclined to look favorably on whomever it is that chairs the CHSRA board. Still, we can reasonably expect Pringle and the legislature to continue butting heads in 2011.
That raises two overall issues about these appointments. First, it would have been better for Arnold to not make any appointments at all, rather than doing so on his last day in office. Jerry Brown will be sworn in as governor on Monday, and he ought to have been able to fill these three seats on the CHSRA board. That’s not a reflection on Pringle, Toledo or Richards, but instead a recognition of the fact that Jerry Brown is the new governor and should have had the chance to make these appointments himself, since he’ll have to work with these appointees for the next four years.
Second, Authority reform is going to be a major topic of conversation – and probably of legislative action – in 2011. Without having his own people on the board, Jerry Brown may be more open to such reforms than if he had been able to make three appointments of his own. Authority reform could be a positive step for the project, depending on how it is done. I am guessing these appointments make it more likely, not less, that there will be substantial reform of the Authority in 2011.
I wish all three of them well. After all, when it comes to HSR, I don’t care what one’s background or politics are – as long as they strongly support the project and work hard to get it built, that’s what matters most to me.
UPDATE: More from the outgoing governor:
“California high-speed rail is ushering in a new era of economic and environmental leadership for our state, and ensuring that it is completed successfully and at the lowest cost to taxpayers is of the highest importance to me,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I know that Curt, Thomas and Matthew all have the vision, commitment and qualifications to move this project forward, and I look forward to watching this historic high-speed rail system become a reality.”…
Richards, 61, of Fresno, has been president and chief executive officer of the Penstar Group since 1981. Previously, he was general partner for North American Investments from 1974 to 1980 and secretary-treasurer for Sunset Company Realtors from 1973 to 1974. Prior to that, Richards served as treasurer for MacElhenney Levy from 1972 to 1973 and staff accountant for Faletti, Knapp and Jarabin Certified Public Accountants from 1970 to 1972. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Richards is a Republican.
Matthew Toledo, 48, of Malibu, has been chief executive officer and publisher of the Los Angeles Business Journal since 1994. He is a chair of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and a member of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation board of directors, Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission board of directors, Los Angeles coalition board of directors, Town Hall Los Angeles board of directors and Central City Association Executive Committee. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Toledo is registered decline-to-state.
Again, no transportation background or experience for these two. Which doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be good, but the board does need to have a lot of folks who understand how to plan and build transportation projects in this state.
UPDATE 2: My own sources confirm it is indeed Rod Diridon who isn’t getting reappointed. That’s a real shame, since he has a great deal of experience with transportation policy and projects in California. As I said above, while I have no specific objection to Toledo or Richards, we saw with Schwarzenegger himself the problems that come from appointing people without experience to run government. Diridon is a tireless champion for HSR and brings a lot of experience with passenger rail projects to HSR. Hopefully Jerry Brown can find a place for him to be useful to the HSR project.