Update to the community stakeholders regarding Trimet’s impending hire of a general manager:
First of all, thank you for paying attention to this issue of great significance to our region. We are blessed to live in a civically-engaged place such as this, where elected officials, community leaders, and everyday citizens take note of sometimes-obscure but highly-important decision making at our regional transit agency.
Since we sent the letter last week, we have added the signatures of State Representative Diego Hernandez, and leaders from Oregon Environmental Council, Community Cycling Center, and others who believe in our shared analysis. We are still accepting signatories to the letter pending any meaningful change in the hiring process. Let us know who we should be engaging at this time.
Here is where we are today:
Thanks to our advocacy, TriMet has delayed their hiring of a new General Manager, which was scheduled to take place today. The public comment period has been extended, although at this point we do not know until when.
Since delaying the hire, TriMet has reached out to community to discuss their process. They have not reached out to OPAL. The agency has a history of failing to directly engage with the people most impacted by their decisions, particularly with activist members of the transit-dependent public who organize with Bus Riders Unite.
We do not believe that TriMet is pausing the hire of the GM to meaningfully engage community. Their outreach seems to be more closely aligned with the goal of changing public perception than in soliciting public comment. How a member of the general public engages with the extended comment period remains entirely opaque.
TriMet is in a period of transition. Not only will a new General Manager lead the agency, but three of the seven seats on TriMet’s Board of Directors become vacant in the next two months. This is a significant leadership change for any organization. We wish the staff and administrators well through what is clearly a tumultuous time.
Because the hire of Doug Kelsey appears imminent, we turn our attention to the vacancy his hire presents. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) position is something of a second-in-command to the General Manager, directly overseeing the operation of our regional transit system. No position other than the General Manager has so much influence over how the system functions. How we hire a new COO matters as much as who we hire. We can not repeat the process used to identify Kelsey as the new General Manager. TriMet needs to expand the pool of qualified applicants by revising their job descriptions to create opportunities for leadership development.
We will continue to watch closely as TriMet attempts to recover from recent significant errors and a long-standing failure to meaningfully engage community. The agency has a chance to prove their commitment to environmental justice through meaningful public involvement in hiring a COO. We also trust Governor Kate Brown to utilize her singular power of appointment to advance Board candidates who reflect ridership and who support rider priorities. TriMet needs to fund and expand youth transit access, improve and sustain operations in East Portland, improve safety and security for riders and operators, and improve their public engagement processes. TriMet needs leaders who are committed to making this happen.
Our members will advocate, and encourage you and others to advocate, for a public process of choosing leadership that is accountable to the riders who depend on transit services.
Thank you again for your support. We will keep you updated as events unfold.
Orlando Lopez, Bus Riders Unite Organizer