Governor Appoints Two New California Transportation Commissioners
Note: This post has been corrected; the new commissioners need to be approved by the Senate, but they can be sworn in and begin work in the meantime.
Governor Newsom announced late on Friday that he has appointed two new commissioners to the California Transportation Commission (CTC), the state body that oversees and allocates transportation funding. The commissioners play a key role in what projects move forward and who gets heard about impacts from those projects.
Advocates have been trying for years to get the governor(s) – former Governor Brown as well as Newsom – to appoint a more diverse group of people who can represent a wide range of interests, beyond the developers and labor and business representatives that have made up the thirteen-member commission for the last couple of decades.
Newsom got a strong start with his first appointments to the commission, but it’s not clear whether these new appointees bring the same wide range of viewpoints. One, Jon Rocco Davis, is a long-time labor union manager. The other, Lee Ann Eager, works on business development in Fresno.
Last year Newsom appointed Hilary Norton, founding director of FAST (“dedicated to improvements to LA’s mobility, livability, and economic prosperity”), and Tamika Butler to the CTC. Butler is a mince-no-words, outspoken advocate for equity, but she resigned to avoid potential conflicts of interest with her day job at Toole Design, a firm that consults with government agencies on transportation projects throughout the state.
Tamika was the only new appointee who is Black, and her resignation meant that Yvonne Burke remains the only Black commissioner out of the thirteen-member commission.
One of the thirteen seats is still in play. Two commissioners’ terms ended in February, and a third seat had been open since Butler left. State sources confirmed that Chair Paul Van Konynenberg, who was overheard on a hot mic last month making a facetious but problematic threat, will not be reappointed. There has been no word about whether the governor plans to reappoint developer and business leader Lucy Dunn, whose term also ended in February.
The two new commissioners will need to be confirmed by the Senate sometime within the next year.
Davis has worked with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, where he chairs organizing coalitions and oversees financial and pension funds. His biographical information declares an interest in “the rights of working families including protecting and reforming legislation that guarantees worker rights, education and health care, voter registration, and immigration reform.” According to its website, Laborers’ International represents workers who build roads and bridges, water and sewer systems, solar plants, wind farms, gas and oil pipelines, and who maintain nuclear and coal power plants.
The union’s website includes a page bemoaning “the deteriorating condition of our transportation infrastructure, with one in four bridges deficient or obsolete and potholes and other poor road conditions contributing to approximately 10,000 traffic deaths a year – coupled with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.”
Davis is also a director at United Business Bank, which partners with community groups working on issues like affordable housing and workforce and economic development.
Eager, for her part, is president and chief executive officer at the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation. She previously worked as an attorney and as executive director of the Rape Counseling Service of Fresno. She has worked to bring business opportunities to Fresno, the fifth most populous city in California. She is also a strong supporter of the California High-Speed Rail Program.