Residents said 'nay', and so did the mayor, but the Menlo Park City Council voted 3-1 to retain high-speed rail lobbyist Ravi Mehta of Capital Advocates through December.
The council subcommittee, consisting of Rich Cline and Kelly Fergusson, had recommended approving a $50,000 contract with Mr. Mehta. But the discussion during Tuesday night's (Feb. 28) meeting suggested that colleagues Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki were worried about the city's bottom line.
Councilman Andy Cohen recused himself, as he does for all high-speed rail discussions because he lives near the proposed line.
Previously, Mr. Mehta worked for Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Atherton, but the latter two cities dropped his services earlier this year. Mr. Cline reasoned that given Menlo Park's "do it right" stance on high-speed rail, as opposed to Palo Alto's and Atherton's "just say no" position, the city needs its own lobbyist.
Mr. Cline also expressed a lack of confidence in the California High-Speed Rail Agency, which he said wants to recirculate a still-flawed environmental impact report (EIR) based on a design Menlo Park doesn't support, while the governor pushes the project forward. "I think we're going to be outgunned and outmanned again when the EIR comes out," he commented.
Before casting the dissenting vote, Mayor Keith said she didn't support paying $5,000 a month plus expenses for a lobbyist right now, given the loss of the city's redevelopment agency, but was willing to reconsider in a couple of months. "I want to watch the (high-speed rail) situation," she commented. "And I know Ravi's not going away. He's going to be there."
The subcommittee's arguments for keeping the lobbyist appeared to sway Mr. Ohtaki. "Both of you are saying this is a critical time," he said, and voted to approve the contract with the caveat that it be closely supervised and the cost reduced wherever possible.