HSRA opponents claim victory with Gilroy’s aggressive stance

Key points from the from the Gilroy City Council

Supporters of the recent

vote of no confidence

resolution against high-speed rail policies are saying Gilroy is
on the right track.
Supporters of the recent “vote of no confidence” resolution against high-speed rail policies are saying Gilroy is on the right track.

The 4-3 vote Monday reflected frustrations from the City Council and public over the lack of communication from the California High-Speed Rail Authority, a stark contrast from fears that such an action would sever Gilroy’s ties with project officials.

But the mere prospect of the stronger stance may have actually sparked dialogue once again on the $45-billion, 800-mile bullet train project slated to have a major stop in Gilroy.

Opponents had a small victory at Monday’s meeting, when the Council decided to send a resolution to the HSRA, accusing it of mismanaging the project and asking for greater transparency.

They pointed to a letter sent by HSRA CEO Roelof van Ark asking the Council to hold off on the resolution, as proof that a more aggressive stance would make them listen.

“The moment the news hits the paper, wham, we get a response,” said Yvonne Sheets-Saucedo, one of the 30 members of the public that attended the meeting. “They got together over the weekend to make sure you got it before this meeting, so this is the way forward.”

In the letter sent Oct. 14, van Ark promised to improve communication between HSRA and the city, and concerns would be addressed in detail in an upcoming project-level Environmental Impact Report. He was responding to a June 30 letter written by Gilroy Mayor Al Pinheiro and Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate requesting funding for a consultant.

Van Ark apologized for the delay, stating Tate and Pinheiro’s letter had not been brought to his attention.

“I note it says ‘thank you for your letter,’ ” said Councilman Bob Dillon. “One hundred and four days elapsed and now that they read (about the vote of no confidence), they are begging us not to. We thought that if we sent out a letter of no confidence they may shut us out. Based on this, I don’t think that’s true.”

The 23-point resolution of “no confidence” states Gilroy “does not have confidence in the planning, design and execution of the California High Speed Rail project.” The document expresses doubt on ridership figures and mentions reports of mismanagement from the part of the HSRA. The authority said it plans to increase communication in response to the Council’s actions.

The (‘vote of no confidence’) by itself has no effect,” said HSRA board member Rod Diridon. “It does bring attention to the fact that the Council is very concerned. I heard there was concern but I was under the impression that there were ongoing negotiations with the city.”

Diridon said the “vote of no confidence” has prompted him to reach out to the city more.

HSRA spokeswoman Rachel Wall, mirrored Diridon’s response.

“We are committed to staying actively engaged with the community and opening lines of communication more,” she said.

Mayor Al Pinheiro and Councilman Perry Woodward requested the Council grant 45 days to the high-speed rail regional committee to work with the HSRA before the resolution was issued. But councilmembers Cat Tucker, Dion Bracco, Bob Dillon and Craig Gartman had already suggested they would favor sending a “vote of no confidence” at the Oct. 4 City Council meeting.

Woodward stated his case Monday mirroring sentiment from the committee which includes himself, Pinheiro, Gilroy City Administrator Tom Haglund and Morgan Hill representatives – Councilman Greg Sellers, Mayor Steve Tate and City Manager Ed Tewes.

“We want to remind you that you appointed a committee,” Woodward said. “We are trying to make progress. As a courtesy to us, as a courtesy to Morgan Hill, do what the mayor has asked, and give us 45 days. It’s going to be a 4-3 vote – it’s not a stinging rebuke. In 45 days I’ll join you.”

Tucker, Bracco, Dillon and Gartman were not swayed.

Pinheiro, Woodward and Councilman Peter Arellano were the nay votes, saying negotiations with the HSRA would more likely render fruit than a “vote of no confidence.”

“I don’t see it as something that will get the authority to do something,” said Pinheiro. “But they can look at the Council and see that it’s a 4-3 split, and there are still some councilmembers that still want to have a working relationship.”

But why did Van Ark ask to defer the “vote of no confidence” if it would ultimately have no effect?

Pinheiro said it’s because the HSRA does not want to be at odds with Gilroy.

“One more city to reflect that kind of opposition – nobody likes to have that,” he said. “I don’t see any other reason.”

Gilroy has now joined Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Orange in taking a “no confidence” stance against the HSRA.

The five-page letter sent June 30 by Pinheiro and Tate, contained seven questions regarding traffic mitigation, a parking structure, stations and an evaluation on both alignments. It also requested a total of $1.28 million for both cities – $1.03 million for Gilroy – for an expert consultant to review the technical information sent by the HSRA.

Expected to begin full operation in 2020, the project will have routes from Sacramento to San Diego with connections to the Bay Area. The HSRA has narrowed the options for the rail line running through Gilroy. It will either be aligning with the current Union Pacific tracks and run through the downtown corridor or cut through the rural area east of U.S. 101. A combination of the two routes is also possible.

Van Ark’s two-page response stated Gilroy’s questions are being researched, mentioning the “vote of no confidence” in the last paragraph.

Dillon said the letter was evasive.

“With all due respect, there was a reply, but they didn’t address any of the issues.” he said to members of the committee. “But a resolution is going to have a bigger footprint. Apparently our previous communication wasn’t strong enough.”

The committee will be meeting with Diridon next week and to address the proposed routes.

“At our meeting next week we’ll be responding to the letter that we received from the authority to see if he puts his action where his (words are),” Pinheiro said, referring to Van Ark’s letter.

But councilman Gartman said Gilroy may have to wait a while before it finds out.

“If history teaches us anything, it’ll be 104 days before we get another response,” he said.

To download letters, click on the down arrow.

var docstoc_docid=”57987071″;var docstoc_title=”Letter from Gilroy and Morgan Hill to HSRA”;var docstoc_urltitle=”Letter from Gilroy and Morgan Hill to HSRA”;Letter from Gilroy and Morgan Hill to HSRA

var docstoc_docid=”57986908″;var docstoc_title=”Letter from HSRA CEO Roelof van Ark”;var docstoc_urltitle=”Letter from HSRA CEO Roelof van Ark”;Letter from HSRA CEO Roelof van Ark

Leave your comments