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Kitzhaber: Changes to TriMet board won't happen soon

Gov. John Kitzhaber says he’s closely following the travails of TriMet, but won’t be able to give it much attention until after the legislative session ends.

“That’s definitely on our radar screen,” Kitzhaber told the Portland Tribune editorial board.

Kitzhaber opposes a measure by state Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, that would remove the governor’s authority to select TriMet’s board members. Gorsek’s proposal, House Bill 3316, would expand the seven-member board to 11 people and let local governments select most of the board members.

Kitzhaber said the bill is not likely to pass this session.

"I think there are problems with TriMet and I intend to aggressively pursue them," the governor said during a 40-minute meeting with editors and reporters. "I think that it's an organization that’s very challenged.

"I don't think that just changing the way the board is appointed will change very much."

During a Monday, April 15, hearing on the bill before the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development, TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane told the panel that the agency's board was tackling a host of challenges and trying to improve transit service with shrinking resources.

"These have been difficult times and we are doing our best to serve our customers and get our fiscal house in order," McFarlane told the committee.

"And our board is suited to the task."