Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Carl Guardino's war against Caltrain

Recently posted in the VTA Riders' Union mailing list is an email from Carl Guardino regarding SVLG's private poll on the proposed sales tax. It will be posted in its entirety in the comment section.

Similar to the other "polls" done by SVLG, it is claiming that the BART extension is still the top priority. It is also claiming that Caltrain "service and station improvements," new light rail lines, and people mover to the airport have similar ratings, meanwhile singling out Caltrain electrification as the lowest priority. In its previous "poll," SVLG claimed that both the light rail extensions and Caltrain electrification are rated the lowest.

SVLG's earlier poll, which the initial tax proposal was based on, received criticisms from the San Jose City Hall in which the councilmembers believed that their city deserves all the countywide transportation tax revenue. Unsurprisingly this "poll" reflects the City Hall's beliefs.

SVLG claimed that the respondents maintain their priorities when given with project costs and ridership figures. What SVLG probably did not reveal to the respondents is that the ridership projections, especially for the BART project, is over-estimated beyond proportions.

SVLG also took a stab at the County poll regarding its proposed 1/4 cent general sales tax for county services. The group is suggesting that the "likelihood of passage of a quarter-cent general purpose tax in a contested campaign is on the bubble." The County poll says that there's 60% voter support for either a 1/2 or a 1/4 cent general sales tax, which requires 50% voter approval.

What Guardino did not report is how much voter support is out there for a sales tax.

. . .

By singling out Caltrain electrification and suggesting it as the lowest-priority project, SVLG has clearly declared a war on transit advocates that include Sierra Club and BayRail Alliance, which strongly supported Caltrain electrification and related improvements.

Two months ago, Laura Stuchinsky, SVLG's transportation aide, wrote to a Sunnyvale neighborhood mailing list that Caltrain electrification doesn't have to be funded by VTA because the funding would be provided by the California High Speed Rail project. In the meantime, SVLG was also spearheading a "coalition" for supporting a southern alignment for HSR that would use the entire Caltrain alignment from San Jose to Gilroy.

SVLG's concept for electrification would work, just like the BART project, under a lot of assumptions. The issue currently at stake in Sacramento is whether HSR will happen at all. With all the debates between the San Jose folks and the Train Riders Association of California over the HSR alignments between the Central Valley and the Bay Area, HSR is not on most politicians' radar in the capital. The massive infrastructure (highway) bond proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did not include any funding for the HSR project. Also, some Democratic legislators are also recommending to cancel the HSR bond vote scheduled this November and be replaced by a compromised version of the infrastructure bond which includes little of no funding for HSR.

If SVLG's coalition really supports HSR and Caltrain electrification, where are they in Sacramento to lobby for this? Why aren't the legislators who signed on to this "coalition" speak out in support of more funding to HSR? Or is SVLG just using the HSR as a smokescreen to take local tax funding away from Caltrain and spend it on the BART project?


accountablevta said...

----- Original Message -----
From: Carl Guardino
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 3:46 PM
Subject: Survey Results - Potential County Measure

Dear Colleague:

As you probably know, SVLG and a number of key community partners recently partnered on two comprehensive public opinion surveys on issues of importance to our Valley’s economy and working families. Below is a summary of those results along with several possible policy options SVLG and other transportation advocates might pursue in light of those results.

The pollster, one of the best in the State, was Jim Moore of Moore Methods. Jim has been the successful pollster on more transportation initiatives than anyone else in the State of California, including all of the successful measures that we have collectively led here in our Valley.

Partner organizations who commissioned the survey include the following: AFL/CIO Central Labor Council, Association of General Contractors, ATU, Building and Construction Trades, CELSOC, California Alliance for Jobs, Bay Area Council, San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The two surveys received combined input from 1,300 likely voters in Santa Clara County.

We tested several important issues, including the potential general purpose quarter-cent sales tax that the Board of Supervisors is pondering to place onto the ballot, the potential quarter-cent sales tax that the VTA Board is considering to place onto the ballot, a “no-new revenue” scenario for the VTA Board to consider, and voters views on a variety of other topics and iterations of the items listed above.

Since this information may be used for ballot campaigns, and as always, was funded without any public dollars, the results will stay confidential. However, there is some general information we want to make sure that you – as a key stakeholder – are aware of:

1. Concerns about the direction of our Nation, State, County and even local communities, are much higher than normal. This is also true when we specifically ask about the State Legislature, Board of Supervisors and Local City Councils. A bright spot is that the Valley Transportation Authority performance, while still not high, has rebounded considerably since the last two surveys that we have commissioned.
2. Voters recall the Year 2000 Measure A, and there is no buyers’ remorse. Three-fourths of the voters state that they recall Measure A. When asked the follow-up question as to how they voted, their memory is almost dead-on. The actual Measure A passed with 70.4 percent support. When questioned nearly six years later, 69 percent recall voting in favor of the measure, with only 15 percent stating that they voted against it. Voters not only remember their vote, but there is no “buyer’s remorse.”
3. When we ask them to rank the priorities for the top five capital construction projects in Measure A – the results are very clear: Voters countywide, and in all five County Supervisorial Districts, rank BART to Santa Clara County as their top priority. The number two, three and four priorities are very close together – with CalTrain Service and Station Improvements, two new Light Rail Lines, and a People Mover to San Jose International Airport all important improvements. Fifth on the list, the lowest priority by far both countywide and in all five Supervisorial Districts, is the “Electrification” of CalTrain.
4. Voters were provided with the cost of local capital construction, annual operating costs, the percent the entire project represented to the sales tax funds projected, and the estimated average daily ridership. This is important so that folks don’t think they can afford a “Porsche” for the cost of a “Pinto.” When provided with that detailed data, the priorities stayed the same, with BART overwhelmingly number one, and CalTrain electrification at the bottom of the list.
5. The potential Countywide general purpose tax was also tested. Since the Board of Supervisors used taxpayer dollars to fund their own poll on the topic several weeks ago, we were able to use their specific ballot language in our poll. While we asked more “positive push questions” than “negative push questions,” we found that the likelihood of passage of a quarter-cent general purpose tax in a contested campaign is on the bubble. The county would need a very well funded campaign, and would need a very poorly funded and poorly organized opposition campaign, in order to be successful. As SVLG stated in an email comment to the San Jose Mercury News on November, 17, 2005 regarding positive prospects for a general sales tax, “At a time when there is so much cynicism toward government, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is heartened that so may voters recognize the vital services our County provides.”
6. When testing the possibility of both a county general purpose tax and a specific transportation tax both appearing on the ballot at the same time, the likelihood is high that they would both fail.
7. Interestingly, if the county and the transportation advocates worked together – even though the total (a combined half-cent) would be the same as two competing quarter-cent measures – the chances of winning are very strong.
8. Finally, we tested several “no new revenue” scenarios as it relates to the transportation measure. This included a “Full BART Option” and a “partial, or No-BART, Option.” While we could not test every potential iteration of such scenarios, it appears clear that a “Full BART Option” would be the clear “winner” in a head-to-head match-up with a “partial BART” or “no BART” option presented to taxpayers/voters.

Over the coming weeks, we will continue to share this information, in even greater details, with key public and private sector leaders. Our goal is to bring people together, build consensus as we build a better community, and see if we can solve some of our Valley’s most pressing problems.

If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.


Carl Guardino


Carl Guardino

President & CEO

Silicon Valley Leadership Group

224 Airport Parkway, Suite 620

San Jose, California 95110

Phone: 408/501-7864

Fax: 408/501-7861

Anonymous said...

At a recient meetiong Laura S of SVLG said VTA continues to complete projects under budget and under time. Is this a fact.