When in-person board meetings resume in April, there will be a full 13 members present (or at least 10: 3 individuals are nominated, not directly appointed, and need Senate confirmation). Missing from the dais will be current board member James Adams, who was not reappointed. The reason given is the end of his term (Dec. 31, 2020), but we are skeptical. Flora Castillo voted No twice in 2016, and she was not renewed. At the time we wondered if her Nos were a factor—Mr. Adams’ removal after multiple No votes seems to indicate that, indeed, dissent is not tolerated.
Ironically, there was a history-making No vote at the March meeting—unanimous, led by Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti, rejecting 2 Academy Bus contracts. Academy’s settlement with the State of New Jersey allowed the company to bid, requiring special monitoring. The commissioner pointed out that, despite their bid being presented as “giving the most value to NJ Transit”, there had not been time to make those arrangements, and she was the first to vote No on each of the contracts, which totalled $51 million. Thus, voting against the Academy contracts was not actually dissent from the approved position; it was simply going along.
This is only the third time in NJ Transit history that proposals were turned down—the other votes were closer. In addition, since 2003, no commissioner has been reappointed after dissent; the last person to survive such a vote was John McGoldrick, an original board member from 1980, continuing on the board until 2009. Mr. Adams has consistently expressed concern about capital-to-operating budget transfers, lack of opportunities to work with staff, and overreliance on COVID-relief funds, and he repeatedly acted on his concern by voting against the budgets.
Governor Murphy appointed nonvoting union representatives Ra-shonda Brown (rail) and Karen Thomas (bus) and, to positions requiring Senate confirmation, Carlos A. Medina, Kiabi Carson, and Evan Weiss. Connections mentioned in candidate bios include a large-scale construction firm, Prudential Financial, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Newark Alliance, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce (CoC), the Statewide Hispanic CoC of New Jersey, and Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey. One appointee has been a Murphy-administration senior advisor. Populations not mentioned—as usual, they are again overlooked—are grassroots advocacy groups, transit-dependent individuals, or transit agencies outside our state. It seems that rubber-stamping will continue.