Rod Diridon not renamed to rail authority board

After a decade on the board, he is replaced in a last-minute round of appointments by outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Longtime transportation advocate Rod Diridon Sr. will not be reappointed to the California High Speed Rail Authority board, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in a last-minute round of appointments Thursday.

Diridon, who was first named to the nine-member board in 2001, has pushed hard for the high-speed-rail project, currently estimated to cost about $43 billion to link San Francisco to Los Angeles.

In Diridon's place, Schwarzenegger appointed Matt Toledo, publisher of the Los Angeles Business Journal, along with four others, the governor's press office announced. The governor gets to name five members of the board, while the state Senate and Assembly each get to name two.

Schwarzenegger reappointed Curt Pringle, the current chairman of the authority board, and members Lynn Schenk, and David Crane, a special adviser to Schwarzenegger.

A vacancy due to the resignation of former board member Richard Katz was filled by the appointment of Thomas Richards, a Fresno real estate developer and a major donor to Schwazenegger's "California Dream Team" in 2009.

Diridon anticipated not being reappointed, according to news reports. He told the San Jose Mercury Friday that the change has been "signaled for quite some time." He said Schwarzenegger wanted people with "very strong business backgrounds" on the rail board as it moves into the construction phases of the project, the Mercury reported.

Diridon is executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University, and was dubbed the "father of transit" in Silicon Valley and region for his nearly 40 years of advocacy, including 20 years on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. He was given major credit for the creation of the county's light-rail system.

His departure from the board comes to mixed reviews from South Bay, with some officials expressing concern about the loss of a voice from the area on the authority board while others opposing surface or elevated high-speed rail through their Peninsula communities felt Diridon was dismissive of their concerns.

His full biography is on the authority's website:

Rod Diridon, Sr., the son of an immigrant Italian railroad brakeman, is the "father" of modern transit service in California's Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County). His political career began in 1972 as the youngest person ever elected to the Saratoga City Council. He recently retired because of term limits, after completing 20 years and six terms as chairperson of both the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Transit Board.

He is the only person to have chaired the San Francisco Bay Area's (nine counties and 104 cities) three regional governments: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Rod has chaired over 100 international, national, state and local community service programs and projects, most related to transit and the environment. He served, in 1993, as the chairperson of the American Public Transit Association in Washington, D.C., and more recently as the North American Vice President of the International Transit Association in Brussels.

He has been an advisor to the Federal Transit Administration and in 1995 chaired the National Research Council's Transit Oversight and Project Selection Committee. Rod currently chairs the NRC's Transportation Research Board's study panel on "Combating Global Warming Through Sustainable Transportation Policy." He is frequently asked to provide testimony to Congressional Committees.

Promoting international understanding and commerce, then-Supervisor Diridon founded and has been the principal liaison for the Santa Clara County Sister County Commissions with the Province of Florence, Italy, and the Region of Moscow in Russia. He has given speeches promoting mass transportation and environmental protection in over 45 U.S. cities and a dozen foreign countries.

Rod is on the corporate boards of directors of the San Jose National Bank and the Empire Broadcasting Company. From 1969 to 1976, he founded and served as president of the Decision Research Institute, where he developed a "shared survey" research procedure subsequently adopted by the UNICEF of the United Nations.

In 1976, Rod chaired the campaign for the first successful 1/2-cent sales tax for transit in California, and subsequently chaired five successful transit master plan elections and tax measures. He was the Northern California co-chair for both the 1988 Dukakis and the 1992 Clinton campaigns and several others.

He is president and founder of the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation, chairs the area's League of Conservation Voters Board, and is active in numerous community programs promoting environmental protection, historic preservation and youth programs. He is especially proud of son Rod, Jr. (a Santa Clara City Council member), and daughter Mary Margaret (a County youth counselor/medical social worker). Rod is currently the executive director of the Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies created by Congress in 1991.

Rod earned both B.S. in accounting and M.S. in business administration from San Jose State University, and was a Naval Officer with two Vietnam combat tours. He was chosen one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of America in 1972, listed in Who's Who in America since 1974, and among the ten most influential Silicon Valley leaders since 1980. He was recently named one of the "Millennium 100" who contributed most to the success of Silicon Valley. Upon his retirement from elected office in 1994, the historic Amtrak/Caltrain Station in San Jose was renamed the San Jose Diridon Station in his honor. He has received numerous other awards and citations.

Appointed by the Governor of the State of California.

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Like this comment
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2011 at 12:12 pm

This is a setback for opponents of high speed rail. Diridon's arrogance and inability to control his mouth helped create the organized opposition to HSR. His huge ego combined with a minimal IQ made him the most effective symbol of the inept group behind HSR.

How long do you think it will be until the first press release announcing his appointment as a highly compensated lobbyist for the foreign rail car builders eager to sell us billions of worthless hardware?

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I hope the California press will monitor any future association Mr. Diridon may have as a lobbyist for rail car builders.

That would be just as despicable as Michael Chertoff's role in getting the TSA to purchase body scanners.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of people who will gladly bankrupt the public for their personal gain.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Diridon is prohibited by law from lobbying HSR until 2012

Like this comment
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2011 at 9:55 pm


Are the prohibitions on lobbying you mention similar to the prohibitions on free first class international trips paid for by HSR suppliers?

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2011 at 4:07 am

Sections 87401 and 87402 – The state “permanent ban” prohibits former state officials from being paid to appear or advise others in a proceeding involving specific parties (e.g., a lawsuit, administrative law judge hearing, or a state contract) in which the official previously participated. (See Sections 87401-87402; Regulation 18741.1.)

Section 87406 – The state “one-year ban” prohibits certain state officials, for one year after leaving state service, from being paid to represent other persons before their former agency for the purpose of influencing the agency’s decisions in specified legislative or administrative actions or other actions involving the issuance, amendment, awarding, or revocation of a permit, license, grant, or contract, or the sale or purchase of goods or property. (See Section 87406; Regulation 18746.1.)

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2011 at 4:58 am

The one-year ban applies to appearances and communications made within 12 months of permanently leaving state office or employment. An appearance or communication includes all of the following:
 Conversing by telephone or in person.
 Corresponding in writing or by electronic communication.
 Attending a meeting.
 Delivering or sending any communication. (Regulation 18746.2.)

An appearance or communication is prohibited only if the former official is compensated, or promised compensation. (Regulation 18746.1(b)(3).) “Compensation” has been defined broadly to include “remuneration or payment of any kind.” (Souza Advice Letter, No. A-06-114.) “Payment” is defined by the Act to mean a “payment, distribution, transfer, loan, advance, deposit, gift or other rendering of money, property, services or anything else of value, whether tangible or intangible.” (Section 82044.)

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