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mixed messages from RPA. Comment section on those articles are good as well.
 

jis

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RPA's position as far as I can tell is that it is a good thing that finally the President has got off his rear end and nominated some, while RPA is not quite happy with the bunch he has nominated because they do not quite jive with what the intent of the legislation was. Both of which I tend to agree with.

Contrary to what many seem to wish, it would be counter productive for an outfit like the RPA to go guns blazing breaking down all communication channels. Of course that would be very satisfying for an immediate Adrenaline rush, but it would prove to be counter-productive in the long run and probably not produce the desired result in the short run either. Just IMHO of course. But then there are many state ARPs and other groups who do not have as much at stake in terms of maintaining continuity of cordial relationships, who can try the other approach, and if it succeeds - great. If it does not then not as much is lost that is not salvageable or worked around overall.

Incidentally, while it is distressing Coscia's nomination does not surprise me in the Democratic slate. I also doubt that Democrats will enthusiastically oppose him, and the way these things work, some quid pro quo gets worked out and any few vote deficiencies will most likely be made up by some number of Republicans. The only way to block it is to get a Senator to put a hold on it.

Also those who think that the President will be enthused about canning Gardner are not familiar with Gardner's path to this job. He was a Legislative Assistant to Biden's colleague Tom Carper from DE (not to be confused with the Carper that was on the Amtrak Board and Chaired it for a while). He also served on the staff of Dan Inouye (HI) and Jay Rockefeller (WV) the latter two as Senior Professional Staff on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, when PRIIA 2008 was legislated. His connections with both the legislative and executive branch are deep. Immediately after that he moved to Amtrak, pretty much in charge of the NEC.
 
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“For this reason, and because all five of the new nominees appear to be Democrats (the maximum allowable number, per the statute, from any one political party), it is unlikely that the Senate will move this batch of nominees unless and until the status of the other three (Republican) slots is resolved. It is not known if either Moreland or Beall, or both, want to be nominated for another term, or if the Administration would offer that, if they did.”
 

TheCrescent

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Not sure how being named to an essentially volunteer board is payback. They have nothing to gain by serving on Amtrak's board.

I served on an oversight board for a transit system in a mid-size city (overseeing rail and bus operations).

It gave me one more thing on a resume that has opened some career doors in related fields.

I also met some people who have been useful in my career.

It wasn’t hugely beneficial but it can be somewhat beneficial. If I wanted to work in the transit or real estate development space, it could have been quite useful. And it gave more transit experience than the Amtrak board members have.
 

TheCrescent

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How do people get considered for the Amtrak board? For example, Anthony Coscia is a lawyer at a midsize NJ firm. Is he a major Democratic donor?

I have plenty of board experience and some transit experience (as a Republican) and a background similar to Coscia’s (but with a degree from a school higher up in the US News rankings.

How do I get nominated; do I just send my info to my senator? To be a Republican nominee, would I have to show that I insist on shutting down Amtrak (which I could never do)?
 

jis

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How do people get considered for the Amtrak board? For example, Anthony Coscia is a lawyer at a midsize NJ firm. Is he a major Democratic donor?
If you were Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and before that the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, I think you would stand a very good chance. :D
 

TheCrescent

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If you were Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and before that the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, I think you would stand a very good chance. :D

So we have Port Authority personnel in charge of Amtrak?

The same agency that gave us NY-area airports?

There’s no hope whatsoever then.
 
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People are under a lot of misconceptions about the purpose of a board of directors. For one thing, it's purpose is not to micromanage Management and force them to restore daily long-distance trains, and bring back the Sightseer lounges and more capacity on the Texas Eagle and Capitol Limited. Or force the Amtrak CEO to eliminate Flex dining and have cooked to order food on all the trains. Or even lower sleeping car fares. Their oversight, such as it is, is done at a much higher level. So anyone that thinks that a new board will usher in some sort of golden age of long-distance rail travel is living in fantasyland. At a high level view, the whole point of government financial support for passenger rail is to get cars of the road. The vast majority of cars and miles driven in this country are in large urban areas. Thus, it is obvious that the main focus of government support for passenger rail is for regional service in metropolitan areas and intercity corridors linking such metropolitan areas. Long distance service, one or two trains a day serving mostly sparsely populated areas are clearly a secondary interest, and they are mainly maintained as part of a political deal to gain support from Federal Representatives and Senators representing these sparsely populated areas. That doesn't mean that these long-distance trains don't have real benefits, it's just that these benefits are at a secondary level to the main mission of Federal government support of passenger rail -- getting as many cars off the road as possible.

Looking from a high level, I think that Amtrak's major challenges are ensuring safely and reliable on-time performance, establishing schedules and frequencies that make train travel a reasonable and attractive alternative to driving, and a good state of repair for both the rolling stick and the Amtrak-owned infrastructure. Plus they need to be able to kick butt of the host railroads in order to ensure a lot of the list above. The level of on-board service, while it has some importance, is pretty far down on the list and certainly not worth expending funds that could be used to make the trains run safely and reliably on attractive schedules.

Go to the Web and take a look the board of directors of any large corporation. You may find a few subject matter experts on the board, but I would say that most of them are financiers of some sort or another. That makes sense, because corporations in a capitalist economy require capital, and it's a smart idea to have people at a high level who have access to that capital. A government-owned company like Amtrak is in a different situation. They need people on the board who can interact with the political echelon to ensure that the company gets the government support it needs. Not only Federal financial support, but also from state governments. Now they can't have 50 board members, one from each state, but they can have people who are familiar with politics at both the state and local levels, and people who know and have good personal relations with the elected officials who control government purse-strings and set other policies relevant to the operation of Amtrak. I suspect that, whatever people may think of Mr. Gardner and Mr. Cosica, they have those qualities in abundance.

Finally, I'm not sure why people believe that if a board member happens to come from a state through which the NEC passes, that their only interest about Amtrak is going to be "taking care" of the NEC at the expense of all of the other service Amtrak provides. I realize that in our federal constitutional system, our national legislators are extremely parochial, but that's not necessarily true of all of the types of distinguished people who are appointed to boards of directors. If there's evidence that some of these people are going to be biased in a way you don't like, than point out that evidence, not the irrelevant fact of where they happen to live.
 

neroden

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Most large corporations have "sinecure" Boards of Directors who are appointed by the CEO in order to act as yes-men, and who have absolutely no competence at all at ANYTHING related to the business. They are selected for their worthlessness and corruption, and their willingness to sign off on the CEO robbing the stockholders blind. They are given bribes in exchange for this. I say this from 30 years of experience in stock investing.

This is a bad model to follow.

Consider, intead, boards of charitable organizations. They also provide high-level oversight, they are also focused on fundraising, but they usually actually *do their jobs*. And they care about whether the charity is reputable, because that affects fundraising.

Mr. Coscia has managed to supervise the process of Amtrak alienating its regular supporters through rampant stupidity. This isn't an accomplishment. Amtrak has picked unnecessary fights with pretty much every other transit agency during this time. It's made enemies of disabled people. All completely unnecessary. And incompetent.

The new disability-community advocate on the Board will probably make a big difference, and I strongly support his nomination.
 

TheCrescent

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Amtrak is owned in part by BNSF, which is owned by Warren Buffett. In for-profit companies, investors often fill multiple board seats.

Why aren’t they begging him to be on the board?

In my job, I handle board of directors matters for multiple for-profit corporations. Agreed that it’s not the board’s job to micromanage but the board’s role is to approve (1) material decisions by the company and (2) hiring, firing and pay of senior management, and the board should be kept informed of company financial information, customer trends, projections and other key information.

If Amtrak had experienced transportation-industry leaders filling its board, that would help.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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How do people get considered for the Amtrak board? For example, Anthony Coscia is a lawyer at a midsize NJ firm. Is he a major Democratic donor?

I have plenty of board experience and some transit experience (as a Republican) and a background similar to Coscia’s (but with a degree from a school higher up in the US News rankings.

How do I get nominated; do I just send my info to my senator? To be a Republican nominee, would I have to show that I insist on shutting down Amtrak (which I could never do)?

Did you apply?
The Biden transition team had a web site for people to apply for jobs in his administration. There was a spot for the Amtrak Board. To get a slot now you might need a US Senator to recommend you. Or do both.
 

TheCrescent

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Did you apply?
The Biden transition team had a web site for people to apply for jobs in his administration. There was a spot for the Amtrak Board. To get a slot now you might need a US Senator to recommend you. Or do both.

Thanks for mentioning that; I wasn’t aware that such a site existed. My political views probably exclude me from being considered by Trump or Biden, but maybe in 2028.
 

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The more I see of the Gardner era the more I think it's best if he was replaced with someone more motivated and aggressive. This is the time to be making hay while the sun shines but instead we have short trains, high fares, limited frequencies, and suspended routes. I realize that low wage part time jobs are very hard to fill right now but these careers come with living wages and excellent benefits so what’s the excuse?
 
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zephyr17

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The more I see of the Gardner era the more I think it's best if he was replaced with someone more motivated and aggressive. This is the time to be making hay while the sun shines but instead we have short trains, high fares, limited frequencies, and suspended routes. I realize that low wage part time jobs are very hard to fill right now but these careers come with living wages and excellent benefits so what’s the excuse?
Unfortunately, President Biden just renominated Gardner's godfather Anthony Coscia to the Board. So I am afraid Gardner isn't going anywhere, although I wholly agree with your post.

The whole Board needs to be replaced, Coscia especially.
 

west point

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Unfortunately, President Biden just renominated Gardner's godfather Anthony Coscia to the Board. So I am afraid Gardner isn't going anywhere, although I wholly agree with your post.

The whole Board needs to be replaced, Coscia especially.

Maybe most of the voting board. Amtrak needs some board members that dwell deeply into its operations. Need to be paid full time. Learned that when I was on a board. Unfortune, but only full time Amtrak employees can take the time. Board members are only part time. If I was on the board would take time and not be limited to anything on Amtrak. I Would need unlimited access and report only to Congress or SEC of transportation.
 
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Today’s email from RPA. I found the tone of it a bit more aggressive (passive aggressive maybe) which was nice to see. The “Amtrak Joe” remark could almost be taken facetiously.


Early in April, the Rail Passengers Association called out the Biden Administration for not making the Amtrak Board a priority. Someone must have read our emails (!!!) because late on Friday, April 29th, five individuals were nominated.

The Rail Passengers Association applauds the White House for finally announcing a slate of Amtrak Board nominees. It just took 15 months into the Biden Administration and the end of every single Amtrak Board member's term before the individuals were named. Unfortunately, two of the five individuals display no clear affiliation with or advocacy for, portions of Amtrak’s service running outside the Northeast. So that’s why your Rail Passengers Association is calling for a clearer picture of these nominees’ vision for Amtrak’s future.

I am repeating myself – the time is long past for “Amtrak Joe” to make the Amtrak Board a priority for his Administration. The Association is working with the White House and Capitol Hill to make sure our questions about this slate of nominees get answered.
Rail Passengers believes the White House missed an opportunity to appoint an Amtrak Board that would speak for communities served beyond those in that region. Amtrak’s trains run throughout the U.S. Southeast, the Southwest, our northern border with Canada, and the Pacific Coast. Where are the nominees speaking for those communities?
With Determination,
Jim Mathews
President & CEO
 
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zephyr17

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Well, I just did my part. I submitted the following to my Senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, opposing the re-nomination of Coscia. Hopefully, since Amtrak just directly screwed their constituents, they will pay a bit more attention:


"I am writing you in reference to President Biden’s re-nomination of Anthony Coscia as Chair of of the Amtrak Board of Directors.

The reappointment of Chairperson Coscia to the the Amtrak Board is not in the interest of rail passengers generally and particularly not in the interest of your constituents in the State of Washington.

  • Under the leadership of Mr. Coscia and Mr. Gardner (Amtrak CEO) Amtrak has flatly ignored a statutory Congressional directive to return all services to the frequency they had Pre-COVID as a condition of funding. Even now, certain trains will not resume daily service until September. Their excuses, lack of personnel and lack of equipment, directly reflect on Amtrak’s executive management’s inability to even maintain their existing fleet. Amtrak had sufficient equipment to run daily service pre-COVID, and has lost only a few cars in the meantime to wreck damage. The equipment shortage is due to to lack of maintenance.
  • While not running service daily is a flat violation of a specific directive of the U.S. Congress, signed into law by President Biden, they further violate the spirit of the law by running short trains in peak times, such as last summer’s Empire Builder that had only ONE Chicago-Seattle coach, so they did not have sufficient capacity to meet demand. The intent of the directive was so Amtrak could provide necessary transportation services to the public as a public service, that Amtrak management and Chairperson Coscia appear unable or unwilling to fulfill.
  • Recently, under Mr. Coscia and Mr. Gardner’s leadership, Amtrak recently announced they were unable to resume Amtrak Cascades service to Vancouver, BC until at least December 2022. The reasons, again, were lack of serviceable equipment and personnel, which is reflective, at this point, of gross management failure. Washington Department of Transportation Secretary Robert Millar released a public statement that “Amtrak’s lack of support for the Amtrak Cascades service cannot continue and Amtrak’s plans to delay the re-start of Canadian service for seven months or more is not acceptable to WSDOT and ODOT,” (Seattle Times, May 15, 2022).
I urge you to oppose the nomination and work with President Biden to find a candidate is willing to oversee an Amtrak management team that can both effectively manage the current system, which the present management team seems unable to do outside the Northeast Corridor, and grow environmentally friendly passenger rail service nationwide.

Respectfully,"
 

zephyr17

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What? This is not how large (publicly traded) corporations work at all.
Well, in many cases, the CEO and executive management have a great deal of input on the BOD slate proposed to the shareholders, along with sitting Board members, and the shareholders generally passively approve that. In cases where there are some really big shareholders, they get their candidates for some seats. But except in cases where there is a large group of organized minority shareholders that propose their own candidates, it is a pretty, shall we say, clubby, process.

Look at the mess at Boeing and then look at their board turnover. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. While former CEO made such a mess the Board couldn't ignore it, the Board went on to appoint a finance, MBA, Jack Welch acolyte, clone of the outgoing CEO.

While what Neroden said may not be precisely technically correct, it is a pretty accurate shorthand in most cases.
 
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jruff001

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Well, in many cases, the CEO and executive management have a great deal of input on the BOD slate proposed to the shareholders, along with sitting Board members, and the shareholders generally passively approve that. In cases where there are some really big shareholders, they get their candidates for some seats. But except in cases where there is a large group of organized minority shareholders that propose their own candidates, it is a pretty, shall we say, clubby, process.

. . .

While what Neroden said may not be precisely technically correct, it is a pretty accurate shorthand in most cases.

I don't disagree with this part. Shareholders elect the BoD. The BoD appoints the CEO. Not the other way 'round. Corporate Governance 101.

I was responding to a post that said the CEO appoints BoD members. If that was "shorthand" for some nefarious plot that could otherwise subject these corporations to some pretty expensive litigation, it should have been stated or at least implied somehow. Otherwise I want to know which corporations these are so I can buy their shares, start some legal action and profit.
 
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Shareholders elect the BoD. The BoD appoints the CEO. Corporate Governance 101.

The only problem with this theoretical formulation is that most shareholders either don't bother to vote in corporate elections, or vote the recommended slate of candidates. Most shareholders are less interested in micromanaging a company than the board of directors. If the company is mismanaged to the point of losing its value, the shareholder will just sell their shares. Especially if you're a small shareholder, where your vote doesn't mean much anyway. Maybe some large shareholders take a more active interest in how a company is run, and they might even be listened to. This situation give management plenty of opportunities to install a compliant Board.
 

jruff001

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The only problem with this theoretical formulation is that most shareholders either don't bother to vote in corporate elections, or vote the recommended slate of candidates. Most shareholders are less interested in micromanaging a company than the board of directors. If the company is mismanaged to the point of losing its value, the shareholder will just sell their shares. Especially if you're a small shareholder, where your vote doesn't mean much anyway. Maybe some large shareholders take a more active interest in how a company is run, and they might even be listened to. This situation give management plenty of opportunities to install a compliant Board.
I don't disagree. But this is not what I was responding to.
 

zephyr17

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I don't disagree with this part. Shareholders elect the BoD. The BoD appoints the CEO. Not the other way 'round. Corporate Governance 101.

I was responding to a post that said the CEO appoints BoD members. If that was "shorthand" for some nefarious plot that could otherwise subject these corporations to some pretty expensive litigation, it should have been stated or at least implied somehow. Otherwise I want to know which corporations these are so I can buy their shares, start some legal action and profit.
Boards do appoint CEOs, but the CEO's are frequently very influential in selecting the "preferred" slate of candidates. Which is the slate that get elected to the board by largely passive shareholders.

CEO's often have a very influential role in who gets on a board, that is how it actually works on the ground. And that is what it is shorthand for.
 
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