Almanac

Viewpoint - September 24, 2008

Guest opinion: Why I'm voting against the High Speed Rail Initiative

by Rich Cline

California voters are being asked this November to vote on a $10 billion dollar bond to support the initial design of a high-speed rail (HSR) connecting San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego. The proponents of this measure cite its many potential benefits: reduced air and automobile congestion, an increase in construction jobs, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, increased economic vitality, etc.

I get it. We need more and better transit if we are to stave off the environmental catastrophe that global warming threatens. And a few years ago, before my election to the Menlo Park City Council, these arguments probably would have been enough to convince me to vote in favor of the bond measure. But I'm not supporting this measure because there is more to the story.

The city of Menlo Park recently joined the lawsuit challenging the High Speed Rail Authority's (HSRA) environmental impact report (EIR). We did so because the EIR did not address our concerns on the potential impacts to our city. Menlo Park has sent four different letters, beginning in 2004, requesting answers to our questions. The only answer that we have received is that our questions will be addressed in the next EIR — AFTER the $10 billion HSR bond vote. Joining the lawsuit appears to be the only way to get the HSRA to pay attention to our concerns.

The Menlo Park City Council has a right — no, an obligation — to question the effects that this project would have on our community. Our concerns are typical local land-use and quality-of-life issues. What is the projected footprint of the project? Will the train be elevated on a wall, dividing our town in half? What happens to the homes and businesses that border the tracks? Will any of our four crossings have to be closed? Can the train be put in a trench or underground? Where will the train line go during construction? How much say will Menlo Park and other local jurisdictions have in what happens in our community? Why can't the train stop in San Jose?

We asked these questions again at a recent study session on high-speed rail. Once again, we received no answers. Instead, the chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority, Quentin Kopp, called our study session "shabby" and "disrespectful." Since when is it shabby and disrespectful for a local entity to ask questions about a major project in its community? And why should it cost $10 billion dollars just to get the basic answers to our community concerns?

Call me a NIMBY if you must. But this is not a case of "Not In My Back Yard." It is a case of "What Will Be In My Backyard?"

The Menlo Park City Council serves Menlo Park. It is my imperative to put our city at the forefront. There is just too much at risk and too little information at this time.

Much more is to come. For now, I'm voting no.

Rich Cline is a Menlo Park council member.

Comments

Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 24, 2008 at 10:06 am

Thank you Rich, for doing your job, the job you were elected for.
And, thank you for doing it well.

Whether people are for or against the train is not the issue. What we are in for if the train arrives, is the issue. If the train promoters can't or won't tell us what we are in for, we should not be buying fantasies and empty dreams. It's our money, it's our town, it's our state. Only dumb people spend money without finding out what they are and aren't buying. We are not dumb.

Thanks, Rich and Kelly, for making that clear to the people who are so desperate to take our money and run.


Posted by Morris Brown, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 24, 2008 at 10:56 am

Let me add my thanks to you also Rich.

And more thanks to Kelly Fergusson, Heyward Robinson and Rich Cline, for voting Council approval of a formal Resolution 5826, taking a strong position opposing Proposition 1A, at the meeting last evening (9/23/08)

You can view the resolution as passed by Council at:

Web Link

Morris Brown
Stone Pine Lane, MP


Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 25, 2008 at 8:34 am

Have you been watching the news in the last 24 hours?

Is there a parallel between this national credit crisis with a $700 billion bail-out by the taxpayers, and the high-speed rail bond issue for $10 billion?

Both are borrowed money. Who do you suppose will have to repay it?

Both are promoted by politicians whose treasuries, national and state, are in deep debt.

Both will benefit organizations that are famous for ripping off their customers and us taxpayers.

Both are being marketed as a less expensive alternative to doing "nothing;" that is, support us or be very afraid.

Both are based on very little accurate information for the taxpayers, and we are hearing lots of "trust us, we know what we are doing." Yeah, right!

Both have very questionable backgrounds and histories.

At least, with the high-speed train bond measure, we know more than enough to "Just Say No."


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