February 21, 2011
METRO Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority
1900 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002
February 17, 2011
Ms. Elizabeth M. Murphy
Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20549-0690
Dear Ms. Murphy:
RE: Registration of Municipal Advisors, Proposed Rule
File Number S7-45-10, Release No. 34-63576, 76 Fed. Reg. 824
Response to SEC on Rules 15Ba1-1 through15Ba1-7 (the Proposed Rules)
I thank the SEC for the opportunity to comment on the Proposed Rules.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (Metro) is a political subdivision of the State of Texas. I understand that under the Proposed Rules the SEC would include the Metro Board in the definition of municipal advisor, and that we would be subject to rules including requirements to register. We would also be required to take on burdens of record keeping, training and disclosure as well as any additional requirements the SEC might impose in the future. We would be required to pay to register with the MSRB.
The Authority develops, maintains and operates a public mass transportation system that includes buses, rail and paratransit services. Metro is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors. Five are nominated by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council. Two are appointed by the mayors of METRO's 14 other member cities. Two are nominated by the Harris County Judge and confirmed by the County Commissioners.
Directors may receive pay up to $50 per meeting. Some directors refuse all pay.
Our board members include attorneys, engineers and an architect. I am the only financial professional, but I do not specialize in the municipal market.
When Metro Board members are called on to approve the issuance of debt, we rely on the advice of paid professional municipal financial advisors and attorneys. We do not ourselves provide advice with respect to structure, timing, terms and other technical matters. Upon receipt of expert advice, we act with our best intentions on behalf of Metro.
As appointed members, we are held accountable to the citizens of the entity by the elected officials who appointed us. Those officials can readily replace us at the end of our two year terms. Therefore I believe it would be appropriate to treat Metro board members in the same way under the Rules as the elected officials who appoint us. Those elected officials are not included in the definition.
In closing, I believe it is not fair or reasonable to request that we register as advisors and take on the burdens of registration, record keeping, training, and disclosure. Such consequences including time, money and legal obligations will have a chilling effect on the willingness to citizens to serve on the Metro board.
Gilbert Garcia, Chairman
Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Harris County, Texas