MAKING THE GRADE ... A proposal by Palo Alto City Manager Ed Shikada to establish a new citizens commission devoted to redesigning Palo Alto's rail crossings received a rough reception this week from members of an existing citizens commission devoted to redesigning Palo Alto's rail crossings. The Expanded Community Advisory Panel (XCAP), a beefed-up version of the recently disbanded Community Advisory Panel, had some questions for Shikada on Wednesday about the planned Rail Blue Ribbon Commission (RBRC), which under his plan would be appointed by and report directly to the City Council. (These groups are not to be confused with the Rail Corridor Task Force, a prior citizens panel that explored grade-crossing improvements between 2010 and 2012). Some argued that appointing yet another group would further slow down the process of choosing a preferred alternative. "Why duplicate, and lose a lot of time in the process?" asked XCAP member Phil Burton. Former Mayor Larry Klein, an XCAP member, didn't object to the idea of the new committee, but took issue with Shikada's suggestion that the new group be composed entirely of former elected officials. Judy Kleinberg, president of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and herself an XCAP member and former mayor, shared his concern. "I guarantee, most former elected (officials) have moved on to their condo in Maui. They are not up to speed on this," Kleinberg said. The City Council was scheduled to consider the new committee on Monday but deferred its decision to Sept. 9. Under Shikada's proposal, the RBRC would take the regional view on grade separation, while XCAP would continue to reflect neighborhood perspectives. But Burton said that the new group will allow the council to "delegate politically fraught decisions to people who have not been elected." Klein countered that such concerns are unfounded, given that all committees merely advise the council, which has always been "very jealous about maintaining the right to make decisions." "I don't think you need to worry that the council will be able to avoid the responsibility of making final decisions," Klein said.
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