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Amtrak Reform Council

November 9, 2001

The Amtrak Reform Council (the Council) held its business meeting at the Marriott Hotel at Metro Center at 775 12th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. on Friday, November 9, 2001. The meeting started at 10:28 a.m. and adjourned at approximately 11:35 a.m.

Council Members present were: Gil Carmichael, Chair, Nancy Rutledge Connery, James Coston, Wendell Cox, Christopher Gleason, Charles Moneypenny, Paul Weyrich and Mark Yachmetz, representing the Secretary of Transportation. Council members who participated via conference call were Bruce Chapman, S. Lee Kling, and Mayor John Norquist.

Mr. Carmichael chaired the meeting and Deirdre O'Sullivan served as secretary.


At 10:00 a.m. at the appointed time for the Meeting to begin, Mr. Carmichael asked the Council to delay the starting of the meeting until Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson arrived. Mr. Carmichael stated that Deputy Secretary Jackson was in a meeting at the White House, but would be arriving soon. After waiting approximately thirty minutes for the Deputy Secretary, Mr. Carmichael asked Mark Yachmetz to represent the Secretary of Transportation and serve as a substitute for Deputy Secretary Jackson. Mark Yachmetz agreed and Mr. Carmichael called the meeting to order to 10:28 a.m.


Mr. Carmichael stated that at the October 12th meeting in Atlanta, GA, Mr. Weyrich introduced a motion to start the process for making a Finding that Amtrak is not going to be operationally self-sufficient by December 2002. He further noted that the motion proposing that a draft of the Finding resolution be prepared had been approved unanimously at the October 12th meeting. He also stated that the resolution was prepared by the Council staff and distributed to several Council members who had indicated their interest at the October 12th meeting (Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Weyrich, Mr. Norquist, and Mr. Kling). In addition, the Council staff met with the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation (OIG) to ensure that the Council's Findings on Amtrak's financial condition were consistent with the Findings of the OIG. The OIG stated in that meeting that they were planning to release their report on Amtrak's financials on November 16th.

Mr. Carmichael then noted that Deputy Secretary Jackson had contacted him prior to the November 9th meeting, and asked him to delay the vote on the Finding due to the current crisis in air security. Mr. Carmichael then stated that he had polled the Council members prior to the meeting by ballot and that there was not a majority of the Council that would support a delay in the vote until early January 2002.

Mr. Carmichael stated that there was one issue on the agenda for the meeting, and that was to vote on whether the Council should make a Finding that Amtrak was not going to achieve operational self-sufficiency by December 2, 2002. He then reiterated that he is still in favor of postponing the making of the Finding until January. He also stated that the Council members had the resolution before them and should consider it carefully.

Mr. Moneypenny asked when the resolution was sent to the Council. Mr. Kolson answered that the specific text of the resolution was given to some of the Council members that day. Mr. Moneypenny stated that for the Council to vote on whether Amtrak survives or not based on a document that was given to the Council that morning was ludicrous. Mr. Kolson noted that the only new material in the finding resolution is related to the OIG's assessment as presented to the Council staff. Mr. Gleason stated that the Council was not voting on a particular document but what the Council has come to understand are Amtrak's problems.

Mr. Kling stated that he would like to delay the vote for several reasons including: the Administration asked the Council to, members of Congress have asked the Council to, and the report on Amtrak's financials from the OIG's office has not yet been released. Mr. Weyrich stated that the Deputy Secretary Jackson has asked the Council to delay the Finding and that it was not accurate to say that this was the position of the Administration. Mr. Yachmetz stated that Mr. Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, had spoken to Deputy Secretary Jackson and agreed that the decision to support or oppose the Finding Resolution should be made by the Secretary. Mr. Chapman stated that he had also spoken to Mr. Daniels and that the Administration was not taking a position on this because it would not be appropriate to advise the Council, an independent commission, on how to vote. He continued by stating that the law states that as soon as the Council knows that Amtrak is not going to achieve operational self-sufficiency, that the Council is supposed to inform the President and Congress, and under this obligation the Finding should have been made a long time ago. Mr. Kling stated that due to the events of September 11th, priorities have changed, and he would personally like to see the OIG's report before making any decisions. Mr. Chapman stated that he appreciated Mr. Kling's position but that Amtrak's situation in a few months could be more dire, and that the best hope for preserving and improving the rail passenger system would be to declare that the emperor has no clothes, and start devising a plan to restructure Amtrak.

Mr. Moneypenny stated that at the last meeting on October 12th, Mr. Weyrich had discussed the fact that Senator Hollings had introduced legislation that would take away from the Council the power to make a Finding as one of the reasons that the Council should make the Finding before that power was taken away. Mr. Weyrich replied that Senator Hollings is also planning to move forward to remove the self-sufficiency requirement, and that there is no merit in the arguments for delay.

Mr. Coston stated that the Council should delay making a Finding because: the OIG's report had not been released, Amtrak's FY2001 financial statement had not been released, and none of the results of the analysis of the McKinsey and Company's consultants had been released. He further stated that the Council should not make a decision without being fully informed. In addition, he stated that it was disingenuous to task Amtrak with the responsibility of operating at a self-sufficiency level as identified by law when Congress continues to put money into the airline industry. He also added that nothing would be lost in waiting to make a more informed decision in January.

Mr. Cox called for a vote and Mr. Chapman seconded the motion. Mr. Carmichael then asked to allow Mr. Yachmetz to make a statement first. Mr. Cox agreed.

Mr. Yachmetz stated that he would like to apologize for the Deputy Secretary being unable to make an appearance. The Deputy Secretary was currently at the White House dealing with the airline security crisis. He then reiterated that Mr. Daniels told Deputy Secretary Jackson that the responsibility for making a decision about whether the Council should make a Finding belonged to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, therefore the position of the Secretary was that the Council should not make a Finding at this time. Currently the Administration was working on a comprehensive rail passenger policy that may be part of the President's budget that will be sent to Congress in February 2002. The Administration does not believe that it is necessary to make a Finding and have Amtrak trying to come up with a liquidation plan when all of these issues can be addressed in process of Amtrak's reauthorization which must be done in Congress next year. Mr. Chapman reiterated his conversation with Mr. Daniels.

Mr. Carmichael stated that there was a motion to make a Finding and it had been seconded and he called for a roll call vote. The Council members voted as follows:

Mr. Cox: "Aye"
Mr. Coston: "No"
Mr. Weyrich: "Aye"
Mr. Yachmetz: "No" in the name of Secretary Mineta
Mr. Gleason: "Aye"
Ms. Connery: "Aye"
Mr. Moneypenny: "No"
Mr. Chapman: "Aye"
Mr. Kling: "No"
Mr. Carmichael: "No"
Mr. Norquist: [Mr. Norquist had gotten off the conference call.]

Mr. Cox stated that the record should be held open until the end of the meeting to allow Mr. Norquist the opportunity to express his decision.

Mr. Till stated that the vote was five in favor and five against. Mr. Moneypenny stated that unless Mr. Norquist gets back on the line the Council will not know whether or not there will be a Finding. Mr. Cox stated that if the vote remained a tie then the Finding motion would fail. Following Mr. Cox's statements, there was a general discussion regarding how long to hold open the record. Then Mr. Carmichael called for a recess to see if Mr. Norquist could be found so he could vote and, and with no objections, the meeting recessed.

The meeting resumed when Mr. Norquist returned to the conference call. Mr. Norquist asked to have the resolution read to him. Mr. Till read the document. Then Mr. Norquist asked to have the roll call of the votes read to him. Mr. Till complied. Then Mr. Norquist asked Mr. Coston how he had voted. Mr. Coston stated that he voted no because he believes that the Council could make a more informed decision in January; taking into account all the details that needs to go into the refinancing, reauthorization and restructuring of Amtrak. He continued by stating that the Council had not seen the OIG's report, the report from McKinsey and Co., and Amtrak's FY2001 financial statements. Mr. Norquist then asked Mr. Yachmetz if he was representing the President or the DOT. Mr. Yachmetz stated that Mr. Daniels had told Deputy Secretary Jackson that it was to be the decision of the Transportation Secretary as how to vote on the issue of a Finding and the Transportation Secretary would like to delay the vote until January.

Mr. Weyrich stated that the OIG's report was not going to reveal any new information that would substantially change the debate. In addition, he stated that if the Council votes to make the Finding that nothing is going to change: no trains are going to stop, and no employees will be laid off. Also, he stated that he was concerned about a bill introduced by Senator Hollings that would deny the Council the opportunity to make a Finding and that those in favor of delaying are really wanting the ability of ARC to make a Finding to be vitiated. Therefore, if the Council is in favor of making a Finding, then they should vote for it now, and if they don't want to make a Finding, then they should vote no and that would be the ultimate outcome.

Mr. Norquist stated that Amtrak as it is currently structured cannot produce the needed additional revenue, and the infrastructure just cannot hold on without substantial capital. In addition, he stated that he is not dissuaded by the reasons for delay and that Congress will probably deliberate on the issue for a year before they actually do anything. Mr. Norquist stated that he voted "Aye" in favor of the Finding.

Mr. Carmichael stated that the "Ayes" have it and the motion is carried. Mr. Chapman asked for a motion that the Council staff start preparing an options plan to be circulated as early as next month to be approved by the Council to be submitted to the Congress in accordance to the law, and further, to work with the officials of the DOT in preparation of the plan. The motion was seconded by Mr. Weyrich. (Below is the vote on the motion.)

Mr. Cox: "Aye"
Mr. Coston: "Abstain
Mr. Weyrich: "Aye"
Mr. Yachmetz: "Abstain" in the name of Secretary Mineta
Mr. Gleason: "Aye"
Ms. Connery: "Aye"
Mr. Moneypenny: "No"
Mr. Chapman: "Aye"
Mr. Kling: "Abstain"
Mr. Carmichael: "Aye"
Mr. Norquist: "Aye"

Mr. Till stated that there was one "no" vote, three "abstain" votes, and seven "ayes" and asked if this correctly expressed the views of the Council. (There were no objections.)


There was a general discussion about whether the meeting should continue or adjourn. Mr. Chapman introduced a motion to adjourn. Mr. Carmichael stated that the Council staff should start working on the report and the Council should have a good basic report by the end of December. Mr. Weyrich then seconded Mr. Chapman's motion to adjourn, unless there was some business for the Council members that had not yet been heard. Mr. Carmichael asked if there was any additional business or objections to adjourning. Hearing none, Mr. Carmichael then asked for a vote on adjournment. The vote to adjourn was unanimous. The Council adjourned at approximately 11:35 a.m.

Last updated January 02, 2001

The ARC is an independent federal commission established under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-134).