March 1, 2011 City Council transcript regarding Council Member Fergusson's trip to Washington DC to meet with several Congress persons to "influence folks on funding for High Speed Rail."
Cline: Kelly if you want to do something real quick on the rail meeting.
Fergusson: So, I would suggest, at our subcommittee meeting we had a um legislative report on um the work that our advocate is doing and also there was a letter from San Mateo. Should we agendize these for a future? Um, I thought maybe the legislative report could come in some form as an informational item so you could see the bills, and see who's carrying them.
Cline: I think with the letter, we're going to bring it back to council too.
Fergusson: ya, the letter I was thinking could go on to the subcommittee report agenda and then, OK um, and then I am, uh, I do have plans to uh go uh to Washington with our um advocate Ravi Mehta. Um, I think the, without going into like a long song and dance, you know the purpose is to educate members of congress um uh, I don't know if I should go into what the plan, you know, the plan of who to meet with, but um...
Cline: To influence folks on funding for the high speed rail.
Fergusson: Ya, ya.
Cline: To understand that the ridership numbers are limited, and that we'd like there to be more oversight into that.
Fergusson: Oversight, yep, yep, yep and then, you know like if, to um to make the two track option more real you know, to um request for that billion dollars for electrification and, and positive train control. And then we'd hope to meet, um, not just with um our advocates, um, folks that he has relationships with, um we'd certainly aim to meet with our, um uh with Anna Eshoo and with Jackie Speier as well.
Keith: OK, ya. I um, I don't have any information about this, this is the first I've heard of this. So who's going, and how is this? And who's the? I don't know who the advocate is, I've never met him.
Cline: Ravi Mehta is our lobbyist. He's been our lobbyist for two years.
Cline: And in public sessions [we] have voted to pay him, and hire him.
Keith: So is, why isn't he just going? I don't understand why we...
Fergusson: I think it's a lot more powerful if members of, as we heard, you know, from public comment this morning, I mean, it's a lot more powerful if elected members from the effected communities are there carrying the message as well and, um, so.
Keith: OK, I guess I'm...
Fergusson: Larry Klein from Palo Alto is going. I think it's really good to have a balance, you know, across the county boundary um, and just make sure that are representatives are, and make sure that our particular voice is heard.
Keith: I guess that since I don't really know what the message is, that is being conveyed, and that I haven't approved any message to be conveyed, and so I'm unclear about all this, this doesn't makes sense to me.
Cline: Do you want to have a vote on the cities position on high speed rail?
Keith: Well, I'd like to know exactly what is going, what the purpose is, and I heard something about a two track option and rail, two million for electrification, I mean, I don't ah, this is the first I've heard of this.
Fergusson: So, I think, you know, generally speaking, just like last year, beginning of last year, folks in Sacramento, um...
Cline: Let's make sure we narrow this down.
Cline: We're not debating the city's position on high speed rail, tonight. We're not debating the hiring of a lobbyist tonight. If we want to have that debate, I'm willing to have that on any Tuesday night, publicly, and have that debate, because we've been on this for two and a half years. It's been in every newspaper, everywhere, the idea is whether you're going to D.C. is what the question is. Does that offer more value? What's that position going to be. I want to keep that and narrow it down, so that we don't get into a high speed rails discussion that we don't need to have, in that nothing has been outside the public light, on our position on high speed rail, so that's what it ultimately comes down to.
Fergusson: Ya, so I'm there to represent the council's position.
Cline: Do you think, do you disagree with that?
Keith: I don't think it's necessary, I don't, we've hired a lobbyist, and that's the goal or the purpose of the lobbyist, I think that's fine, and I think, you know, Anna Eshoo has an office in Palo Alto, Jackie Speier has one in San Mateo. I don't see the need for it.
Fergusson: Should, maybe I should elaborate a little bit more. I mean, we do have, an op..., we've um, we do have an opportunity to meet with Darell Issa, um, who is the chairman of the congressional oversight. We've had, you know, we're in this mess because there hasn't been oversight over the high speed rail authority there, you know we, there has been a requirement for rider... of, of credible ridership studies and there's been a requirement for a business plan, and they haven't materialized, um so I think it's important from that perspective to educate the members of congress about, you know, with this being very much a federally funded program um, that tax payer money is being spent on wisely.
Keith: but what's the two million for electrification, cause I...
Fergusson: it's a billion.
Keith: What is this for?
Fergusson: Well, I uh...
Keith: Is that high speed rail money?
Fergusson: Yes, I mean, as as to the extent that this corridor is a high speed, has been designated as a high speed rail corridor, is potentially a high speed rail corridor, um that uh action, or that funding um electrification would make a two track option more viable, so it just puts more options on the table. It would just put more options on the table for um uh consideration in an EIR.
Keith: Is this something we're voting on?
Fergusson: No it's the report.
Cline: We can't, no.
Rojas: It's not agendized.
Cline: Ya, your input has impact, so.
Keith: OK, well I feel, I think that the advocate should go.
Keith: I'm not sure we need a council member to go, I think it's fine if, you know, the advocate wants to go, and that's what we pay him for, then great.
Cline: OK, thoughts?
Ohtaki: I have a, I was on my, I have my light on to do a report, but I will just say, if you get the chance to, um, have a meeting with Darell Issa, I mean, I think that's a good idea because, there, I'm sure that the oversight committee is gonna, gonna want to know about the issues and concerns about the study, so um so I em that's going to be a key meeting, if you go, so .
Cline: Um, what's the date?
Fergusson: Um, Tuesday's a travel day. It's Wednesday uh, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.
Cline: And is there a calendar of the meetings?
Fergusson: Not at this time.
Cline: Does Ravi have one?
Fergusson: I mean, I don't.
Fergusson: You know I'm not setting anything up myself.
Cline: Is Ravi, has he sent anything? Do you guys have any report on when the meeting is?
Starla: No, I talked to him last week, and he was in the process of putting together the specific meetings, but I've not received an itinerary.
Fergusson: I could give a little bit more, just so that um Darell Issa, I think that one is set, um Kevin McCarthy is another one who's the majority whip, um, in the house that he is attempting to get a meeting with, I don't think there's any confirmation there, I think he's attempting to get a meeting with Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, um and then there's one other um, at least one other name that he mentioned to me uh I don't know all five hundred, so.
Cline: And there's, what's the projected cost?
Fergusson: So, um his projected expenses are something along the lines of two thousand, um, that would be split between four cities. My expenses, I think would, I think I got a air flight that was between four and five hundred dollars, and um the uh hotel, it's I mean it's, hotels are expensive, it's about four hundred dollars a night for two nights.
Cline: OK, just about fifteen hundred dollars total, something like that. I'd like to get a list of the meetings as fast as possible from Ravi so we can see what that, I think he really owes that to us.
Starla: I'll be glad to ask him for that, and then we'll send it out to the full council.
Rojas: It's not unusual when you go to, especially to Washington DC, that you get last minute itineraries. The lobbyists are trying to get scheduled times with congressmen or senators, they typically don't commit, but as soon as we can get it, we'll make sure that.
Cline: Ya, I agree with that but I, it's like in any industry you have what's the projected outcome? Right?
Cline: What are the meetings we're trying to get in?
Rojas: That's right.
Cline: Ninety percent of it, great, but I’d just like to see a list of it, and get an understanding, and I do agree with the need to get in the face of some of these people, who have not spent time on this. They've actually, the only time they've spent is listening to the rest of their party tell them that this is an opportunity to take on the other party, and that's not enough context. The fact is we have serious issues with our ridership projections, the economics um of this, there are opportunities as well, but I think communicating the finesse points that have been, get lost along the muck out here. There's a bunch of very loud who are not representative of Menlo Park. I think that often times is troubling for me, they're louder than we are. They actually fund their own trips, every other week, to go out there and meet with people, so it's a, we’re gotta make sure we have representation, but your point, is do we need council members and the lobbyists, which is a point that I think anyone could share. Do we need that, so.
Fergusson: I would just point to the success that we've had in Sacramento, over the past year. We've gone from a position where, you know, everyone was like poo-pooing our position, to that's kind-of the majority position now.
Fergusson: Like people "get it", um that there's a big problem with the ridership, and a big problem with the business plan, and and and and some of the uh practices of the authority but um uh so, you know, I think we've seen that going up, making that trip, as we have done uh, many times, has helped.
Cline: Other reports, Peter?