City to hire high-speed-rail lobbyist


The city of Menlo Park has hired a lobbyist to make the city's case to Sacramento when it comes to the California high-speed-rail project, and has devoted $200,000 for the upcoming fiscal year to rail issues.

The expenditures highlight the importance of the issue to city officials, as Menlo Park strains to balance its budget following the economic recession. The upcoming year will be a particularly crucial one for the rail system, with a decision pending on how high-speed trains would make their way through the city.

Ravi Mehta, the lobbyist in the city's employ, also advocates for Palo Alto on the issue. He works on a retainer of $5,000 per month, plus expenses. Mr. Mehta will represent the city to the rail agency board and to legislators, and will report to city officials on new developments, according to Mayor Rich Cline.

"It's not really equitable," Mr. Cline said. "The High-Speed Rail Authority has the ability to call a public hearing pretty much whenever they want. ... We have to schedule who's going to Sacramento, and most of the time it ends up being a resident. It's a great disadvantage for the city."

City officials spend a lot of time drafting and revising letters to the rail agency that end up going "straight into a file" once they reach Sacramento, Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson said, adding that the city needs an advocate who's present at the meetings if it wants to be heard.

Ms. Fergusson sits on the city's high-speed rail subcommittee with Mr. Cline, who chairs a regional advocacy group made up of representatives from five Peninsula cities. Mr. Cline estimates that he spends 15 to 20 hours per week in his role on the committee, almost as much time as he devotes to other city business issues.

Part of the city's rail-related budget will go to hire experts who will help to interpret technical documents released by the rail agency. It's scheduled to publish an analysis in April of how the Caltrain corridor would accommodate high-speed trains.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we reported that Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline spends an average of 15 to 20 hours per month working on high-speed-rail issues. In fact he spends 15 to 20 hours per week.

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Like this comment
Posted by Chuck D.
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 30, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Why is the city wasting all of this money? The voters clearly want HSR. What a waste!

Like this comment
Posted by NONIMBYS
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Mar 30, 2010 at 11:06 pm

HOW much more time do you sissy pannsys need to "talk"

Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2010 at 1:27 am

It's just another stalling tactic ... anything to slow down the project in the hope that it'll drive costs/complications up and have a chance at killing it. Do you really think these cities give a crap about ridership estimates, etc.? This is just something to hide behind and at the same time a cynical grab at any handle that might provide traction in slowing or stopping the project. And if all the tunneling demands don't suffocate it in mountains of cost overruns (which the very same folks demanding tunnels will be the first to scream about), then at least they'll get their unjust and self-serving real estate value boost from putting a railroad in continuous operation since 1863 into a tunnel using OPM (other people's money).

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 31, 2010 at 7:24 am


you say they want to have the HSR in tunnels with other peoples money. who do you think is paying for HSR in the first place? That's right, OPM. There are those of us that live near the tracks that are concerned about trains running every five minutes at over 100 mph. There are those of us that are concerned that this is going to be just another in a long line of money sucks that are dragging this state down into bankruptcy. Ridership figures are important. How do you think HSR will pay for itself?

Like this comment
Posted by Chuck D.
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 31, 2010 at 10:04 am

Menlo Voter,

I'm sorry but you knew what you were getting into when you moved near the tracks.

You can't stand in the way of progress.

Like this comment
Posted by millennial mistake
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 31, 2010 at 10:55 am

Most of us who are opposed to HSR live nowhere near the tracks. But almost everyone who lives on the peninsula between 101 and 280 will be negatively affected by the imposition of this ridiculous boondoggle of a project that will provide few benefits at great inconvenience. And everyone in the state is impacted by the fact that California is rapidly going broke and that money that could and should be directed to education and other investments in our future is instead being diverted to a project that embodies 19th century technologies.

Some of you apparently still haven't figured out that HSR isn't about us, the taxpayers. It's about enriching developers who own property in relatively inaccessible parts of the state and it's about stroking the egos of some self-promoting politicians.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 31, 2010 at 1:19 pm


there was no discussion of HSR running down the Caltrain corridor when I purchased my home. Just deisel trains and discussion of someday electrifing those trains. They also only run every 20 minutes or so and aren't traveling at 100 mph. So, no I didn't know I was in line for HSR.

I can stand in the way of progress. Especially when it is not financially prudent nor feasable. If the ridership isn't there it will end up having to be subsidized just like every other rail system in the country. Guess where that money will come from. That's right, higher taxes. Are you interested in higher taxes? I'm not.

Like this comment
Posted by Chuck D.
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 1, 2010 at 9:41 am

No. I'm sorry that you did not have the foresight to anticipate change. That lack of foresight should not and will not get in the way of progress.

What about those people who had houses where our highways are now? If we listened to them, we wouldn't have our convenient highway system.

About taxes: our taxes pay city managers an obscene amount of money. If you want to lower taxes, help clean house and vote out the pro-union council.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm


it always amazes me how those of you living in Atherton are so ready to tell those of us living in Menlo Park how to run our town. Given all the controversey going on in your own town I think you ought to clean your own house before you start giving us advise.

As to folks that had houses in the way of highways; those house were purchased by the state. You want to purchase my house?

My primary problem with HSR is that it is a financial boondoggle. It will end needing to be subsidized at great cost to you and me.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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