In December 2007, I wrote here that I had every confidence that interim Metro president Bob Baer would do a great job of restoring public trust in Metro’s direction that had been lost by its previous managers. Looking at a new study of public opinion about Metro, it is clear that Bob’s leadership has done that. People’s concerns about Metro’s future have once again focused on issues other than its management. Instead worrying as much about its litigation strategy and lack of fiscal oversight, people now are talking wanting the region’s public transportation system to go more places, to be more convenient to their homes and offices, and to be safe. That’s Bob Baer’s mark at Metro so far: he has reassured us that the transportation agency in back on track.
To my surprise and pleasure, Bob Baer has agreed to become Metro’s permanent president. As its top official, he will be very prominent in the public discussion of Metro’s request for additional revenues to maintain and expand public transportation in the region. St. Louis County voters will be the first to weigh Bob’s arguments, most likely at an election this coming year. But, voters in St. Charles County , Jefferson County , and in southern Illinois will not be far behind. (City voters have already approved additional funding.) The stakes are high: a useful and efficient system of public transportation is one of the keys of the region’s economic prosperity. The panic of suburban employers over recent budget-related cut-backs in service surely reminded everyone of the stakes.
I do not envy Bob Baer the challenges ahead. I cannot think of anyone else more likely to overcome them. He will have my strong support.