Rarely does the High-Speed Rail Authority Board not vote in unison on a board actions but today was the day. At the board meeting held in Redwood City, Lynn Schenk, Vice Chair, completely surprised Chairman Dan Richard when she refused to approve the Memorandum of Understanding that would have given Caltrain a portion of the high-speed rail funds to attain its dream of electrification. Schenk, an attorney and the most senior member of the Authority Board, said she had to vote her conscience. She said she remains a supporter of high-speed rail but she could not vote yes on the blended plan because she doesn’t see it as High-Speed Rail.
The board has 9 members, but right now 3 seats are vacant because the Governor has not appointed them. Board Member Michael Rossi was absent so only a bare quorum of 5 was present and they need 5 yes votes on any action. They needed her vote to get this approved.
Chairman Dan Richard asked her if she wouldn't vote yes, with the understanding her vote was only to make the action proceed and that her true intent would be noted in the minutes. Apparently the answer was no because after a five minute private recess with Schenk, Richard and their counsel, they came back and Richard then stated they would delay the vote until next meeting. The thinking is the absent Michael Rossi will be present at the next meeting and they could move forward with the action without Lynn Schenk’s vote.
Interesting, at the Assembly meeting last week, Assembly member Joan Buchanan had similar concerns. She just didn’t see spending money on projects that weren’t high-speed rail.
Buchanan was asked the CEO, Jeff Morales, Why we are spending a billion dollars on the bookends?” That is term for the start and finish of the high-speed rail system- Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfLfvzxNY3M&list=UULpiKaBjaacPw7g5K1nkRXw&index=1
She talked about the use of connectivity funds which has separate funds allocated in Prop 1A and seemed concerned that the state would use high-speed rail funds for commuter rail that would not be high-speed rail. She thought the Caltrain electrification was a good project but just was unsure of the expenditure because it does not operate at high-speed. She said she is questioning the limitation in Prop 1A and what it said the money was for.
For the entire write up of the Assembly Meeting see: http://www.examiner.com/article/assembly-transportation-grills-high-speed-rail-ceo