White House to Nominate 3 New Amtrak Board Members
By Don Phillips
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 2003; 6:56 PM
The White House late today announced that it will nominate three new members to the Amtrak board of directors including former American Airlines Chairman Robert L. Crandall.
The other two nominees are former World Bank railways official Louis S. Thompson, an advocate of railroad privatization, and Floyd Hall, former chairman of K-Mart.
The three new nominees would replace two members whose terms expired June 25 -- Meridian, Miss., Mayor John Robert Smth, former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis -- and either former Virginia governor Lynwood Holton or Amy Rosen, whose terms expires Sept. 24.
The planned nominations come just as the Amtrak board approaches such a small number of people that it could be left without a quorum. In fact, a number of attorneys and Capitol Hill staffers argue that the board is already without a quorum because, technically, the terms of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and new Chairman David M. Laney also expired June 25. The Transportation Department contends the Mineta and Laney terms have not expired.
Initial rail labor reaction was negative, apparently guaranteeing a Senate nomination battle.
"These choices appear to us to stack the deck against Amtrak, its workers and its riders," said Edward Wytkind, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department. "They obviously will be insiders wedded to advancing the administration's plan to dismantle Amtrak and make the states foot the bill."
The nominations come as Congress nears a decision on how much to appropriate to Amtrak for the next fiscal year. The House has approved $900 million and the Senate $1.35 billion, but Amtrak President David L. Gunn says he needs $1.8 billion to keep all services going and to spend the money necessary to improve Amrak's deteriorating infrastructure.
Crandall retired from American Airlines in 1998, and now serves on several other boards including the Halliburton Co.
Crandall is recognized as one of aviation's brightest pioneers. He created the computerized reservation in 1973, and created the first frequent flyer mileage program in 1975. Although he strongly opposed deregulation of the airlines, he used deregulation to triple American's size and make it one of the world's largest airlines.
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