Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MWAA bashing for Sport and Political Points

Stupid Dead Horse!
We've all heard this before:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein

The question this brings to mind is whether MWAA's behavior is an unintended consequence or a calculated liability. Consider that Dulles Rail never was a bonafide transportation project , but for years land developers have smelled the profit potential of all the artificially induced development that local governments would release if the project went through, kinda like the sub-prime mortgage boom. These monied interests also learned how easy it is to manipulate inexperienced and ambitious politicians with campaign donations and to guide public opinion through the media.

However, in order to move a bad project like extending Metro westward into Loudoun, there were a few pesky problems that will not be easy to brush under the rug. Problems such as dealing with the "Who pays"  and "Why is Traffic Worse" questions, and how to deal with all the ticked off folks who are affected by this scheme. No worries.  Our political leaders have sharp instincts when it comes to dodging blame, so they decided to bring in a surrogate to manage the dirty work.

That is where MWAA comes in. By handing over the job of building the Dulles Rail and equipping them with the Dulles Toll Road as the cash cow, all that was left to do is step back and complain about how MWAA was spending too much and raising tolls too high. 

Now, because of these shrewd maneuvers, politicians are picking up bonus leadership points by demanding accountability from MWAA instead of being held responsible for MWAA's gross mismanagement of our dollars. Oh, the game of politics. It allows the politicians to fail and then to take credit for the fix. With MWAA however,  the fix is not happening. Follow these articles and decide for yourself if anything is really improving for the taxpayers.

IG Report Highlights MWAA Board Conflicts
read more here
Posted on May 15, 2012 In a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10, declared that he was “deeply troubled” by the findings, honing in on MWAA’s contracting practices, conflict-of-interest policies and recusal practices. Wrote Wolf:
Most egregious are the IG’s findings about MWAA’s contracting practices. … Particularly concerning are the number of sole source contracts issued. As you know, MWAA is required by law to fully compete any contract over $200,000, with limited exceptions. Yet the IG’s report states that “[d]uring the period of our review, MWAA awarded five sole source contracts that were over $200,000, but did not fall under any of MWAA’s categorical exemptions. These contract awards, which amount to $6 million, did not have Board approval.” Not only did MWAA abuse the exemptions permitted under federal law, they issued numerous contracts that failed to meet even these basic standards.

Airports board takes care of its own, including Jeffrey Thompson 
July 30, 2012

"The day after Mame Reiley resigned for health reasons from the airports authority, overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project, the authority quietly created a full-time job for her as a "senior adviser" to authority CEO Jack Potter and agreed to pay her $180,000 a year..." read more here

2007 Letter to MWAA from William T. Coleman Jr. Senior Partner and Senior Counselor of O'Melveny & Myers LLP

 Read the entire Coleman letter here.

2012 Dulles rail project needs better FTA oversight, audit finds
  read more here

The Federal Transit Administration’s oversight of the Silver Line rail project must be more responsive to safety issues and more aggressive in its monitoring of costs and scheduling, according to a federal audit released last week .
The 44-page report by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general focuses on what actions the FTA has taken to address safety concerns first raised in 2009. It also recommends that the agency use its oversight role to ensure that costs are more closely monitored.

Contracting Practices Do Not Always Comply with Airport Lease Requirements
GAO-02-36, Mar 1, 2002

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Act of 1986 transferred operating responsibility for Dulles and Reagan National Airports from the federal government to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), an independent, nonfederal, public entity. MWAA, which has a 50-year lease to run the two airports, has entered into a wide range of contracts for supplies, construction, and other services. Although MWAA issued guidance in 1993 for the awarding of contracts and concession franchises, GAO found that the guidance does not adequately reflect competitive contracting principles and is out of date in many respects. Moreover, MWAA does not use its guidance to award contracts for non-concession goods and services. MWAA did not obtain full and open competition for 15 of the 35 contracts GAO reviewed, raising concerns about whether MWAA obtained the best value for the goods and services provided. The failure to obtain full and open competition also raises concerns about whether MWAA has (1) deprived prospective contractors of the chance to compete for contracts and (2) fairly evaluated all of the contractors that have competed for procurements. Finally, by not following recognized competitive principles, MWAA could be giving the appearance of favoritism in its contracting decisions. 

Dulles Rail board denounced as 'dysfunctional'

August 1, 2012

At practically every turn, a majority of the MWAA board seems determined to undermining the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of the authority and its decision-making," Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said. "It may be time to begin a serious dialogue about the future of MWAA and its current governance structure."

The range of behavior that seems to be typical of MWAA makes it cleat they do not derserve to be entrusted with managing huge public assets such as the Dulles Toll Road. It will be very interesting to see if anything is done to correct that.

David LaRock

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