104 WHEELER HALL #1870
(510) 642-4874
(510) 643-9576 FAX

June 19, 2002

Dear Commissioner:

This letter is designed to set the record straight on something incorrect that Commissioner Spering said in the Planning and Operations Committee meeting of April 12, 2002, about our research on MTC’s decision making process, since we believe that what was said impugns our professional integrity as scholars. During that meeting, a member of the public, David Schonbrunn of TRANSDEF, suggested that the Commission ask us to speak to them about the results of our study. He said that one of our conclusions was that a primary decision making approach of MTC was a political one—he called it horse trading, although that was not our term—and that that approach did not involve much meaningful public input, despite seemingly extensive public input efforts. Although this characterization is somewhat oversimplified, it does basically capture one of our findings.

In response, Commissioner Spering asked for a show of hands of people in the room who were interviewed by “Mr. Gruber of Berkeley.” No one raised a hand. Commissioner Spering went on to say, “Isn’t it amazing the speaker wants us to entertain someone to analyze us . . . you know he criticizes us for not taking input before we make decisions but yet he expects us to speak to someone who has not taken any from the people he is saying make these decisions in a political forum. It is mind boggling to me. It is a double standard.” The official minutes note that he said the Commissioners were not consulted in our study.

This is entirely inaccurate. In the course of our study we interviewed several commissioners. In fact Professor Gruber interviewed Commissioner Spering himself on June 23, 1997 in his office in Suisun City, and Commissioner Brown, (who was also in the room during this discussion), on June 13, 1997 in her office in San Pablo. Professor Innes interviewed Therese McMillan (also in the room) on at least two occasions, February 2 and May 15, 1996. We have interview notes and/or tapes in case these individuals have any question about these interviews.

Our study, which spanned five years between 1995 and 2000, involved extensive consultation with participants in MTC. We interviewed at least 60 people in depth, including most members of the Partnership such as CMA directors and transit agency heads, most of the senior staff, including Larry Dahms, commissioners, participants in the Advisory Council and other members of the public, as well as observers of the process. (It should be noted that we did not interview Mr. Schonbrunn, nor did we even meet him until after the report was published.) We also observed over 100 meetings of the Commission and its committees and the of the Partnership and its committees, including working groups and retreats. We took detailed, almost verbatim notes and listened to audio tapes of dozens of other meetings. We put this information together into a 500-page report which offers a detailed narrative about MTC’s regional transportation planning activities, along with our analysis of what was working, what was not, and why. The narrative sections describe the work of many key committees of the Partnership. It has extensive quotations from our interviews, as well as dialogue from these Partnership meetings and from Commission meetings. Moreover, we sent a draft of the full report to Executive Director Dahms to review for factual accuracy and had a long meeting with him and Steve Heminger to discuss their comments. We amended our report to respond to all the inaccuracies they pointed out, although we realize that they did not agree with all of our conclusions.

Anyone who reads this report can see exactly what evidence we used for our analysis and conclusions. The report entitled “Bay Area Transportation Decision Making in the Wake of ISTEA: Planning Styles in Conflict at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission” (Working Paper No. 514), is available in full from the University of California Transportation Center, 108 Naval Architecture Building, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-1782, e-mail It can also be downloaded from their web site located at In addition, the Executive Summary of the Report is available for downloading on the University of California Institute of Urban and Regional Development web site at, as is a working paper abstract, “Planning Styles in Conflict at the San Francisco Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission” (WP-2001-09). Commissioners were sent copies of the Executive Summary in May 2001.

We deeply regret that this misleading representation of our work has been made in a public forum. We hope that the Commissioners who were interviewed will correct the record.
If the Commission is interested in hearing an abbreviated version of our findings and conclusions we would be most willing to make a presentation. We are committed to making sure our findings can be useful and beneficial to the region.


Judith E. Innes Director Institute of Urban and Regional Development and Professor City and Regional Planning University of California Berkeley Judith Gruber Associate Professor and Chair Department of Political Science

cc: Steve Heminger, Executive Director
Therese McMillan, Deputy Director, Policy