In a bid to make the inner workings of the Washington, D.C., area’s transit agency more open, a group of Maryland lawmakers is demanding that Metro board meetings be live-streamed over the internet.
The 25 Montgomery and Prince George’s County lawmakers who signed the letter call on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to begin “immediate implementation of live video streaming and archiving” of its board sessions and committee meetings.
The request follows the resignation under pressure of Metro board chairman Jack Evans (D), a D.C. City Council member and attorney, following allegations he used his position to benefit a client.
A federal probe of Evans’ actions is now under way.
The WMATA board released a summary of its investigation into Evans’ alleged moves to benefit his client, a company that owns parking garages, under pressure from the governors of Maryland and Virginia.
The system has had “a number of issues over the years,” said Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s), who spearheaded the letter with Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery).
The Evans controversy and other issues have shaken public confidence in the board’s “credibility in terms of its management and board function,” Barron added.
“We’re sending so much money to the system. I think the public deserves at least as much transparency and oversight as it demands.”
The lawmakers said WMATA is the only one of the five largest rapid transit systems in the country not to video stream its meetings.
“It is past time for WMATA to implement a simple 21st century transparency initiative,” they wrote.
Korman called live video streaming “the bare minimum that you can do in terms of transparency.”
“There is no reason that an agency like WMATA, that has so much scrutiny on it, shouldn’t have the same level of access as these other systems.”
The Maryland General Assembly provides live audio but not video of its floor sessions.
Starting in January, the House of Delegates is set to begin a “pilot” program to provide live video as well. The state Senate is expected to follow suit in 2021.
Barron said elected and appointed officials are more likely to “bring their ‘A’ game” when they know their constituents can see what they’re doing – and not doing.
“When you know people are watching, folks will tend to do a better job,” he said.
WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel said that Metro Board Chairman Paul C. Smedberg, a member of the Alexandria, Va., City Council, and Executive Director Paul Wiedefeld, were on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and would not be available for immediate comment. He said that audio recordings of agency board meetings are stored online, at wmata.com.