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'Caltrain passengers in great peril': San Mateo County supervisors criticize tax plan from SF supervisors

A sales tax proposed on Tuesday by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to support Caltrain, which would be assessed in all three counties the commuter rail serves, has drawn criticism from San Mateo County supervisors. Photo by Veronica Weber.

A sales tax proposed on Tuesday by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to support Caltrain, which would be assessed in all three counties the commuter rail serves, drew immediate criticism from San Mateo County supervisors.

County officials, who are promoting instead what they are calling a "clean" ballot measure, said the San Francisco proposal would impose too many conditions on the release of funding.

"The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an alternative sales tax measure that is illegal, unwinnable at the polls, and unworkable for Caltrain," San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said in a statement on Tuesday. "Unless amended, this poison pill means the Caltrain sales tax is now dead, which puts the railroad in great peril."

The measure would impose a 0.125% (one-eighth percent) sales tax and would appear on the November ballot in San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties.

Before reaching the ballot, however, the measure must be approved by each county's board of supervisors, each county's transit agency, and the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Boards, known as the JPB, which oversees Caltrain. The JPB is made up of representatives from each of the three counties.

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The measure would provide Caltrain with dedicated funding; it now depends on passenger fares and contributions from member agencies. But the funds would be withheld unless the JPB meets several conditions, including changing its governance.

One condition is that there be an independent special counsel and auditor for the JPB, separate from the lawyer and auditor of the San Mateo County Transit District, known as SamTrans, which is responsible for running Caltrain day to day.

Another condition is that the tax revenue be held in an escrow account under the control of the JPB until its governance structure changes.

"In essence the Joint Powers Board is a paper board," San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said at Tuesday's meeting. "Yes, I'm saying it. No, this is not a power grab (by San Francisco)."

Peskin said, "It is time to extract Caltrain from SamTrans and their intermingling of responsibilities and potentially funding."

If the JPB doesn't makes changes in time, or Caltrain does not receive enough federal funding, the measure proposed in San Francisco provides for up to $40 million to be released. But the full release of funds depends on the JPB meeting the conditions, and San Mateo County officials worry that this will jeopardize Caltrain's future.

Warren Slocum, president of San Mateo County's Board of Supervisors, tweeted on Tuesday that the ballot measure was "legally flawed" and would put "thousands of Caltrain passengers in great peril."

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'Caltrain passengers in great peril': San Mateo County supervisors criticize tax plan from SF supervisors

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 30, 2020, 1:44 pm

A sales tax proposed on Tuesday by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to support Caltrain, which would be assessed in all three counties the commuter rail serves, drew immediate criticism from San Mateo County supervisors.

County officials, who are promoting instead what they are calling a "clean" ballot measure, said the San Francisco proposal would impose too many conditions on the release of funding.

"The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an alternative sales tax measure that is illegal, unwinnable at the polls, and unworkable for Caltrain," San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said in a statement on Tuesday. "Unless amended, this poison pill means the Caltrain sales tax is now dead, which puts the railroad in great peril."

The measure would impose a 0.125% (one-eighth percent) sales tax and would appear on the November ballot in San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties.

Before reaching the ballot, however, the measure must be approved by each county's board of supervisors, each county's transit agency, and the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Boards, known as the JPB, which oversees Caltrain. The JPB is made up of representatives from each of the three counties.

The measure would provide Caltrain with dedicated funding; it now depends on passenger fares and contributions from member agencies. But the funds would be withheld unless the JPB meets several conditions, including changing its governance.

One condition is that there be an independent special counsel and auditor for the JPB, separate from the lawyer and auditor of the San Mateo County Transit District, known as SamTrans, which is responsible for running Caltrain day to day.

Another condition is that the tax revenue be held in an escrow account under the control of the JPB until its governance structure changes.

"In essence the Joint Powers Board is a paper board," San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said at Tuesday's meeting. "Yes, I'm saying it. No, this is not a power grab (by San Francisco)."

Peskin said, "It is time to extract Caltrain from SamTrans and their intermingling of responsibilities and potentially funding."

If the JPB doesn't makes changes in time, or Caltrain does not receive enough federal funding, the measure proposed in San Francisco provides for up to $40 million to be released. But the full release of funds depends on the JPB meeting the conditions, and San Mateo County officials worry that this will jeopardize Caltrain's future.

Warren Slocum, president of San Mateo County's Board of Supervisors, tweeted on Tuesday that the ballot measure was "legally flawed" and would put "thousands of Caltrain passengers in great peril."

— Bay City News Service

Comments

resident
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 30, 2020 at 2:33 pm
resident, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 30, 2020 at 2:33 pm
10 people like this

Management of Caltrain is not a new issue. Why is San Mateo County so hard headed about keeping exclusive control of Caltrain? San Francisco has been asking for shared leadership for years.


Another Resident
Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 30, 2020 at 4:11 pm
Another Resident, Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 30, 2020 at 4:11 pm
9 people like this

@resident

The reason San Mateo County is hard headed about keeping exclusive control over Caltrain is that the county paid for it. About 30 years ago, it put up the money to buy the rail right of way. The other two counties were supposed to pay San Mateo back one day, but never did. Eventually, all parties agreed San Mateo County would run Caltrain to reflect its greater financial investment not matched by SF and Santa Clara.

Now, the other two counties want equal control. If they really want that, they need to pay their fair share with interest. Instead, they are using political maneuvering to get equal control.


Enough
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 30, 2020 at 7:35 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 30, 2020 at 7:35 pm
25 people like this

If no one is riding CalTrain and they can not afford to stay afloat without a new sales tax in these three counties why are they pouring money into electrifying the rail line to accomodate more trains. It seems that the money they are spending erecting all the wire lines and purchasing new electric locomotives would be better spend keeping the current trains running until they can get ridership back and stop losing money. It is a sure thing that once they get ahold of a sales tax they will never let it end, we will be paying for this for the next 100 years.


Gravy Train
another community
on Jul 30, 2020 at 8:47 pm
Gravy Train, another community
on Jul 30, 2020 at 8:47 pm
23 people like this

Follow the money. Where does it go? To employees and contractors. That is the purpose of Caltrain. More money for employees and contractors. Running trains is a hobby.


Thomas Paine
Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jul 31, 2020 at 8:42 am
Thomas Paine, Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jul 31, 2020 at 8:42 am
12 people like this

We need to save the train! The 3 people who ride it every day will be devastated if it ends service.


STAY AT HOME?
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:45 pm
STAY AT HOME?, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:45 pm
11 people like this

So, here's the situation (as I see it). The people who need to commute the most are at the bottom of the income ladder. They are the ones who can't afford Caltrain. They take buses or ride bikes. AND, they can't and don't work at home. (BTW: They are also the most populous victims of this Pandemic, and they can't afford to stay home.) So, Caltrain is, today, an under-utilized, over-priced, white-collar transit mode. Our tax dollars subsidize their commute. In other words, it's not actually public mass transit. Will Caltrain ridership ever return to its prior 60K per day? Maybe yes; maybe no. At this moment, who manages (or mismanages) it is really not the central issue or problem. And a tax to sustain Caltrain does not resolve these more fundamental problems. So, what's this all about? "Gravy Train" above, said it: "Follow the money."



morris brown
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:49 pm
morris brown, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:49 pm
2 people like this

This morning in a completely un-expected action, the San Francisco County Transportation Agency FAILED to approve the proposed Sales Tax Ballot measure which was approved by the SF Supervisors.

This action essentially means that the proposed Sales Tax Ballot measure for the November 2020 ballot will not appear.

To get on the ballot, 7 agencies or boards, needed to approve the exact same ballot language, which the SF Supers had approved and which included approval of Governance changes at Caltrain.


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