Readers of this commentary know that over the years I have had a fair amount to do with Amtrak. I worked on its creation with the then General Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Robert R. (Bob) Kessler. Later three Secretaries of Transportation appointed me to a total of six one-year terms on the Amtrak Board. The Majority Leader of the United States Senate subsequently appointed me to the newly created Amtrak Reform Council, upon which I served as Vice Chairman for five years, first under Governor Christine Todd Whitman and then under former Federal Railroad Administrator and Amtrak Board Member Gilbert Carmichael. Our recommendations later were echoed by the Bush Administration, which has shown little interest in Amtrak. For example, the Amtrak Board is to comprise seven seats. One Amtrak Member had been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Two Members are recess appointees whose terms expire on December 31, 2006. The status of another appointee has been questioned in Congress. There are three vacancies. There have been vacancies through much of the Bush Presidency. The present Board terminated Amtrak President David L. Gunn.
When I was on the Board the legendary W. Graham Claytor, Jr. was president of Amtrak. In 1992 Claytor announced his retirement and I was appointed to a committee chaired by Philadelphia lawyer David Girard DiCarlo to find a replacement. I reached David Gunn at his home in Nova Scotia and pitched the Amtrak Presidency to him. Had he accepted I would have gone to the wall for him. Alas, he declined. When President William J. Clinton was elected, Claytor chose not to retire and remained Amtrak President for another year, illness then forcing his retirement.