Faced with pressure to build more housing, improve flood protection and plan for high-speed rail, Palo Alto officials will consider tonight their strategy for lobbying state and federal officials for help.
The City Council's Policy and Services Committee will discuss on Tuesday night the city's legislative priorities and its strategies for getting attention and assistance from Sacramento and Washington. The discussion will focus on the city's Legislative Program Manual, a document that the city reviews in its entirety every two or three years and that lists both the city's legislative priorities and its processes for furthering its goals.
Not surprisingly, the city's top legislative priorities deal with planning and transportation, a topic that has been dominating City Hall conversations in recent years. The first item on the nine-priority list is "Comprehensive planning and action on land-use and transportation issues with an emphasis on the built environment including transportation, mobility, parking and livability."
The other eight legislative priorities are: infrastructure strategy and funding; technology and the connected city; environmental sustainability; San Francisquito Creek improvements; obtaining grant funding; Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) housing-mandate reform; opposition to California's High-Speed Rail project; and commitment to the safety and reliability of city-owned infrastructure. This list of specific priorities is meant to be vetted twice a year by the committee, with the city's state and federal lobbyists in attendance.
According to a report from City Manager James Keene, the fall meeting is meant to "include a review of what has occurred so far that year followed by a proactive planning session focused on what types of legislation, or legislative positions, the City should advocate for in the upcoming year."
The city currently employes Townsend Public Affairs as its state lobbyist and Van Scoyoc Associates as its federal lobbyist. Representatives from each firm are scheduled to update the committee tonight on the latest legislative occurrences.
While many of the items on the list, including infrastructure and housing mandates, are perennial concerns, the creek item has become particularly urgent in recent months. An effort by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (an agency that includes Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and the water districts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties) to boost flood-protection around the volatile creek has been hampered by the agency's inability to get a permit from the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board. The cities has been working with their state legislators to move the project along, though progress has been stymied by the water board's repeated requests for more information and design revisions.
Last week, state Sen. Jerry Hill addressed this topic in his annual meeting with the council and called the water board's behavior "totally unacceptable." If the water board can't resolve the issue, he said, the city and its representatives need to "figure out a way to do it legislatively."
"We can't allow this to go on any further," Hill said. "There are too many communities dependent or are in harm's way because of the time delay."
Other issues on the list have lost some of their urgency. High-speed rail hasn't been as pressing a topic for Palo Alto ever since state officials decided to scrap the controversial four-track alignment and agreed to start construction in Central Valley.
View the meeting agenda here. The committee will meet at 6 p.m. in the Council Conference Room at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.