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Calif. high-speed rail meeting's structure rankles local leaders

(The following story by Jessica Bernstein-Wax appeared on the Daily News website on April 9, 2010.)

SAN JOSE, Calif. Peninsula and other Bay Area residents packed a standing-room-only California High-Speed Rail Authority meeting in San Jose on Thursday, and waited eagerly for officials to unveil a preliminary analysis detailing how bullet trains may run between San Jose and San Francisco.

But some were chagrined when after more than three hours of discussion of other agenda items, only about one hour remained for two presentations and public comment on the long-anticipated alternatives analysis reports for the San Francisco-San Jose and Merced-Fresno routes. Members of the public had only a minute each to speak on the items because the rail authority board could only stay in the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors' chambers until 1:30 p.m.

The report "wasn't online beforehand and then there wasn't time for many of the public to comment," Atherton Council Member Jerry Carlson said after the meeting. "You kind of wonder if it wasn't planned that way, but maybe they wouldn't have had time for anything else. Why they had to leave the room at 1:30, I don't know."

Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline said he is sympathetic to the problem of meetings running long but noted that Thursday wasn't the first day a local controversy appeared at the end of a high-speed rail agenda.

"It was in our area, so it would make sense to have more local issues up top for people to take part in," Cline said. "When you bring it to a local site, you've got to assume you're going to have more people."

The rail authority always puts reports at the start of the agenda, and the meeting ran later than usual in part because of a large amount of public comment at the beginning, rail authority Deputy Director Jeff Barker said. He added that another meeting was slated to begin in the room at 1:30 p.m.


Friday, April 9, 2010

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