The star performer was board member Rod Diridon, the San Jose-based advocate of high-speed rail and longtime rail-transit visionary, who disclosed that he and fellow board member Quentin Kopp have been "instructed" by staff to not speak in the Midpeninsula.
It seems they are treated rudely by residents, who tend to shout at them. He said only if and when area audiences become more polite will he and Kopp return.
This was at the same Thursday (Aug. 5) meeting where staff reports ruled out either a deep tunnel or covered trench as alternatives for the Palo Alto/Midpeninsula segment, leaving open-trench, at grade or elevated tracks from which to choose — all of which are deeply unacceptable to Midpeninsula communities.
Even worse, it now appears that all alternatives will require a wider right of way than at present — up to possibly 96 feet.
And, surprise again, it turns out all alternatives may require the taking of either one or two lanes of Alma Street, a major north-south thoroughfare in Palo Alto, according to the latest engineering analysis. The traffic impacts would be horrendous.
It will vastly expand the number of residents outraged at potential impacts on their neighborhoods. They will join those already shocked, disappointed and angered by the history of incomplete, misleading, slanted or otherwise flawed information provided to date on this project — as documented in three separate credible reports (discussed in the July 16 Weekly editorial and news stories).
There is, of course, no excuse in a democratic setting for a speaker to be jeered at, booed or interrupted by anonymous shouts from the audience — such as the "Give me a break!" shout at last week's authority board meeting. This prompted a mini-lecture from Diridon about that being a sick form of democracy.
What he ignores, however, is that it was his own appearance before the Palo Alto City Council in late 2008 and to local audiences (back in the "polite" days before the Palo Alto Rotary Club, for instance) that set much of the tone for the present confrontational environment. He essentially told the elected officials that the Peninsula route is a done deal and brushed off their concerns.
And he has repeatedly shown bias against tunneling in citing its cost, even while pointing out that it is illegal for authority representatives to show favoritism for one alternative over another <0x0214> as if that made it OK to prejudge tunneling.
The attitudinal damage this "done deal" message created has lingered. It helped set the tone for rude reactions to the perceived arrogance and rudeness from the rail authority representatives. The best advice the authority staff could give them is to just stop talking.
Now, with tunneling and covered-trenching alternatives buried for the Midpeninsula, Diridon has the effrontery — in apparently unconscious but thickly ironic comments — to say that Midpeninsula officials and residents need to move off their "entrenched" positions and help the rail project move forward.
In our July 16 editorial we agreed with state Sen. Joe Simitian that if the rail authority can't get its act together by early 2011 "high speed rail done right" will likely lose his, and our, support. Rich Gordon, in his successful primary-election campaign for state Assembly last spring, also called for a reformulation of the rail authority board.
We also need a new, hard look at stopping the system in San Jose, even if it requires taking the measure back to voters with that alternative.
But with the brand-new information about Alma Street and disclosure of more misinformation about the right-of-way required we don't think the state can wait until early 2011. We need a new governing entity for high-speed rail, free of the bias of board members who are high-speed-rail zealots in the guise of public officials. The Legislature is the place where that should begin, and the sooner the better.