AATA Bids Farewell to Nacht

The board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has bid farewell to David Nacht, whose second five-year term will end on May 5, 2013. A resolution passed by the board at Nacht’s final regular board meeting, on April 18, 2013, highlighted several specific contributions made by Nacht during his decade of service.

Among the contributions cited in the resolution are: pursuing public transportation service between Ann Arbor and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (AirRide); serving as chair of the board; serving as treasurer of the board; and helping negotiate the contract with the University of Michigan to provide service to university affiliates.

The traditional parting gift from the AATA to retiring board members is a mailbox, painted to make it resemble an AATA bus. Nacht already had such a mailbox, so the staff customized a second mailbox for him as an AirRide bus.

In his remarks made at the meeting, Nacht highlighted the riders of AATA buses, drivers, and mechanics as those he wanted to thank. He also thanked his wife, and his two sons who were in attendance at the meeting.

Nacht was not seeking reappointment to the board. He had been a finalist to be appointed as one of two Washtenaw County representatives to the southeast Michigan regional transit authority (RTA), established by the state legislature in late 2012 during its lame duck session.

After a series of interviews of five candidates, he was a consensus choice to be one of the two representatives, but then-chair of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, Conan Smith – who’s privilege it was to make the appointments – opted not to select Nacht. Smith announced on Dec. 31, 2012 that he’d appointed Richard “Murph” Murphy, a staffer with Michigan Suburbs Alliance – an organization that Smith leads – and Liz Gerber, a University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy professor.

During Nacht’s interview for the RTA position, which he conducted via Skype, Nacht recalled some lessons learned during his time on the AATA board. He described how then-head of the AATA Greg Cook had proposed the idea of transferring the AATA’s paratransit contract to another vendor. The idea seemed to make sense from a financial point of view, but ultimately it proved to be a “complete unmitigated disaster,” Nacht said – because the new vendor “didn’t take care of our people.”  Nacht described how the board then killed the contract. “We screwed up,” he said.

What Nacht had learned from that, he said during the RTA interview, was that when the AATA selects vendors, it affects people’s lives. To the extent that the AATA uses vendors, it’s important to remember that those vendors are in it “to make a buck, not to serve people,” he said. But the AATA’s business is to serve people, Nacht noted. He concluded his remarks on the topic during the interview by saying it’s paramount to keep in mind: “Who are the human beings who are actually going to use the service?”

As a replacement for Nacht on the AATA board, Eric Mahler has been nominated by Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje. That announcement came at the city council’s meeting that started on April 15 and concluded at nearly 3 a.m. the following day.

If confirmed at the city council’s May 6 meeting, Mahler would be appointed for a term on the AATA board starting May 6, 2013 lasting through May 5, 2018.

Mahler is currently an Ann Arbor city planning commissioner, near the end of his second three-year term, having first been appointed in 2007. At the council’s April 15 meeting, Hieftje said that Mahler would serve through the end of his current planning commission term, which ends June 30, 2013.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]