Friday, June 23, 2006

Gonzales' culture of corruption may well extend beyond the City Hall

Like anyone being arrested, a fair question comes up whether the person has violated the law for the first time, or has violated many times but did not get caught. In the case of the San Jose Mayor, his style of backroom deals that contributed to his arrest yesterday certainly raises concerns about the possibility of other secretive deals inside and outside of the City Hall, such as at the VTA, where he has a strong influence and a flawed agenda.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sales tax extortion scheme

VTA remains defiant despite the failure of Measure A. This Thursday, the VTA board will decide whether to adopt a spending plan that assumes a new 1/4 cent sales tax or equivalent.

Since the BART extension has been withdrawn from the federal new-starts process last December, the failure of Measure A last week indicates that the BART project will likely to remain off the new-starts process to avoid the guaranteed rejection from the federal government. However, it also allows VTA to spend as much as it wants on studies and engineering efforts that may not translate into completion of the project.

The BART extension has many similarities to the Bay Bridge East Span fiasco, where politicians shut-off discussion about cost effective alternatives early in the process in favor of a costly design that does not provide any functional improvements. Last year, when the construction bid for the single tower structure came out much higher than originally estimated, the politicians determined that it was too late to redesign the bridge and provide significant cost savings. Instead, without having to go to the voters, politicians approved a bailout package that will increase the bridge tolls effective next year.

It appears that Guardino and Gonzales are going through the same route by spending more local tax dollars on studies and design until when choosing another alternative would be seen as unfavorable. However, Guardino and Gonzales cannot raise sales taxes without the approval of voters.

VTA is on the path to extort taxpayers' money, by spending more money on things that cannot happen until voters approve another tax increase. VTA does not have to be on this path if it chooses to pursue real studies and live within its means.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The high price of working with Carl Guardino

The 2000 Measure A Project Advisory Committee held its last meeting yesterday in Mountain View.

VTA's general manager Michael Burns argued that the committee should pass the revised expenditure scenario with the assumption of a new 1/4 cent tax, and said that VTA still have the option of placing a sales tax in November or in 2008. The committee approved the revised scenario, which prioritized some of the non-BART projects ahead of the BART extension. Despite the approval, the sales tax scenario is unworkable because voters rejected the 2006 Measure A.

During the meeting, two of the county supervisors (Kniss and Gage) on the committee, as reported by some in the audience, looked "mad," given their support for the 2006 Measure A and its defeat on Tuesday.

The county supervisors had a chance to place a 1/4 cent general sales tax only for county services, without diverting funds to VTA. Instead of listening to the transit advocates, the Supervisors chose to listen to Carl Guardino and place a dual sales tax instead.

In an email sent on January 25, Guardino wrote: "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," and Guardino concluded, "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."

After outspending the opposition by nearly 100 to 1, voters resoundingly rejected Measure A, defying Guardino's expectation. With the restriction from Prop. 218, the next time the county could place a general tax is June 2008, or in November this year if the county declares a fiscal emergency.

It is unfortunate that the county services may be impacted by the failure of Measure A. The supervisors will be paying a high price for listening to Carl Guardino.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sore loser Gonzales tries to re-interpret reality

The message voters sent on June 6 was loud and clear: they demand a fiscally responsible transportation plan without new taxes. After six years of declining ridership and transit cut-backs, they finally rejected Measure A, along with the false promises made by BART supporters.
For some, such as the lame-duck San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, simply cannot understand reality. He still opposes any other alternative to building the entire BART extension to the Santa Clara rail yard in one phase. Since now he can no longer lie to the voters about the fraudulent tax revenue and BART ridership projections, he can only tell you that he doesn't care about everything else: bus service, paratransit, light rail, Caltrain... can all be sacrificed as long as engineering and construction contracts for the downtown BART subway can be awarded. VTA Watch, as well as many others, knew his intention all along, and now everyone gets to see where Gonzales' only priority is.

It is good to know that he is on his way out of the City Hall with no political future in sight, all due to his own fault.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Silicon Valley Losers Group

This is what SVLG should stand for after spending $650,000 on a campaign for more-of-the-same failed transportation policies and projects. After six years, voters finally saw through the false promises of the 2000 Measure A and BART, and certainly disapproved the backroom deal that created the 2006 Measure A.

Congratulations to the No on Measure A committee for conducting a low budget, truth-based campaign.