April 27, 2007
(For Board: May 11, 2007)

 

REPORT OF THE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
AND PUBLIC INFORMATION COMMITTEE/
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

 

Honorable Board of Directors
Golden Gate Bridge, Highway
  and Transportation District

Honorable Members:

A meeting of the Governmental Affairs and Public Information Committee/Committee of the Whole was held in the Board Room, Administration Building, Toll Plaza, San Francisco, California, on Friday, April 27, 2007, at 9:35 a.m., Chair Boro presiding.

Committee Members Present (8): Chair Boro; Vice Chair Martini; Directors Cochran, Dufty, McGoldrick, Newhouse Segal and Stroeh; President Moylan (Ex Officio). Director Stroeh was named Committee Member Pro Tem for this meeting only
Committee Members Absent (2): Directors Kerns and Reilly
Other Members Present (5): Directors Eddie, Grosboll, Hernández, Middlebrook and Sandoval

Committee of the Whole Members Present (13): Directors Cochran, Dufty, Eddie, Grosboll, Hernández, Martini, McGoldrick, Middlebrook, Newhouse Segal, Sandoval and Stroeh; First Vice President Boro; President Moylan
Committee of the Whole Members Absent (6): Directors Brown, Kerns, McGlashan, Pahre and Reilly; Second Vice President Ammiano

Staff Present: General Manager Celia G. Kupersmith; District Engineer Denis J. Mulligan; Auditor-Controller Joseph M. Wire; Secretary of the District Janet S. Tarantino; Attorney David J. Miller; Deputy General Manager/Ferry Division James P. Swindler; Public Affairs Director Mary C. Currie; Executive Assistant to the General Manager Amorette Ko; Assistant Clerk of the Board Karen B. Engbretson

Visitors Present: None

     
1.

Status Report on State/Federal Legislation

General Manager Celia Kupersmith reported on the status of the following state legislation:

Assembly Bill No. 463 – Ms. Kupersmith provided an update regarding Assembly Bill No. 463 (AB 463), which was discussed at the March 23, 2007, meeting of the Committee. She stated that AB 463, named the “California Clean Ferry Act of 2007,” has been withdrawn by its author, Assembly Member Jared Huffman. She further stated that Deputy General Manager/Ferry Division James Swindler and a group of statewide ferry operators met with Assembly Member Huffman’s legislative staff on March 27, 2007, to discuss their concerns regarding AB 463. She noted that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is currently in the process of holding public hearings regarding the use of clean air technology on ferryboats. She further stated that after hearing the ferry operators’ concerns, and in light of the CARB’s work on the matter, Assembly Member Huffman decided to withdraw his proposed legislation. She also stated that it is anticipated that the CARB will consider recommendations regarding the use of clean air technology on ferryboats in September 2007.

Senate Bill No. 964 – Ms. Kupersmith also reported on Senate Bill No. 964 (SB 964), which would amend the Brown Act in ways that would significantly limit communications between staff and board members outside an open public meeting. Among other things, the proposed legislation would preclude “any communication that advances or clarifies a member’s understanding of an issue” except at a public meeting.

Ms. Kupersmith stated that SB 964, would severely complicate the ability of agency staff to communicate with its governing body.

[Note: With the arrival of Director Grosboll, the Committee became a Committee of the Whole.]

Discussion ensued, including the following:

  • Director Newhouse Segal expressed her opposition to SB 964, stating that in her opinion, as an “at-large” member it would place her at a disadvantage relative to being properly informed of topics to be considered by the Board of Directors. She offered to testify in opposition of this bill, representing “at-large” members of a Board of Directors, in Sacramento, if the opportunity arises and/or if the District so desires her do so.
  • Director Cochran inquired as to the motivation behind introducing SB 964. In response, Attorney David Miller stated that SB 964 could be considered a reaction to a recent court case, Wolfe v. City of Fremont, in which informational meetings between staff and board members were found to be lawful. He further explained that the Brown Act is intended to guard against situations in which governing body members communicate with one another in a serial fashion to create a pre-determined course of policy action.
  • Director Martini made the following comments:
    • He stated that from his perspective as a member of the Santa Rosa City Council, there has to be a balance between a governing body having all the information necessary to make a decision, and the public’s faith that their governing body is doing all of its business in public.
    • He stated that in his opinion, if SB 964 passes, the State Legislature would be holding local governments, cities, counties, local agencies and special districts to a higher standard with respect to open government than they would hold themselves.
    • He commented that if SB 964 progresses in the legislative process, he would encourage the District to take a position of opposition against the bill.

In conclusion, Chair Boro stated that the General Manager will track the progress of SB 964 and keep the Committee informed as to whether it would be appropriate for the District to take a position of opposition on SB 964.

Action by the Board – None Required

     
2.

Status Report from the Board Appointee on the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority (WTA)

Chair Boro, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority (WTA) Board Appointee, provided a status report on recent activities of the WTA. The following items were provided to the Committee:

 
  1. Minutes of the January 25, 2007, meeting of the WTA Board of Directors;
  2. Agenda for the March 22, 2007, meeting of the WTA Board of Directors;
  3. Notice of Cancellation for the April 10, 2007, meeting of the Administrative/ Finance/Legislative Committee;
  4. Notice of Rescheduling for the April 11, 2007, meeting of the Planning and Development Committee;
  5. Agenda for the April 18, 2007, meeting of the Planning and Development Committee; and,
  6. Agenda for the April 18, 2007, meeting of the Community Advisory Committee.


Copies are available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

Chair Boro reported on topics discussed at the April 26, 2007, meeting of the WTA Board of Directors. He stated that Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Castleberry provided a report to WTA Board of Directors providing a status report on the new routes and service, along with a schedule for each of the projects. Chair Boro requested that a copy of the WTA CEO’s report be distributed to the members of the Board of Directors by the Secretary of the District.

Chair Boro highlighted the following matters of interest in the WTA CEO’s report:

  • South San Francisco: The design work for the South San Francisco terminal site is 35% complete.
  • Berkeley: During the scoping process, approximately 290 public comments were received and will be incorporated into the Environmental Impact Report.
  • Redwood City: The Port of Redwood City is studying potential locations for a ferry terminal, and is expected to complete its study in July 2007.

Chair Boro noted that another matter discussed at the April 26th meeting pertained to the WTA’s ferryboat naming process, and that many choices will be considered, including naming ferryboats after the cities from which they will operate.

Chair Boro also reported that an extensive discussion was held at the April 26th meeting regarding the WTA’s Fuel Cell Ferryboat Project. He stated that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had obtained Carl Moyer grant funds in the amount of $2.5 million for the WTA to build a hybrid fuel cell zero-emission ferry vessel to operate between San Francisco and Treasure Island. He further stated that the WTA has been unsuccessful in finding a ferryboat builder willing to build such a vessel, since the technology has not yet been proven to work at the speeds necessary for ferry commute service. He noted that the WTA has been in communication with the Bluewater Team of Friends of the Earth regarding this project. He reported that WTA staff is now proposing a zero-emission fuel cell demonstration project that would use a hybrid fuel cell system to run the auxiliary electrical power on the ferryboat, while using a conventional diesel system for the engine, and that the WTA is seeking a ferryboat builder willing to pursue such a project.

Discussion ensued, including the following:

  • Director Sandoval made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired regarding an assertion in the April 12, 2007 letter from Teri Shore of the Bluewater Team of Friends of the Earth that the WTA’s ferries will be built to meet an emissions level that is 85 percent more stringent than current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tier II requirements for marine engines (85 percent air quality standards). In response, Chair Boro answered in the affirmative, noting that the two new ferryboats currently under construction for the WTA will be built to meet the 85 percent air quality standards.
    • He inquired as to the estimated cost for a ferryboat to be built to meet the 85 percent air quality standards. In response, James Swindler stated that according to WTA’s Manager of Marine Engineering, Mary Frances Culnane, it would cost an additional $1.5 million per vessel to repower the vessels for zero emissions.
  • Director Newhouse Segal stated that she has observed a recent change in public sentiment about riding ferries due to the attention being paid to ferry diesel emissions.
  • Directors Sandoval and McGoldrick requested that a discussion be held by the appropriate Committee of the Board of Directors in the near future regarding the matter of clean ferry emissions. In response, Chair Boro suggested that the topic of ferry diesel emissions could be placed on the agenda for a future meeting of the Building and Operating Committee.

Action by the Board – None Required

     
3.

Public Comment

There was no public comment.

     
4.

Adjournment

All business having been concluded, the meeting was declared adjourned at 10:05 a.m.

     

 

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Albert J. Boro, Chair
Governmental Affairs and Public Information Committee