OAKLAND (KCBS/CBS SF) – Bay Area Rapid Transit directors voted 8-1 Wednesday to name a new general manager who has 32 years of experience in public transportation but who also resigned under pressure in Seattle after she was criticized for her response to snowstorms that paralyzed parts of that city.
After she was appointed at a brief board meeting today, Grace Crunican said, “I appreciate the opportunity to serve one of the most respected rail systems in the country.”
Crunican said she wants to continue what she described as BART’s reputation for providing safe and reliable service and that her management style is to “build transparency, collaboration and engagement.”
Crunican served as the second-ranking person in the Federal Transit Administration under President Bill Clinton from 1992 until 1996, when she was appointed to head the Oregon Department of Transportation.
In 2002, she was appointed director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, where she oversaw a $330 million budget and 800 employees.
But she resigned in December 2009 after critics alleged she responded poorly to snowstorms in December 2008 that closed many roads in the area.
Crunican said Wednesday that, “We certainly could have done a better job” in responding to the snowstorm but also said “there was a lot of politics” involved because the controversy was raised during a mayoral race in 2009.
The lone board member to vote against Crunican’s appointment was Director James Fang of San Francisco, who said she is “incredibly bright” and looks like “an extremely accomplished individual” on paper but also said she didn’t seem to know much about BART when she was interviewed for the job.
Fang said that Crunican didn’t have an answer when he asked her what BART needed to do to prepare for the future, and didn’t know how much it would cost to replace the transit agency’s aging fleet of cars.
He said Crunican also didn’t know about BART’s plans to extend service to new stations.
“It was a little disappointing,” Fang said.
Crunican will be paid a base salary of $300,000 per year plus $20,000 in management incentive pay and $18,000 in moving expense. Her compensation package includes 12 months of severance pay if she is fired for anything other than gross misconduct.
Fang said BART should follow Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature in asking top public sector executives to accept lower salaries in the wake of budget difficulties facing the state and local agencies.
“Someone has to hold the line, and this not the right example and message,” Fang said.
Board President Bob Franklin said he and the board majority voted for Crunican because of “her vast experience in the industry.”
Franklin said Crunican’s background in Washington, D.C., will be an asset for BART as it seeks funding for replacing its train cars and other needs.
Crunican will succeed Dorothy Dugger, who resigned under pressure earlier this year with a $1 million severance package some criticized as excessive. Sherwood Wakeman, BART’s former general counsel, has served as interim general manager since then.
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