Baker proposes all-new MBTA board

Would include 7 members, meet 12 times a year

A correction has been added to this story.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER is proposing to replace the existing five-member Fiscal and Management Control Board with a new seven-member board that would include the secretary of transportation and a representative of the municipalities that contribute revenue to the T.

The governor is also proposing that the new MBTA board meet a minimum of 12 times a year, far less than the 36 required under current law and three less than what the current board has recommended. (This sentence was corrected to clarify that the governor is proposing the board meet a minimum of 12 times a year.)

Some transit advocates have raised concerns about creating a new board at a time when so many projects at the agency are at sensitive planning stages. Indeed, several sources have said they believe Baker would like to start over from scratch because the existing board members, who were all appointed by him, have shown a high degree of independence recently, pushing individually for more revenues for the authority and pressing forward as a group with some projects resisted by the administration.

Jim Aloisi, a member of the TransitMatters board and a former secretary of transportation, said on a recent Codcast that it made no sense to revamp the board at this critical point in time, particularly since a recent safety panel report criticized the high turnover at the top of the agency. Aloisi recommended extending the term of the existing board by at least another six months.

“This board has won the confidence of the public, the Legislature, the advocacy community, and the business community,” Aloisi said. “It just doesn’t make sense to change it.”

The current Fiscal and Management Control Board came into existence in 2015, in the wake of the snowstorms that shuttered the T for several days. The board is scheduled to go out of existence at the end of June. It’s widely credited with bringing greater transparency to the T’s operations, opening the agency to greater public input, and putting the T’s finances on sound footing.

As part of his fiscal 2021 budget proposal, which he released on Wednesday, Baker proposed the creation of an MBTA board that would consist of the state transportation secretary, who currently is Stephanie Pollack; the municipal representative, who would be appointed by the MBTA Advisory Board; and five volunteers who must include a safety expert, a rider, an expert in transportation operations, and an expert in finance.

As with the current board, members of the new MBTA board would not be paid. They would be allowed to serve up to two four-year terms and no more than four members could be from the same political party. At least two of the board members would also have to be members of the board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Baker said he modeled the board on the panel used to govern the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the state’s airports and Boston’s port. His design also pays homage to some recommendations of an independent safety panel, which urged the inclusion of a safety expert and fewer meetings. The safety panel said meeting three times a month prevented managers from doing their regular jobs.

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

In the past, lawmakers have often not agreed on a final version of the state budget until right around the July 30 end of the fiscal year, if not later. That raises the possibility that the new board might not be in place before the FMCB dissolves.

Asked about that concern, Baker said the budget usually reaches his desk around June 30, and he will be surprised if that does not occur this year.