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RE: Menlo Park's Two-Track Policy

From: Mueller, Raymond <"Mueller,>
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2014 13:06:55 -0800

Mr. Barnby,
Presently I have a conflict and cannot participate in discussions regarding High Speed Rail. As the below emails fail to indicate as such, I thought I would make it clear. My assumption is that is why there is a representation made about all the Councilmembers other than myself.
With kind regards,
Ray Mueller

________________________________________
From: Don Barnby [dbarnby_at_(domainremoved)
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 10:56 AM
To: Cat Carlton
Cc: _CCI
Subject: RE: Menlo Park's Two-Track Policy

Catherine,

Thank you for your reply. I’m encouraged to hear your response regarding your position on three tracks through Menlo Park, and am happy that you apparently have further support for that position from some of the other Council members.
However, given such position, I don’t understand why staff is proceeding to study a three-track option in their application, which if successful, would bring Council face to face with the trade-off of yielding on our two-track policy or turning down many millions of dollars of “free” money to do a grade separation that, on its own, is a worthwhile and popular idea. If effect, staff is signing us up to be extorted, or we are wasting staff’s time.

Even though staff took your direction back to TA and got their requirement rescinded it seems staff is hewing as closely as it can to TA’s wishes, rather than Menlo Park’s wishes. Certainly in the City Council meeting staff did not ask Council if Council would like them to go ahead and include the three-track option in their study; they told council, and the audience, that that was what they were going to do – and Council said nothing.

If Council is serious about Menlo Park’s two-track policy, I would like to hear that Council has considered these thoughts and directed staff to not study the three-track option. May I hear from you further on this?

Regards,
Don

From: Catherine Carlton [mailto:cat.carlton_at_(domainremoved)
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 1:54 AM
To: Don Barnby
Subject: Re: Menlo Park's Two-Track Policy

Don,

When I was running for election just over a year ago, I was very clear that I believed in only two tracks for our rail system. I still feel this way, and there is no danger of me changing my position. Money didn't sway my feelings on the subject, nor will it!

I am on the Council sub-committee for rail, with Rich Cline. We told the staff member who is managing this that we would recommend to the other Council members (in the Council meeting) that we vote down the money and keep our two-track position. Obviously, because of the Brown Act, we didn't know how the others would feel, but my sense from our conversation at the meeting the other night is that Kirsten and Peter agree.

When we told the staff member that we were going to recommend that the Council hold it's ground, he took this information back to the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and later that day the staff member told us that the TA decided not going to "require" us to change our position. In this way, our staff did take clear direction from the Council (or at least from the Rail Sub-Committee), and the staff supported our position of only allowing two tracks in our city. I have spoken with some City Council members from Atherton, and they are also in solidarity with our position.

Heaven only knows what the TA will try in the future, but I wanted to write to you to let you know that we are holding the line and not budging.

All the best,

Catherine



On Jan 19, 2014, at 2:06 PM, Don Barnby wrote:


Councilmembers:

Last Tuesday, January 15th, the Menlo Park City Council was scheduled to vote, at the behest of staff, to abandon the city’s two-track limit for the CalTrain right-of-way, in order to allow staff to apply to the San Mateo Transit Authority for a $750,000 grant to study grade separations. At the Council Meeting, staff announced that the TA had now dropped their requirement that Menlo Park change their two-track policy as a condition for applying for the grant so long as they included a three-track option in such study. They went on to tell Council that studying a three-track option is was what they are going to do.

My sense is that Council thought this change to be a good thing. I don’t think so; there are a number of very bad things happening here.

1) Since when does staff dictate to City Council what it (staff) is going to do? Staff works for our elected City Council, not the other way around. Further, not one Councilmember objected to staff’s assertion that it was going to study an option that is specifically contrary to Menlo Park’s two-track policy (a policy established by City Council). Everyone on Council sat meekly silent and let it pass.

2) Suppose TA accepts Menlo Park’s study application, and that application contains (as staff intends) a three-track option. And then suppose TA awards Menlo Park the millions of dollars needed to build the grade separation for the three-track option. Staff will then be demanding that Council accept those millions of dollars to build a grade separation designed to accommodate three tracks. Will Council then find its courage and have the backbone to stick with its (and the citizen’s) two-track policy when faced with a multimillion dollar bribe? I can hear the arguments now, “If we build a grade separation that can accommodate three tracks we get the TA to pay for it, and that doesn’t mean we can’t still limit CalTrain (and HSR) to two tacks.

Please note, this isn’t about Menlo Park’s need for grade separation; that need is real and great. Nor is it about electrification which does not require three tracks. This is about doing the right thing for our city. Three tracks is solely a creature of High Speed Rail. Selling Menlo Park’s birthright of a peaceful bucolic community in exchange for several million dollars is a devil’s bargain. TA is in bed with the High Speed Rail Authority in order to get some of its bond money for electrification, and it seems the quid-pro-quo is for TA to help HSR break through Menlo Park’s two-track limitation on the CalTrain right-of-way. HSR is still planning and pushing for a three or four track system up the Peninsula, and if we give way we’ll degrade our lovely city and devastate property values. We’ve already been through this before.

It’s not even clear that TA’s bid to get some of HSR’s bond money is legal. For Menlo Park staff to design for three tracks is a way to undermine Menlo Park’s two-track policy. Further, it’s interesting that last Tuesday’s scheduled vote to set aside the two-track policy was not advertised widely in advance. In fact, it seems that much of staff’s discussion of transportation matters occurs behind closed doors, i.e., that staff is trying to help HSR achieve, by back-door means, what it failed to achieve directly.

I believe it’s time for City Council to assert itself and give clear and unequivocal direction to staff, and require that they drop the three-track option from its application. Also, they should fire from staff all persons who fail to accept that City Council (by way of the citizens) runs the show. It is unacceptable that staff is doing the bidding of TA and HSR in an effort to end-run the well-considered two-track policy of Menlo Park.

Don Barnby
Received on Tue Jan 21 2014 - 13:07:00 PST

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