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February 04, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, February 04, 2005

Editorial Editorial (February 04, 2005)

Guardino's BART push out of line

Asking pointed questions and joining other North County members of a Valley Transportation Authority advisory board who don't see the wisdom of going full-speed ahead with the pricey BART-to-San-Jose extension has earned Mountain View City Council member Greg Perry a strong rebuke from influential backers of the project. In fact, Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, wants Perry and a handful of other North County members of the VTA Board and advisory board booted, pronto.

Guardino made this incredible request in a letter sent to the mayors of several Peninsula cities, claiming that by questioning the BART project, the council members are not following the wishes of county residents, who approved the $4.2 billion project in 2000 and continue to strongly favor it today.

Thankfully, this high-end meddling in the affairs of Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos, among other cities, is getting the attention it deserves, and uniformly bad press for Guardino. His business coalition seems not to realize that economic conditions in the Valley demand that such an expensive project be reevaluated. Perry and the other council members are only doing their job, which is to look out for the transportation projects that will help their constituents, not just the East Bay and San Jose riders who will be the primary beneficiaries of the BART project as it is now planned.

The simple fact is that the complete BART project cannot be built as planned unless county residents approve an additional sales tax. That prospect seems so unlikely that the federal government is withholding millions of dollars for the project out of concern for its high cost. But Guardino and other supporters of the project apparently are trying to head off critics like Perry so that the sales-tax vote can achieve the two-thirds majority it needs to pass.

In this case, the tactics backfired. Now, North County representatives on the VTA boards have more reasons than ever to question this giant project, which will suck up every transit dollar available in Santa Clara County to connect BART from Fremont to San Jose Airport. Voters in Mountain View and elsewhere in North County backed the BART initiative in the flush times of 2000 because it included some local projects, such as electrifying Caltrain. But with the economic climate showing little sign of improvement, it is time to either drastically shrink the BART project or halt it altogether. Far from being called on the carpet and asked to resign, Perry should get an A-plus rating, at least from his Mountain View constituents.

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