ANC6B Takes WMATA To Task – Urges More City Oversight
Says Failure to Conduct Security Exercises Puts Riders at Risk
by Larry Janezich
Last Tuesday night, ANC6B approved testimony critical of WMATA written by Commissioner Denise Krepp and subsequently delivered by Krepp before the City Council Committee on Finance and Revenue. The thrust of the testimony was that WMATA had put and continues to put Capitol Hill Metro riders at risk by its failure to conduct regularly scheduled exercises with the participation of law enforcement personnel and emergency response providers. Krepp’s testimony also urged the Mayor and the committee to take a greater oversight role in the day to day operations of the agency, saying, “On January 12th, one individual died and over 80 more were injured as a result of the electrical arcing incident at L’Enfant metro stop. WMATA personnel were not properly prepared to respond to this incident and I am not confident they are prepared to do so today.”
The message seemed reasonable enough, but it was not an easy sell to some of the commissioners. ANC Chair Kirsten Oldenburg said she objected “in several ways” to the testimony as representing the position of the ANC. She said she had no problem if Krepp wanted to deliver the testimony as an individual commissioner representing her own single member district. Commissioner Nick Burger echoed Oldenburg’s concerns, saying he didn’t think the testimony reflected the kind of feedback the ANC should be giving and that the remarks would better serve as being Krepp’s own view.
Krepp responded that she knew where of she speaks, since she had written the language requiring security exercises when she had served as Senior Counsel on the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. “Are you telling me not to be concerned that WMATA has not done appropriate oversight?” she asked Oldenburg and Burger.
Tension in the room was broken when Commissioner Brian Flahaven, former ANC Chair and current Vice Chair stepped in to endorse the testimony, saying he didn’t see why it hurts to speak out on this issue and that he felt it was important to weigh in on the serious problems in WMATA which had resulted in the January 12 tragedy at L’Enfant Plaza. “There’s no down side, he said, and “I am perfectly willing to support the testimony.”
Krepp accepted the suggestions of several Commissioners including Oldenburg to tone down the testimony which was then approved by a vote of 8 – 0 – 2, with Commissioners Flahaven, Krepp, Samolyk, Hoskins, Loots, Hagedorn, Chao and Jayaraman voting in support. Commissioners Oldenburg and Burger abstained.
Krepp delivered the testimony – which concludes as follows – to Committee on Finance and Revenue yesterday.
“Everyday, thousands of DC residents, Congressmembers, and other high level officials enter the WMATA system via Capital South, Eastern Market, Potomac Avenue, and Stadium Armory metro stops. The WMATA personnel demonstrated on January 12th that they were not prepared to respond to an incident at these stations and they are not prepared to do so now.
I strongly encourage the Committee and the Mayor to conduct more oversight over WMATA to make sure they are prepared. Proper preparedness prevents death and injury – surely a goal WMATA can accomplish.”
She delivered the same testimony today, before DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.