RTA Applications Accepted until Dec. 1, 2013

Applicants for one of two Washtenaw County seats on southeast Michigan’s Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will have until Dec. 1, 2013 to apply. Richard “Murph” Murphy was appointed last year for the seat on the newly established transit authority, which had only a one-year term associated with it.

However, Murphy is not seeking re-appointment to the seat – a point that was included in CEO Michael Ford’s report to the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority at its Nov. 21, 2013 meeting.

The RTA was established in a lame duck session of the Michigan legislature in late 2012, and includes a four-county region – Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne – with each county making two appointments to the board, and the city of Detroit making one. In Washtenaw County, the appointments are made by the chair of the county board of commissioners. Last year, outgoing board chair Conan Smith chose to exercise that privilege before the year was out, and appointed Murphy to the post on Dec. 31, 2012. Murphy is an employee of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, a nonprofit for which Smith is the executive director.

The Washtenaw County board’s leadership has now changed, and it is Yousef Rabhi who will make the appointment to replace Murphy. Responding to an emailed query from The Chronicle, Rabhi indicated that the RTA board appointment will be made using the same process that’s used for all appointments made to various boards, committees and commissions. Those appointments are expected to be made at the board’s Dec. 4, 2013 meeting along with the appointment to the RTA board.

On Nov. 21 the county board held an appointments caucus, which The Chronicle attended, to discuss appointments for all openings. However, out of the nine commissioners, only Conan Smith and Yousef Rabhi attended. They did not discuss the RTA appointment, and no formal applications to the RTA were included in the 116-page packet of application materials from candidates for other boards, commissions and committees.

The original application deadline had been Oct. 31, but it was extended to allow more time for people to apply. Responding to an emailed query from The Chronicle, Murphy indicated that his decision not to seek reappointment was based on the arrival of new twins and the additional demands that placed on his time. However, he also indicated a willingness to continue to make himself available as a resource: “I’ve told Yousef and Liz [Gerber] that I’m happy to continue to be an advisory, ‘subject matter expert’ resource to them and my replacement, but life happenings jumped up and interfered with plans of the full-on board role.”

Liz Gerber, a professor at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, was the second appointment to the RTA board made last year. Her term was for three years. The RTA has spent its initial several months with the administrative and organizational issues associated with the establishment of a new entity.

In addition to the RTA, deadlines were extended until Dec. 1 for applications to two other county groups: the Washtenaw County historic district commission, and the Washtenaw County food policy council. More information about these positions is posted on the county’s website.