No on B, Faithlessness and Fecklessness | A Pragmatist's Take | Douglas Moran | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

A Pragmatist's Take

By Douglas Moran

E-mail Douglas Moran

About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

View all posts from Douglas Moran

No on B, Faithlessness and Fecklessness

Uploaded: Oct 8, 2016
Measure B is the 30-year half-cent sales tax increase for VTA. The arguments for it focus on what is needed, what it could fund, and what has been agreed to for the funding. Experience is that what will actually get funded is very, very different, and I argue that that expectation calls for a "No" vote.

It is not just a question of whether Palo Alto will receive even a significant fraction of its fair share of the funding. Recognize that if passed, this tax will likely reduce the possibility of Palo Alto being able to pass a tax to fund its unmet transportation needs.

----The Politics----
Santa Clara County's Valley Transit Authority (VTA) is govern by a Board of Directors with 12 voting members and 6 alternates, all of whom are elected officials appointed by the various jurisdictions within the county. The City of San Jose has over half the population of the county, and San Jose City Council members occupy half (5) of the seats that are appointed by the cities. The remaining 5 seat are for Council members from out-county (non-San Jose) cities, and their seats rotate among those cities. The remaining two seats are filled by County Supervisors. Our district (District 5, Simitian) is the only one that doesn't include a significant chunk of San Jose (map). Consequently, the VTA Board often has a majority (7 to 5) that sees itself as representing San Jose: 5 Council member + both Supervisors. The current Supervisors on the VTA Board are Cindy Chavez (District 2 = San Jose) and Ken Yeager (District 4 = San Jose + Santa Clara). The rotation of seats among the out-county cities further reduces their influence because those representatives are constantly getting up to speed, both individually and as a group.

At a neighborhood meeting in December 2015, Council member Cory Wolbach spoke of his experience serving as an Alternate on the VTA Board. He reported that the attitude of the San Jose contingent, and some of the other cities, was that Palo Alto's "streets are paved with gold" and that we should tax ourselves for our transportation needs, that is, the VTA's Board is hostile to funding services for Palo Alto.

San Jose's top priority for VTA is BART to north San Jose. That coalition includes:
- Large property owners: By making their office parks more accessible to workers from the East Bay, their properties become more desirable and hence more valuable.
- Construction companies and associated labor unions: When BART-to-SJ was first proposed, it was rejected for funding by the Feds as being too cost ineffective, and was approved only after substantial political arm-twisting.
- Companies in north San Jose who benefit from having easier access from the East Bay.

San Jose's second priority is bus service for their residents who are dependent on public transit--typically those that can't afford cars. Bus service has gone through repeated contractions as the VTA budget has been both reduced and shifted toward BART, and this priority has been the primary determinant is which bus lines to keep.

The distant third priority has been Light Rail, but this may have faded. This is a system that routinely winds up at the bottom of the lists of such systems in both performance and cost-effectiveness.(foot#1)

----Faithless----
Mayor Burt has worked with other out-county officials and they have negotiated an agreement with San Jose for a fairer, more proportionate spending of the funds to be raised by this tax. Representing San Jose are its Mayor and VTA Board member Sam Liccardo and Carl Guardino, CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) (which is behind the campaign for this tax).

Two questions should immediately pop to mind: Is it likely that SJ/SVLG/VTA will honor this agreement, and if they don't, do we have effective recourse to have it enforced? As best I can tell, the answers are "No" and "No".

The existence of this agreement is evidence that it will not be honored: It wouldn't have been created if SJ-VTA wasn't opposed to it. If SJ-VTA had been agreeable to more equitable sharing of the revenues, that would have been part of the original ballot measure and not a subsequently negotiated agreement. SJ-VTA was forced into this agreement by prominent out-county officials telling SJ-VTA that they would not support the tax measure without such an agreement, and that without their support, the ballot measure would likely fail.

OK. So SJ-VTA doesn't like the agreement's apportionment of revenues and they have the votes on the VTA Board to ignore it once the tax passes. Since the tax would run for 30 years, the "wrath of the voters" is irrelevant as a deterrent. Could we expect the courts to enforce it? The history of court cases related to High Speed Rail (HSR) says "Fat chance!" Repeatedly the courts have twisted facts, logic and the law to let the HSR project proceed. For me the most egregious example was the overriding one of the major "guarantees" in the proposition: That the project would not proceed unless the State found private investors (as a validation of the viability of the project). When no such investors could be found, Gov. Brown allocated funds to HSR from those collected by the State from companies under the Cap-and-Trade program (carbon-credits,...). The court accepted this as those companies choosing to invest in HSR. So even if the agreement is legally enforceable, it seems foolish to expect the courts to not again let politics trump law.

History: The biggest reason not to trust SJ-VTA is the previous sales tax measure: The funding was supposed to be split between BART-to-SJ, Caltrain, buses, ... However, when BART went over budget (and when doesn't BART do so), the VTA was like "Didn't you understand? BART has first call on all the money from that sales tax. Caltrain ... gets whatever is left over." Caltrain got stiffed, and the bus network was greatly reduced. But this was only part of an ongoing pattern of disproportionate resources to San Jose, and of VTA changing what was promised to the voters. Then there was killing the Dumbarton rail connection to give BART its $91M.(foot#2) The feeble responses to these previous diversions of funds probably has SJ-VTA thinking that they can get away with it yet again.

Before you argue "But this time, we can trust them", listen to yourself and then remember "Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!" (no guidance of additional times being fooled).

----Feckless----
The question of allocation of VTA funds extends beyond where and on what it will be spent to how effectively it will be used. I mentioned the abysmal Light Rail system above. But for a recent, prominent example consider the proposal for dedicated bus lanes on El Camino. VTA's position has been that this proposal would not increase congestion on El Camino because vehicles would simply take alternate routes such as Alma and 101. Is VTA so feckless that it is unaware of the congestion on those routes? After all, even if VTA staff is unfamiliar with local traffic conditions, all one needs to do is go to Google Maps and select "Traffic" to see the congestion. VTA didn't care when residents and officials told them that this would push commuter traffic onto residential streets. VTA started paying attention to the problem only when County Supervisor Joe Simitian made public comments about it. As reported in "Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority seeks to reassure critics of bus-only lanes: Transit agency prepares to make decision on controversial Bus Rapid Transit proposal" (Palo Alto Online, 2015-09-22): " 'My worry is that the continued push for the BRT and dedicated lanes will alienate potential supporters for the transportation tax,' Simitian said Monday. 'I don't think the VTA staff is as sensitive to that possibility as they could or should be.' " For a politician such as Simitian, such a public statement, and a thinly veiled threat at that, usually occurs only after they have long been frustrated in trying to convey their concerns private. Think about that: A County Supervisor has to publicly threaten a County agency in order to get them to even consider what they should have been doing from the beginning many years ago.

I have been told that VTA's position on Caltrain electrification is that Palo Alto will be allowed input on construction details only at the crossing streets, and not the sections between the crossings--the sections adjacent to homes, Palo Alto High School, ...

City Council candidate Arthur Keller has been pointing out that the reduction of bus service (such as the 88 and 35 lines) will make much of Palo Alto ineligible for (federally-funded) Outreach services (paratransit). Ditto for many other out-county areas. There is a substantial number of Palo Alto residents who depend on this service. That is why I said above that the San Jose-dominated VTA seemingly restricts its concern about people who are dependent on public transit to those living in San Jose.

Nor is this the first time the issue of reduction of bus service and Outreach service has come up: It is a repeat of battles in 2007-2009. Then, as now, Keller and Penny Ellson are leading the effort to retain those services.

The frustration with VTA's priorities and performance is such that over the past months I have heard multiple transit advocates say that they were thinking of or expecting to vote against the measure. I didn't probe whether this was a considered decision, just an expression of that frustration, or public statements to try to get VTA to listen (similar to Simitian's statement). However, it does give a sense of how deeply VTA has alienated people that one would expect to be supporters.

When you look at the funding being proposed for Caltrain grade-separation, be aware that there are 48 at-grade intersection along the Caltrain route (last numbers I have). I don't know the split between Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. Nor do I know how many need grade-separation in order to allow an increased Caltrain schedule and how many have low enough cross traffic that grade separation is only desirable, but not necessary. Council member and former Supervisor Liz Kniss talks about the Measure B funding for grade-separation as being primarily for studies. Grade-separation has been a serious issue for 15-20 years and we are still hearing about getting funding for studies? Draw your own inferences.

----Summary----
Don't fall into the trap of saying that because we have substantial transportation problems and needs that voting to give VTA a large, long-term funding stream is a solution. Ask whether the projects and services that VTA is likely to fund--as opposed to what it currently says will be funded--will address the County's priorities, or benefit limited special interests and constituencies. And even when the projects themselves have merit, ask whether VTA, given its history, will provide an effective implementation.

Voting No is not a solution, but voting Yes on a 30-year tax may well remove any pressure on VTA-SJ-SVLG to find a solution.

Aside: In addition to making decisions on how to spend local tax revenues, VTA also functions as a conduit for federal and state funds for grants.

My conclusion is that Measure B will provide too little benefit to Palo Alto and might even result in projects that are negatives. Various local officials and candidates are implicitly and explicitly accepting that VTA is largely abandoning Palo Alto, and advocating for significant expansion of the Palo Alto shuttle services. Ask yourself if Measure B passes, will there be enough public support for another transportation tax to fund that shuttle system and related services?

----Footnotes----
1. VTA Light Rail as costly, poor performing: Some articles:
- "Study shows Bay Area's transit systems among nation's most, least cost-efficient", KTVU, 16 September 2012.
- Behind the Mercury-News paywall: "25 years later, VTA light rail still among the nation's worse" by Mike Rosenberg, San Jose Mercury News, circa 31 December 2012 on MercuryNews.com.
- "VTA light-rail extension to Los Gatos: $175 million for 200 new riders" by Mike Rosenberg, San Jose Mercury News, circa 28 November 2012 on MercuryNews.com.

2. "Palo Alto urges greater Caltrain role in proposed tax measure: City Council advocates for more funding for commuter service", Palo Alto Weekly 20 May 2014.
In April, $91M in transit funding for the inactive Dumbarton cross-bay rail project were proposed to be permanently transferred to the BART project rather than used for transit needs in the mid-Peninsula. Those funds had been "loaned" to the BART project and the proposal was to forgive that loan. Who could have seen that coming? Actually many people did when the "loan" was proposed. "BART vs. Dumbarton Rail debate gets testy", The Almanac 29 July 2008.

----
An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.

Comments

 +   5 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Professorville,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 10:08 am

I think you've got it right.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Gladwyn D'Souza, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 3:50 pm

We agree, VTA is not designed to work for the region.
NO2VTAmeasureB.org


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 4:25 pm

"Various local officials and candidates are implicitly and explicitly accepting that VTA is largely abandoning Palo Alto... ."

Judging by the number of passenger-free No. 35 buses I observe downtown at all the hours they run, I'd judge Palo Alto has abandoned VTA. Virtually nobody needs the 35 route. Yet VTA spends beaucoup bucks running those noisy, heavy, carbon-spewing, empty buses. Why?

Dedicated lanes on ECR. I've lost track whether VTA wants the curb or center lanes dedicated in exclusive service to its empire. That they would consider the center lanes at all, where the bus door configuration would force passengers directly into one of the remaining traffic lanes, indicates the VTA suits have not only never ridden one of their buses, they have never seen one up close either.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 5:16 pm

Grade separation seems like a classic long-term investment that ought to be funded with long-term money. With interest rates still at extreme lows, bonds ought to be the preferred mechanism for funding. Instead we're talking about a highly-regressive sales tax. Why?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Allen Akin

Bonds need a revenue stream to pay them off, and sales tax is one way to generate that stream (as are property taxes, income taxes,...).

The list of things covered by the proposed tax include long-term investments, some shorter-term investments. There are also items that are maintenance/operational expenses that would allow VTA to smooth out the variability in sales tax revenue (economic cycles).


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Professorville,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 7:31 pm

@Allen

I suspect there is another explanation: A bond typically funds a project.
And the kicker is: Why would the VTA want to fund a project that they don't care about?

They'd rather have a funding source which allows them to spend the money however they'd like for that time.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Paul, a resident of another community,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 11:02 pm

If the VTA gets this additional revenue stream and need not ask voters for more, the agency will do whatever it likes with this money and other revenue - including bus-only lanes on the left on El Camino Real. Defeat Measure B or spend years wishing you had done so. Let another agency -such as the county - propose the next tax measure and transportation plan.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Transdef, a resident of another community,
on Oct 9, 2016 at 12:06 am

As one of the organizations heavily involved in HSR litigation, I thought it might be useful to connect the dots between VTA and HSR. Rod Diridon, the father of the worst-operating light rail in the US, and Carl Guardino exerted their influence to make the HSR project serve their buddies and not the public. The same pattern you documented so well in this post.

Transdef.org is a proud member of the No on VTA Measure B coalition. We really appreciate the detail in this post.

Let's all go out and kill this turkey!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Todd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 9, 2016 at 12:11 pm

[[Blogger: This bozo is pretending that the main text didn't strongly point out that SJ had a majority of the population. He misrepresents the complaint that SJ is getting a disproportionate amount by characterizing it as SJ getting a "majority of the money". He seems to hold that a majority shouldn't be expected to provide a *fair share* with the rest. And note the circular logic: VTA has concentrated services in SJ resulting in ridership being concentrated there, thus it is OK for VTA to concentrate services in SJ.
]]

Majority of the money being spent in San Jose? Unconscionable! It's not like San Jose has the lion's share of residents and the vast majority of VTA ridership. By all means, residents of East San Jose should be paying sales tax in order to keep up routes like the 88.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 9, 2016 at 9:03 pm

I agree that the past county transportation sales tax measures did not provide the north county with a fair share of the allocations toward projects that helped us. In addition, there were not adequate safeguards that commitments by the VTA would be upheld.
That's why a group of us representing north county city councils worked to achieve very beneficial allocations for the north county. This includes over $1 Billion toward Caltrain modernization, $700 Million of that for the seven grade separations between Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. Four of those grade crossings are in Palo Alto so the benefits to us would be very high. The is a historically beneficial funding for our community.
The other concern is what assurances we have that the funds will be spent as currently allocated in the bond measure. North and west county city representatives, along with County Supervisor Simitian, achieved a series of strong protections that were not in the previous measures. First, a Citizens Watchdog Committee and Annual Independent Audits are part of the measure. Second, Carl Guardino and Joe Simitian pushed through language in the measure that requires a 75% super majority of the VTA board (not merely 75% of members present) for any change at all to the Allocation Plan. This gives the north and west county cities the ability to block changes to the plan.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 9, 2016 at 10:34 pm

I think you have it tight, Doug.
First, light rail is incredibly slow. I have never been on anything this slow before.
Second, there are no rest rooms anywhere on the system. You must leave the train and the station if you need a rest room.
The first item that needs to be completed is grade separations. The north county, PA, MV, S, has needed grade separation ever since I first arrived here in 1964. Forget about the VTA busses as they are mostly empty. Why they waste running double busses that are empty most of the time is beyond me.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 9, 2016 at 11:46 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Pat Burt

> "requires a 75% super majority of the VTA board (not merely 75% of members present)"

The language is "If approved by a 3/4 majority of the VTA Board of Directors, and only after a noticed public meeting...30 days prior..."

My training in writing and interpreting bylaws for organizations was first to be careful to specify whether the majority was of those present or of all voters, with ambiguities being assumed to mean "of those present (if a quorum)". However, this is not bylaws, but formal law so I don't know.

Recognize that a 75% majority of the full 12-member Board is 2 more votes than a simple majority.

In assessing the risk/possibility of a 75% majority, recognize that currently the north and west area of the county have two voting members (Los Altos and Sunnyvale) and one alternate (Mountain View). Remember, the 5 seats for out-county cities rotate.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 10, 2016 at 8:39 am

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

@Doug,
The requirement is for 75% of the VTA membership, not of those present. Also, the north and west county cities have three representatives. Campbell and Jason Baker on the VTA board has been a strong ally within the alliance.
Most importantly, this tax is written with strong safeguards, although not absolute certainty, to provide extremely important transportation funding. With this measure we are on a strong path to funding grade separation sat our Caltrain crossings. Without it I do not see realistic funding sources. It is that clear. Opposition to this tax out of distrust of past actions may be explicable as an emotional response, but it is not a sound decision for this measure. That is why it has received overwhelming support from north county elected officials.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 10, 2016 at 3:13 pm

"Opposition to this tax out of distrust of past actions may be explicable as an emotional response, but it is not a sound decision for this measure."

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That's a basic survival rule, not an emotional response as our mayor tries to dismiss it. Public confidence lost by the past actions of public officials can only be restored by consistent honorable service by their successors. Condescending scoldings don't do it.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> Pat Burt: "Also, the north and west county cities have three representatives. Campbell and Jason Baker on the VTA board has been a strong ally within the alliance."

Sorry, I didn't categorize Campbell as being north or west county, it being surrounded by San Jose to the W, N and E.

The bigger issue is about trust. For a 30-year measure, you have to be able to trust in the institutions, and not count on individuals. For example, I have full confidence that a mayor Pat Burt would fight tooth-and-nail against diversions of the promised funds. But he has only 2.6 months in office before being termed out.

The aftermath of the High-Speed Rail proposition has made a mockery of supposed "strong safeguards", demonstrating a near total breakdown of the institutions (political and judicial).

And the grabbing of the Dumbarton rail funds demonstrated that SJ and BART-to-SJ are willing and very capable of playing a "long game".


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 10, 2016 at 8:12 pm

I believe that this measure as initially presented would have been a spectacular flop at the ballot box because it was a BART only tax. Funding for all the other projects, including Caltrain grade separations, were added to make the measure palatable. Tax payers are tired of funding Carl Guardino's projects, have little faith that SVLG has any integrity when it comes to handling public tax dollars, and VTA as a primary player is a HUGE red flag of a remarkably inept organization in control of 30 years of tax revenues.

Pat Burt makes a compelling case for the tax funding grade separations in Palo Alto, and deserves much credit and thanks for his efforts to make this ballot measure workable. However, $700M for grade separations goes a long way to fund some of the 8 at grade crossings (Alma, Churchill, East Meadow, Charleston Rengstorff, Castro, Mary and Sunnyvale ave) in Santa Clara County along the Caltrain route north of the San Jose station. Which crossings get funded, which do not?

Thanks Doug for another very informative article.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Apple, a resident of another community,
on Oct 11, 2016 at 10:24 am

It's very telling that Pat Burt had to fight for these oversight protections to be added, rather than the VTA putting these strong protections in on their own. That tells me VTA doesn't really care what outlying cities want. They're only adding this protection language in order to get Measure B passed.

VTA is acting out of political necessity, not in true good faith. And if Measure B passes, can we count on VTA not to play some political game in order to divert more funding to BART? I don't trust them based on their past behavior. When push comes to shove (and it always does since BART is perpetually behind schedule and over budget), VTA will show their true colors again.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 11, 2016 at 6:41 pm

'@Doug Moran

You've put up some good arguments based on historical misdeeds, but that is history, 'ago', in the past. I'm going to vote for it based on what Mayor Burt said and his involvement and contribution on this issue. Plus the strong voice of Supervisor Joe Simitian. If that agreement is broken there could be cause for legal action, I think. The CalTrain grade separation is so important and if this is the only hope of getting it done, then that alone is a reason to vote 'Yes'. But, that might conflict with the under grounding idea being floated around by supporters of that approach.

Any thoughts from Mayor Burt or Doug Moran on that would be appreciated.

The VTA bus lane proposal? I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other, but I would like to hear from them...their arguments for it and if they have considered the impacts of commuters taking alternate routes that are already congested that will just add to the problem.

And Doug, even tho Mayor Burt is being termed out as mayor and councilman, (one in which he has served our community with distinction for years), we have several capable CC members that can fill that breach very well. We've got some strong willed council members that won't let PA down. They are fighters.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Oct 11, 2016 at 6:50 pm

To pass Measure B, the Yes-votes must outnumber No-votes by at least 2-to-1, correct?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Patrick Burt, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 11, 2016 at 9:12 pm

@Gale
The funding for grade separations would not conflict with our preferred alternative of a below grade system, but the costs for trenching are likely to be significantly higher.
@Musical
Yes, the requirement is for a super majority for the measure to pass. General taxes can be passed by a simple majority, but special taxes need 2/3. These funds can only be used for our regional transportation projects so they need the 2/3.
@Apple
We did have to work hard for these allocations and protections, but we had good collaboration from the SVLG and VTA. VTA board members and their legal staff were strong supporters of the safeguards.
@Ed
We negotiated that the allocations will not be on a "first come, first served basis" and will instead be evenly distributed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 12, 2016 at 8:59 pm

I believe Gale is correct, Palo Alto really does need grade separations, and this may be the only reasonable 'solution' on the table for the time to come. Thank you Pat Burt for adding details to the comments here. I'll likely support the measure, but still think the combination of VTA, SVLG, and BART is a toxic combination that will make every effort to swindle the the revenues. I hope the fiscal safe guards are followed, or enforced.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 12, 2016 at 10:19 pm

"You've put up some good arguments based on historical misdeeds, but that is history, 'ago', in the past."

History indeed. What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Los Altan, a resident of Los Altos,
on Oct 14, 2016 at 2:24 am

I think the VTA board is an unconstitutional denial of the one man one vote principle. North County Cities rotate taking turns were ALL their residents have no representation on the board. It's a state law, so it runs counter to the state constitution as well as the U.S. Constitution. There's a reason for these principles. Furthermore the formula for defining board member slots has other issues with equal representation because the members are all elected officials with conflicts of interest in their respective cities. What a mess. No wonder it results in VTA operation as a mess itself.

So there you go, yet another reason to vote NO.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Los Altan, a resident of Los Altos,
on Oct 14, 2016 at 2:26 am

That is, VTA is defined as a one-off in state law, not the state constitution. We have no company anywhere else in the state with a situation like this one.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by  Former PA resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 14, 2016 at 2:55 am

The VTA board (and its traditional dominance by the SJ political machine), with their broken promises, their disrespectful treatment of other parts of the county, have been at some pains in the past to sow seeds of alienation and resentment. They're now reaping their own harvest, and in some surprising quarters: Web Link Web Link

This might be a moment to reflect on San José history. In the mid-20th century, that worthy city expanded by sometimes hostile annexations of adjacent and unincorporated townships. The expansive binge was halted at the Milpitas border by the resounding 1961 referendum there. Milpitas's anti-annexation organizers styled themselves the "Milpitas Minutemen," and the referendum's outcome so gratified Milpitas residents that they officially adopted the revolutionary-war "Minuteman" statue from Concord, MA, on the Milpitas city seal. This immortalized a colorful bit of county history, but also stands as a reminder to other towns of the need for eternal vigilance where San José political ambitions are concerned.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by steve ly, a resident of Los Altos,
on Oct 14, 2016 at 6:38 pm

NO on B!

VTA wants to gut North County bus service under its "Network 90" plan at the same time that they're asking voters to approve yet another bump in the sales tax. Santa Clara County residents are already paying three sales
taxes to VTA, a permanent 1/2 cent that was approved in 1976, plus the more
recent Measures A and B, whose revenues are mostly going down the BART sinkhole. Plus, we're paying a Vehicle Registration Fee on top of that. Yet this is not enough, they want more tax money to flush down the BART toilet while eliminating
local routes.

VTA is asking the voters for a fourth sales tax increase yet they refuse to “value engineer" their expensive projects. There is no reason that the BART extension needs to duplicate existing bus and train service between the San Jose and Santa Clara stations. And the proposed Bus Rapid Transit on El Camino could be constructed at lower cost by eliminating the
dedicated center lanes and converting the curbside lanes to HOV use during peak hours.

Money saved from cutting the “gold plating" from big capital
projects could be spent on supporting the bus system, including saving routes threatened under Network 90. Until VTA learns to use its existing resources more fficiently, vote NO on more taxes.

This tax is being pushed by Carl Guardino and the grossly misnamed "Silicon Valley Leadership Group," whose rich corporate members stand to benefit most from the hugely expensive BART extension. Rather than increasing sales tax A FOURTH TIME, maybe these rich companies need to step up and pay higher corporate tax.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Thanh, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Oct 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

I think that it is pathetic that VTA wants to gut North County's bus service to pay for a wasteful BART line from San Jose to Santa Clara which duplicates Caltrain and the 22/522 buses. I'm voting NO.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Andrew Boone, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 2:46 pm

One of the concerns regarding Measure B posted here is the nearly $2 billion in wasteful highway expansion and other wasteful spending it includes. Mayor Pat Burt's response fails to address how these highway expenditures lock the county into a direction that has obviously already failed.

The $700 million that Mayor Burt cites as critical to grade separate streets under Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale is paltry compared to what could easily be invested not only in Caltrain but also VTA bus and light service, and bicycling and walking improvements. VTA's Measure B wastes $2 billion on highways that could be spent on NOT cutting bus routes in Palo Alto as VTA is planning to do, and could be spent on building world-class networks for walking and bicycling that other urban regions such as Portland and Vancouver are actually doing.

VTA's Measure B would invest just 4 percent of tax revenues in fixing safety hazards for people walking and bicycling, and just 8 percent of tax revenues in better bus and light rail service. This is way out of line with Palo Alto's plans for transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards a sustainable future, and way out of line with the General Plans and Climate Action Plans of other cities in Santa Clara County.

North County cities could receive a lot more than $700 million for improvements if VTA's Measure B didn't waste billions of taxpayer dollars on highway expansions and pork barrel transit projects like BART to Santa Clara and Toll Lanes on Highway 85.

Force VTA to come up with a transportation plan that works for our future.
Vote NO on B.


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

Downtown Redwood City gets Japanese kaiseki restaurant
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,909 views

Gobbledygook goings on in Palo Alto
By Diana Diamond | 2 comments | 1,965 views

Couples: Child Loss, "No U-Turn at Mercy Street"
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,365 views

A bad beginning makes a bad ending: City Council
By Douglas Moran | 2 comments | 1,263 views

Which Cocktail Has the Least Calories?
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 1,138 views