Berman, Vice Mayor Jones Announce Agreement on VTA Governance Reform

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO - Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) and San José Vice Mayor and current VTA Board Chair Chappie Jones jointly call for a state audit of the Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) governance structure, fiscal management, and project planning and monitoring. Assemblymember Berman will postpone his current legislative reform efforts in lieu of the audit and in anticipation of recommendations from the State Auditor. Should the audit identify structural deficiencies and recommend reforms, both Assemblymember Berman and Chair Jones call upon VTA to have the difficult conversations necessary to propose state legislation to address the audit’s recommendations. 

“Over the last 20 years, three Civil Grand Jury Reports, multiple consultants hired by VTA, and a 2008 State Audit have called for structural reform of VTA,” said Assemblymember Berman. “I have spoken with every member of the board who was willing to meet with me – most of them multiple times. Almost all of them acknowledge the significant deficiencies in the current governance structure. Yet at the end of the day, I have been severely disappointed by the board’s unwillingness to address the real problems, including the lack of transparency in how some members are selected and the revolving door of members that are forced off of the board just as they are starting to understand how VTA works.”

“The State Auditor will be able to look beyond individual interests to provide a cohesive, apolitical set of recommendations for VTA to use to lead the important conversation of governance reform,” said Assemblymember Berman. “I am grateful for Vice Mayor Jones’ partnership in our shared endeavor to create a transparent, experienced, and regionally focused board of directors.”

“I appreciate Assemblymember Berman’s leadership and good faith effort to collaborate with various stakeholders on this initiative.  As Chair of VTA, I recognize that this alternative approach is an opportunity to provide the objective information and data needed to propose timely reforms rooted in thorough analysis and evaluation of best practices,” noted Vice Mayor Jones.   “Like with any other organization, there is always room for improvement. I look forward to the recommendations that emerge from this audit for consideration by the VTA Board and staff and encourage their action.”

According to the 2019 Civil Grand Jury Report, VTA’s operating performance has continued to deteriorate over the last 10 years, relative to both its own historical performance and the performance of its peers, across a wide variety of metrics.  Notwithstanding numerous reviews confirming structural barriers to success, many of these barriers have not yet been addressed.

VTA’s own 2021 Board Self-Assessment, which interviewed board members, states that board members felt that “cities or agencies often select a VTA representative based upon that individual’s interest in higher elected office, and not on their interest in and familiarity with transportation.”

Last week a diverse group of elected leaders joined Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian in supporting Assemblymember Berman’s effort to improve the governance structure of VTA. Along with meeting with the current VTA board, over the last two years Assemblymember Berman met with former board members, dozens of city councilmembers, city staff, VTA staff, transit riders, transit experts, and advocates. He spoke to the VTA Policy Advisory Committee and the Santa Clara County Cities Association, and held a public VTA Governance Town Hall, which can be viewed here.  

Assemblymember Marc Berman represents the 24th Assembly District, which includes southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Website of Assemblymember Marc Berman: www.assembly.ca.gov/Berman. Assemblymember Marc Berman’s official headshot is available here.

Vice Mayor Chappie Jones represents District 1 of San José, the region of West San José that borders the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Saratoga. He was appointed Vice Chair in 2021 and Chair of VTA in 2022 after serving VTA in various capacities since his election to City Council in 2015.  Website of Vice Mayor Jones: http://www.sjdistrict1.com/.