October 14, 1999
Amtrak Reform Council (the Council) held its business meeting
in the Wolf Point Ballroom at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza,
350 N. Orleans Street, Chicago, on Friday, October 14, 1999.
The Meeting included a session that was closed to the public
that began at 8:30 a.m. and adjourned at 9:30 a.m. and a
session that was opened to the public that began at 9:45
a.m. and adjourned at 11:30 a.m.
Members present: Gil Carmichael, Chair; Paul Weyrich, Vice-chair;
Bruce Chapman (by telephone); Wendell Cox; Chris Gleason;
Lee Kling; Clarence Monin; Mark Yachmetz, representing the
Federal Railroad Administrator; and Joseph Vranich.
Carmichael chaired the meeting and Deirdre O’Sullivan served
Closed Session of the Meeting
Carmichael called the meeting to order. Council staff discussed
the Council’s plans to add an additional staff member, including
an offer previously made that was not accepted, or to use
a part of its available budget to hire outside consultants.
Mr. Kling moved to adopt a staff recommendation to allow
a portion of the budget ($100,000) to be used to hire consultants
with the approval of the Chairman. After discussion, the
motion was approved. The Council further approved reporting
this item at the public portion of the meeting.
staff discussed the text of a draft letter to Governor Thompson,
Amtrak Board Chairman, proposing certain recommendations
to Amtrak management. Council staff was instructed to redraft
the letter and circulate it to the Council for approval.
Carmichael summarized various discussions he had with certain
private corporations regarding the prospects of Amtrak mail
and express business.
closed session of the business meeting was adjourned.
Session of the Meeting and Approval of the Minutes
chaired the open session of the meeting because Mr. Carmichael
had to leave on a business trip to China. Mr. Weyrich moved
to approve the minutes of the previous business meeting
of the Council with one modification. The minutes were
approved without objection.
commended Mr. Chapman for his work at the Seattle Conference.
The Council concurred in Mr. Weyrich’s commendation.
Weyrich’s Proposal of Extending the Life of the Council
noted that the success of the Acela program was key to Amtrak
meeting its Plan objectives and the requirement of the Reform
Act that Amtrak operate without federal operating grants
after FY2003. Mr. Weyrich also noted that it was essential
that the Council analyze the role of Acela for at least
a year before it can make a responsible judgment regarding
the success of the program and that because of the delay
in the Acela progam it would not be possible for the Council
to have this opportunity unless the role of the Council
(and the statutory deadline for Amtrak’s cutoff of operating
funds) be extended an additional year. Mr. Weyrich accordingly
moved that the Council suggest to Congress that the Council
and the statutory findings period be extended one year.
The motion was seconded and a discussion ensued.
stated that he would have to abstain because the Administration
had not considered and had not taken a position on the extension
proposal. Mr. Monin proposed that the motion be tabled
for now and put off to the November 8, 1999 meeting in Dallas
so that Mr. Monin could obtain the opinion of rail labor.
Mr. Weyrich agreed to put the matter off to the November
8 meeting. Mr. Yachmetz stated that he would try to obtain
DOT’s position on the extension by November 8. Mr. Monin
accordingly moved to table the motion and reschedule it
for the next scheduled business meeting. The motion was
Mr. Till presented
the Executive Director’s report. The report contained three
noted that at the Seattle meeting representatives from Oregon
and Washington contended that the more successful they were
at attracting passengers, the greater the overhead that
would be charged to them by Amtrak, and that this was a
perverse disincentive. Mr. Weyrich also noted that this
same concern was expressed by state representatives yesterday
at the outreach meeting. Mr. Weyrich noted that he received
a letter from Mr. Warrington, Amtrak President, responding
to the Council on the overhead issue. Mr. Weyrich did not
consider the Warrington letter to be fully responsive.
Mr. Mates, Council staff financial analyst, commented that
the states are alleging that overhead is approximating 50%
of Amtrak charges, and that the state legislatures are beginning
to balk at paying this amount. The discussion concluded
with instructions that Council staff address the issue.
Mr. Cox noted
that at the closed business session, the Council approved
the suggestion of the Financial Analysis Committee, of which
Mr. Cox is Chairman, that the Council request certain financial
information from Amtrak as part of a Council letter to Amtrak
making recommendations for improvements. In this regard,
Mr. Weyrich noted that the Council was in the process of
drafting a letter to Amtrak making certain recommendations
for improvement, which recommendations are part of the Council’s
statutory responsibility. Mr. Weyrich further noted that
the letter is currently being drafted by Council staff and
will be circulated to the Council for approval.
noted that the Council will endeavor to have its first report
to the Congress done by the first of the year (January 1,
2000). Mr. Weyrich further noted that because Amtrak’s
business plan has been delayed, it may be necessary for
the Council to issue addenda to its report at a later time.
Mr. Till summarized
the process of preparing the report and the items that the
report would address. The Council staff will prepare sections
of the report and circulate them to Council members for
comment. The report will at least address the three statutory
items: TRA expenses; labor productivity; and an evaluation
of the Amtrak route network with any recommendations regarding
closure or realignment. The report will also monitor Amtrak’s
financial progress and include any recommendations that
the Council makes to Amtrak for improvements. The report
may also contain any recommendations for changes in the
law that the Council thinks appropriate.
expressed his hope that Amtrak will answer the legitimate
questions and information requests that the Council has
made. Mr. Weyrich stressed that the Council needs the cooperation
of Amtrak on these matters. Mr. Cox concurred in Mr. Weyrich’s
As new business,
Mr. Vranich suggested that telephone discussions (consistent
with the Sunshine Act requirements) are helpful in dealing
with single issues as they arise and that in-person meetings
are not necessary to resolve these issues. Mr. Till noted
that Federal Register notice and a forum where the public
could listen to the deliberations of the Council would still
be necessary for telephone meetings. Mr. Kolson, staff
legal adviser to the Council, also noted that notation voting
could be employed to resolve these issues and that a full
meeting of the Council in person or by telephone was not
always needed to resolve specific issues.
asked for public comment any or all of these issues. The
Council then adjourned at approximately 11:30 a.m.