CA17: Officials defend Honda on BART project

Call it the “Battle of the Truth Squads.”

People who’ve been involved in BART’s extension to San Jose have asked Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda, to stop what they say are misleading attacks on Honda’s role in the project.

Khanna’s campaign on Feb. 14 and again on Feb. 25 posted to its “Truth Squad” website items claiming Honda had inflated his record on the BART extension and other work he has done in Congress; I wrote about the Honda campaign’s response last week.

honda.jpgBut Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta; state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Valley Transportation Authority chairman and San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra; former VTA general manager Michael Burns; and former Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon Sr. wrote to Khanna on Sunday urging him to “to correct the information on your website and what is given to the media by your campaign, and avoid further distortions of Congressman Honda’s record.”

“Mike Honda’s leadership on this issue in Washington and in the district has been vital to bringing BART and the thousands of accompanying jobs to our area,” they wrote. “Your questioning of such leadership undermines your credibility as a candidate and is not appreciated by those of us who have been working on this issue for decades.”

Khanna’s campaign is sticking to its claim that Honda has inflated his record on what he actually did.

Ro Khanna“Our concern has been and remains that Congressman Honda is taking sole credit for securing $900 million for the BART extension,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Monday. “We have always appreciated that the Congressman played a constructive role in the project but voters are tired of politicians who take credit for a project that resulted from the work of countless individuals over a long period of time. Voters deserve a discussion of these issues, and that is why Ro has proposed monthly debates hosted by local media outlets – a proposal that has still gone unanswered by Congressman Honda’s campaign.”

It seems Law was talking about moments like this, when Honda tweeted this during President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28:

Honda tweet

Though too late for the letter, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood weighed in Monday with his own support of Honda’s role in the project.

“Congressman Mike Honda is a dogged and effective advocate in Washington for the BART extension. The merits of such a solid project and Mike’s consistent support were key contributors to my decision to recommend the extension for a ($900 million) Full Funding Grant Agreement,” LaHood said in a statement shared by Honda’s campaign. “From my days on the House Appropriations Committee, I remember Mike’s commitment to securing funding to get the project going – he is a vociferous advocate for improved transit in the Bay Area.”

Read the full letter (with footnotes!), after the jump…

Dear Mr. Khanna,

While some of us are supporters of Mike Honda’s campaign, some of us are neutral in the race. All of us have been directly involved with the long-term BART extension to San Jose and are writing to address the assertions that your campaign has inaccurately made regarding the extension of BART to San Jose.

More specifically we would like to correct your website’s statement that Congressman Honda’s campaign “continues to exaggerate Rep Honda’s role in the BART project” and that “the federal funding only came after voters in Santa Clara County approved a half-cent sales tax.”

We’d like to be clear- Mike Honda’s leadership on this issue in Washington and in the district has been vital to bringing BART and the thousands of accompanying jobs to our area. Your questioning of such leadership undermines your credibility as a candidate and is not appreciated by those of us who have been working on this issue for decades.

Please consider the following points:

1) Your criticism that Mike has only secured $2M for BART to San Jose is inaccurate. As a Member of the House Transportation Committee, Mike secured $11M in earmarks for the project[1], and as a Member of the Appropriations Committee he has secured another $400M so far.[2]

2) Your reference to the importance of the 2008 Measure B sales tax campaign leaves out the crucial roll that Congressman Honda played in this successful effort as one of two co-chairs of the campaign. The Congressman signed the important rebuttal argument in favor of Measure B[3], appeared on the campaign’s direct mail pieces and co-authored an op-ed in the Mercury News with his former congressional opponent Jim Cunneen.[4]

3). After Measure B passed, Mike Honda was crucial in the effort to receive the Full Funding Grant Agreement that led to the $900 million federal commitment for the project. He worked to include language in the bill that was necessary to enable the project to move through the New Starts process.[5] He advocated with Secretaries of Transportation directly, and was in regular communication with senior Transportation officials during the years-long advocacy process. All of this was in addition to his role securing the actual funding.

We urge you to correct the information on your website and what is given to the media by your campaign, and avoid further distortions of Congressman Honda’s record, especially as it applies to the BART extension to San Jose that we have worked hard to bring to fruition.

Your immediate attention to this matter is appreciated.


Jim Beall, California State Senator
Michael Burns, Former Chair, Valley Transportation Authority
Rod Diridon,Sr., Former Santa Clara County Supervisor
Ash Kalra, San Jose Councilmember and Chair, Valley Transportation Authority
Zoe Lofgren, US Congresswoman
Norman Mineta, Former US Secretary of Transportation

[1] Earmarks are in: H.R. 2673 (FY2004 Consolidated Appropriations Act, became Public Law 108-199); H.R. 4818 (FY 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act, became Public Law 108-447); H.R. 3058 (the Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act for 2006, became Public Law 109-115).
[2] $100M for FY 2012 in H.R. 2112, The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012,which became Public Law 112-55; $150M for FY 2013 in H.R. 933, the FY 2013 Consolidated and FurtherContinuing Appropriations Act, which became Public Law 113-6; $150M for FY 2014 in H.R. 3547, theConsolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, which became Public Law 113-76.
[3] http://www.smartvoter.org/2008/11/04/ca/scl/meas/B/
[4] http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10653263
[5] H.R. 3, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users [SAFETEA-LU],which became Public Law 109-59

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    RoKhall is already getting desperate, and there’s still months to go. Better sign up Pete Stark to help the campaign.

  • AmusedToDeath14

    I love that Khanna has refused to kiss the ring. And I love that he is standing firm on his position here. No one is claiming Honda didn’t play an instrumental role with the BART project, but he has in fact made exaggerated claims about how big his role really was. He shouldn’t be taking full credit for something that many individuals played a role in. Honda is going to continue to call in every favor that he can with his cronies to try and keep “his precious seat”. The voters in the 17th District just might have something to say about that though. Let’s see if he shows any amount of courage and agrees to a series of debates, let alone one debate. If he’s so proud of his record, what is he so afraid of? Personally, I think it would be great to see a debate amongst all candidates, not just Honda and Khanna. The voters deserve it, especially considering it’s a newly drawn district.

  • Elwood

    Once again Ro’s staff takes pen in hand!

  • AmusedToDeath14

    Nope. not on Khanna’s staff but I live in the district and I’m proudly supporting him! I love how you always assume whenever anyone posts a positive comment on Khanna that they are a paid staff member. He actually has a ton of passionate volunteers who are willing to go to bat for him every day. I will support most candidates that challenge the establishment these days. For the record, I actually get a kick out of your posts even if I disagree with you half of the time. You can be quite witty. Keep on truckin’, Elwood!

  • AmusedToDeath14

    I think Stark is too busy helping Ellen Corbett. Haha…

  • Richard Woulfe

    I would agree with Amusedtodeath, Mike Honda continues to duck debates. Why is he refusing to debate Ro Khana? If Honda has good legislative record as he claims – which would include being a strong advocate for the high tech industry in Washington – a debate with Khanna would be ideal forum for Honda to trumpet that. Honda’s claim that he’s “booked solid” for months and can’t find the time to debate is just laughable. Honda finds time for junkets – Honda is leading the NorCal Democratic delegation on junkets says the Khanna campaign – yet he can’t find time for a debate in this race, which the New york Times has labeled one of the most important Congressional elections in the US? Voters, I think, should be outraged. Democratic elections require rigorous debate – that’s what voters want – yet Honda continues to run and Hide from Khanna. Shameful.

  • Richard Woulfe

    Ro Khanna is the reform candidate, he will shake things up, so I totally agree with you. It’s also clear Khanna has got grass roots campaign going, he’s raised all his money locally too. Mike Honda is the Washington DC-Special interest candidate in this race, almost all his money comes from DC.

  • Elwood

    The only thing Khanna has going for him is a pile of money from his fellow Indians.

    Honda by 4.