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January 28, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, January 28, 2005

BART letter ignites political outrage BART letter ignites political outrage (January 28, 2005)

City Council rebukes effort by lobbyist group to boot Kishimoto from VTA board

By Bill D'Agostino and Jon Wiener

In the world of Santa Clara County transit, the lobbying organization known as the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group is a powerful player.

But last week, the group tried to extend its influence into five Santa Clara County city councils, including Palo Alto's, and was sharply rebuked.

On Jan. 20, Carl Guardino, the group's executive director, sent a letter to Palo Alto Mayor Jim Burch encouraging him to replace Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto as the city's representative to the Policy Advisory Board of the Valley Transportation Authority.

The letter expressed "deep concern" that Kishimoto (who it inaccurately named "Yuriko") was "acting contrary" to the interests of her constituents by challenging a project to bring BART to San Jose.

Similar letters were sent to mayors of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View and Monte Sereno about other dissenting council members serving on the board.

The letter provoked near-outrage from officials in northern Santa Clara County.

"Most of us think that this was not only stunning but completely uncalled for," county Supervisor Liz Kniss said.

In a show of unanimity unthinkable a few years ago, the Palo Alto City Council metaphorically circled the wagons to rebuff the attack.

On Monday night, the officials authorized Burch to write a rebuttal letter. It will point out that Kishimoto accurately stated the council's position by advocating for "phasing" the BART-to-San-Jose project over a longer timeframe to prevent the project from swallowing tax dollars meant for other projects benefiting northern Santa Clara County.

In 2000, the Manufacturing Group, made up of 200 member companies, led the campaign to get voters to approve Measure A, spending $1.5 million to pass the so-called "BART tax." At the time, cities in northern Santa Clara County were promised the half-cent sales tax increase would also fund projects along the Peninsula, such as electrifying Caltrain and improving bus line 22.

The BART-to-San-Jose project suffered several blows in 2004, especially when the VTA announced it needed another new sales tax increase to complete the task. Numerous city councils along the Peninsula fought a VTA planning document that placed other projects on hold to complete the BART expansion; Kishimoto was one of those leading the charge.

"Yoriko has expressed the views of the City Council on this issue, which is we have not been getting our fair share," Burch said.

"If we don't want to be overwhelmed by automobile traffic, we need our share of transit money," said Kishimoto, who was appointed chair of the advisory board earlier this month.

Los Altos Mayor and VTA board member David Casas, another targeted council member, claimed that the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group is trying to purge the VTA boards of dissent.

"What Carl is essentially requesting from each city council is a puppet that will simply act as a rubber stamp for his personal agenda," Casas said.

Guardino insisted the BART extension is still a priority for county residents.

"It is moving forward," Guardino said. "So their actions, from their vantage point, have not been successful and won't be."

Staff Writer Bill D'Agostino can be e-mailed at [email protected]


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