Metro leaders disagree over service-slashing budget

Metro’s proposed budget, which would dramatically scale back service next year, has been a lightning rod for criticism, including some from within the Metro Board of Directors Friday.

“My conclusion is that they’ve put this through the budgetary sausage machine,” board member Michael Goldman said. “You’ve produced something which is inedible — inedible to the point that I wouldn’t want to put it out to the public for comment at this time.”

Metro board member Stephanie Gidigbi echoed Goldman’s critique.

“I don’t know why we need to rush to share a budget that is drastic, as we’ve all said,” Gidigbi said.

Federal rescue money or the rollout of vaccines could dramatically alter the landscape in the coming weeks, they argued.

Several local leaders also recently voiced their concerns over the proposed budget — arguing that the changes would disproportionately impact minorities and front-line workers.

But Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said it’s important for everyone who might be affected to be able to prepare, sooner rather than later.

“We owe it to our customers and we owe it to our employees so that they understand, that they can start to adjust,” Wiedefeld said.

Matt Letourneau, another board member, supported Wiedefeld and said that the proposed budget, although grim, represents a fiscal reality.

“It’s fair to say, as others have, that nobody likes this,” Letourneau said. “Unfortunately this is not Sim City, and we can’t just print money.”

Metro is facing a pandemic-related budget deficit of nearly $500 million.

Under the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in July, rail service would end at 9 p.m., weekend rail service would be eliminated and 19 stations would be closed. Trains would run less often and bus service would be significantly cut back. There would also be salary freezes and layoffs.

Under Metro’s timeline, the board would authorize public hearings and budget deliberations later this month.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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