Jan. 08--Under pressure to improve transparency and public participation, TriMet said Wednesday that it will make several changes to how the board of directors conducts its meetings, including offering live-streaming over the Internet.
"These changes will make it easier for the public to participate and help guide us to make the best decisions," said Bruce Warner, president of the governor-appointed TriMet board.
The announcement comes as Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown prepares to release the results of the first-ever state audit of the transit agency, prompted largely by concerns about transparency and incidents of backroom decision-making.
Among other things, the TriMet board will now allow public comments at the beginning -- rather than the end -- of regular business meetings. The first 45 minutes will be dedicated to a "public forum," Warner said. That's a dramatic shift from decades of requiring people to wait through hours of bureaucratic housekeeping before getting their two minutes to testify on transit issues.
During a four-hour December board meeting, for example, many riders who showed up to testify about a proposed increase in TriMet's fare transfer time were forced to leave because the topic was scheduled at the end of the agenda.
"What we've heard from a number of folks is that it's hard for them to wait, sometimes for three or four hours, while we go through a regular meeting to testify on an issue," Warner said."Oftentimes, their input is important to the deliberations of the board."
Warner said the "public forum" won't be confined to issues scheduled to be discussed during the meeting. People will be able to bring up anything pertaining to TriMet service, he said.
OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, which runs the Bus Riders Unite advocacy group, said the changes will help rider who can't take hours off from their jobs to participate in the TriMet's policy decisions.
"Of course, the ideal situation for folks who are the backbone of the transit system is to scheduled the meetings at night, when people will come," said Vivian Satterfield, associate director at OPAL. "But this is definitely a positive step in the right direction."
Other changes include:
--TriMet staff will be available to meet with the public 30 minutes before and after board meetings.
--TriMet's website will be updated to allow easier written comments ahead of board meetings.
--Regular board business meetings will be live-streamed on the web starting Jan. 22. Log into TriMet's accountability website to view live meetings and watch archived meetings.
-- Joseph Rose
Copyright 2014 - The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.