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Effort under way to repeal California high-speed rail bond measure

(The following story by Mike Rosenberg appeared on the San Mateo County Times website on April 14, 2010.)

SAN JOSE, Calif. Officials in five cities will consider whether to throw their weight behind an effort to ask California voters to repeal the bond measure that launched the high-speed rail project.

Such an endeavor would be difficult and time-consuming, and local officials and residents should instead strive to make sure the project is done right, rather than not at all, said Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline, who heads the group that will consider the idea.

Cline agreed to place the item on the agenda for the Friday meeting of the Peninsula Cities Consortium, which also includes the mayors of Burlingame, Belmont and Palo Alto, and an Atherton councilman. The cities formed the consortium one year ago to unify their high-speed-rail concerns.

Cline said he has noticed a small increase in the number of local residents who want to try to repeal Proposition 1A, the $9.95 billion high-speed-train bond approved in November 2008 with 52.7 percent of the vote. He received a letter from Menlo Park resident Morris Brown asking for the consortium to discuss whether to form a subcommittee that would consider trying to change or repeal Proposition 1A.

"There's more people whispering about it," Cline said. "There's a growing group of people who feel they're not alone in their concern."

But he noted that in the year since the consortium was formed, none of the city leaders on the panel have asked the group to consider repealing Proposition 1A. Personally, although he is willing to allow his colleagues on the consortium to discuss the idea, Cline does not see the value in trying to nullify the bond.

"We have to continue to look at how to form this thing when it comes rather than look at ways to undermine it," said Cline, who was an opponent of Proposition 1A. "That's always been my position; I am respectful of elections."

It would be an uphill battle for a Proposition 1A appeal to reach the ballot.

It is too late to gather signatures for the measure to make the November election, and even an overwhelming Peninsula movement would require significant aid from across the state to gather enough signatures to make the next election, in 2012.

Backers of a measure that would overturn a prior approved measure currently must get nearly 700,000 registered voters to sign their petition to make the ballot.

Brown, though, said he has been getting many e-mails since he broached the idea.

"We feel there's a lot of people upset with the way the project is going along," said Brown, who figured a signature-gathering campaign would cost $1 million. "I don't know how you start something like this. The idea is to at least take a look at it and see how much grass-roots support you could get for it. But it is daunting, to say the least."

It appears unlikely that the Legislature, which put Proposition 1A on the ballot, would ask residents to revote on a measure they already approved.

There is a bill in the Assembly, however, that, if approved, would essentially strip the high-speed train project of its Proposition 1A funding. AB 2121, by Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-San Juan Capistrano, is scheduled for its first hearing in the committee on transportation Monday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

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