Beth Dehamel is an incredibly interesting person. She's definitely different from the others I've seen at TriMet. Maybe it's just me letting my guard down, but watching her, talking to her, it's easy to tell that she actually cares about her job. Even though there are many things we disagree on, it's really something to see the same jittery, almost excited, rambling passion I have about TriMet and its welfare coming from... well, someone in TriMet.
After the meeting, we talked again. Having heard my speech about being discredited (Jason, whom I could swear was laughing as soon as I said 'credibility' in the first line [which would also be one of the very few times he's said something in my direction at a TriMet meeting, in all three years that I've been speaking]) she apologized, although it was for making me believe that she thought I was being dishonest. She said a bit about how she never tries to question people's motives or honesty, which I sort of shrugged off because I can't help but feel she meant that as a two-sided comment.
She explained that what always gets her is when people question TriMet's transparency. As the one in charge of finances, she explained, she believed it to be incredibly hard to be transparent about TriMet's financial motives due to the complications of it all. I explained that it's incredibly hard for the more 'pedestrian' enthusiasts of TriMet to understand it at all; you can only tell the average non-nerd on the street so much that they'll get. She said something along the lines of that's just how it is. I can't say I'm convinced.
She went and said her goodbyes to the board members before we continued, adding that I should really give a 'thank you' to the board members for their service as well, (and well, I can't decide how to feel about that; I mean, they're always there, but it doesn't feel like they're there). I gave a few thank yous to those who remained, but the one I was convinced I agreed with was Consuelo. She seems like the most involved out of all of them.
Then I got to ask her a few questions. I didn't really get any new answers but it clarified TriMet's point of view. It was a good conversation though; I didn't come in antagonistically so I have a feeling her answers weren't so defensive. I just tried to have a conversation, not an interrogation, and that probably makes a difference in how one would take these answers, although I still take them with a grain of salt and disagree with a few of them, too.
I tried to portray HB's question the best I could, but he speaks in a way that is hard to replicate for whatever reason. *shrug*
I asked for clarification on a long-time question of my own: does TriMet seek out federal grants for service and operation in the same manner as they do for new MAX lines and new buses? She says yes; they look for every grant they can find and go for every one they can get. And really, to me, that kind of makes sense.
I asked one of the Anon's question from the first round: How much does TriMet spend on the payroll of its operators? She gave me the overall answer for all of the employees; $130 million. She adds that 87% of its employees are from the Union. So I didn't get a straight answer but it didn't cross my mind to clarify. Oops.
I asked about any sort of schedule for restoring service, and how that would be done. She said that the board is in full control of any restoration of service being done. The financials could be planned for it but if the board doesn't approve a motion for it, there's nothing that can be done about it. Which strikes me as obvious, but I dunno. She didn't give me a priority list or a length of time (but I'm assuming that from everything TriMet says Frequent Service restoration is number one), instead focusing on guess who?
I ask 'what would TriMet have to do or give up to restore service?' She said that the union benefits would have to be halted. She insists that she doesn't plan on 'reducing them', just saying that they have the highest benefits in the country and they need to be 'slowed down'. She even says a bit about how she appreciates the drivers and all they do as well.
I'm still not convinced, but I do ask "what if TriMet were to keep from reducing- I mean, stalling the benefits?" As everyone and their mother suspected, the answer was "reduce service."
I just outright ask it. "So, in essence, the union's benefits and the rider's service is on an eternal teeter totter."
She confirms it.
I take that as the end of the conversation. I politely exchange goodbyes and leave.
So I can't say I got a huge amount from her. The answers were the same recycled ones, just said with more authority. Today was DeHamel's last board meeting (is that H capitalized? I'm indecisive on it) and I guess she was a little sentimental. I could tell; I always get sentimental about last days myself. Turning the lights off for one last time, I suppose. Then again, I never know when to quit, so it's mostly the fantasy of that one last turning off of the lights that I romanticize.
Maybe it's that sort of thing that puts my guard down, but maybe it's because I don't enjoy an incessant stream of venom and sarcasm and anger coming from my mouth all of the time. I don't agree with her on much of anything, but I have to respect her for what she does, even if just a bit.