Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Transportation' Category

Buchanan & DeSaulnier battle over license plates

Their East Bay Districts overlap, but Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier certainly weren’t seeing eye to eye at Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee hearing.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was there to speak on behalf of his SB544, which would require the California Department of Education to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for creation of a specialized license plate program to generate funds for school violence prevention programs.

DeSaulnierThe problem is, DeSaulnier – who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee – earlier this year helped push through a resolution, SR28, that puts a moratorium on new license plate types until a task force made up of California Highway Patrol, DMV and local police can issue a report by July 2015 “on license plate designs appropriate for traffic safety and effective law enforcement in today’s environment.”

And that resolution essentially put the kibosh on Buchanan’s AB49, which would require the Department of Health Care Services to apply to DMV for a special license plate promoting breast cancer awareness – what supporters call the “pink plate” bill. AB49 now languishes in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Could you please explain to me why you should not have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and why this plate and any other should not be subject to the pending results of the study?” Buchanan, D-Alamo, asked DeSaulnier on Monday. “Because it seems to me that when we write a bill that kills one, it should apply to everybody, especially the author of that resolution.”

The difference, DeSaulnier replied, is that “the full-plate pink plate had a problem, in my conversations with the CHP” – police were concerned that the fully colored plate might be hard to distinguish from other states’ plates, especially under twilight conditions. His school-violence prevention plate, he said, merely has a logo on one side, not a fully different color.

But Buchanan insists SR28 applies to all specialty license plates. And “if we’re going to pass a resolution that clearly states it applies to all specialty plate types… we should be applying that equally to all license plates and not making special carve-outs,” she said.

Replied DeSaulnier: “If someone comes together with a plate that complies with our rules then it will get out of our committee.”

“Right now, my opinion is, your plate does not,” he told Buchanan. “In my discussions with CHP, they had some questions, so that’s why we’re doing the study. … My whole difficulty with your plate was whether public safety could see or not.”

Buchanan held her ground. “I believe for us to approve a bill that’s in conflict with an existing senate resolution that came out of the senate transportation department is not responsible,” she said. “I think that if they want to change it, it should be changed first.”

The Assembly Transportation committee voted 10-3 to advance DeSaulnier’s bill, which is now pending before the Assembly Education Committee.

The California Channel has video of the exchange here (starting at the 50-minute mark).

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 9 Comments »

House votes to cut off money for high-speed rail

Rep. Jeff Denham’s amendment to would cut off federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project was approved by the House on Tuesday.

Denham introduced H.R. 3893, the Responsible Rail and Deterring Deficiency Act, in January with support from all California House Republicans. The House passed it Tuesday as an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, H.R. 4745.

“Without a viable funding plan like the one voters supported, California’s high speed rail project is going nowhere fast,” Denham, R-Modesto, said in a news release. “I’m pleased to have the support of so many of my House colleagues who recognize that we shouldn’t be spending any more taxpayer money on a project without a future.”

The roll call was 227-186. Among the six Democrats who voted for it were four Californians who face tough fights to keep their seats this November: Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks; Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

Here’s what Denham said about it on the floor:

But before you get too excited: This has happened before. Denham offered the same amendment to the same THUD (!) appropriations bill in June 2012, and that one passed on a 239-185 vote; all California Democrats (and all but four House Democrats) had voted against it.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: Jeff Denham, Transportation, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

CA11: Parsing Mark DeSaulnier on high-speed rail

Lupe Schoenberger from Mark DeSaulnier’s congressional campaign called this morning to dispute my story’s assertion that DeSaulnier wants to cut off federal funding for high-speed rail.

She said he supports such funding but he believes the project needs to be radically reworked so that it starts in densely populated areas with rider safety upgrades and track improvements and then spreads into the Central Valley, rather than vice versa.

Here’s video and a transcript of what DeSaulnier said when asked at our editorial board meeting a few weeks ago whether he supports federal funding for California’s high-speed rail, starting at approximately 38:35:

“No, not as it’s currently construed. As you know I was one of four Democrats who voted against authorizing our bond moneys to match the federal funds. As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I’ve been very involved in this, I’m currently meeting with the plaintiffs in the state lawsuit, I’ve tried to engage the governor and the administration to see if we can fix what is very seriously broken.

“It’s a huge boondoggle, in my view; it’s going to suck the air out of the state budget. I’ve met, I’ve been in multiple meetings with Secretary LaHood leading up to this, and Secretary Lahood – the ranking person, the Secretary of Transportation during most of the Obama Administration – told me that they were going to come up with a third of the money for the overall program which is now $68 billion, but we’ve been told by experts it will probably be two to three times that. The federal government doesn’t have the funding for it. Representative Denham, a former colleague of mine in the senate, a Republican, has moved to take the money back – we’re in danger of having to pay money back for an isolated facility that will never give real function to the state of California.

“So I’m very engaged in it, I believe in a world-class passenger rail system over the next 30 to 50 years in California, but we’re doing it the exact opposite of every other industrialized country. Japan has the best model, I’ve talked with them…”

It seems clear that DeSaulnier does oppose federal funding for this high-speed rail project, the one California is actually implementing, though he might support such funding for some other version that he agrees with.

DeSaulnier in 2012 advocated an alternate high-speed rail plan that focused first on big commuter rail upgrades in greater Los Angeles and the Bay Area, but the Legislature rejected it as experts said adopting such a plan probably would lead to the federal government diverting its funding to other states. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg had to use significant muscle to get enough votes to win final approval for the existing plan after DeSaulnier and a few other Democrats vowed to oppose it.

DeSaulnier said in February 2013 that he was “still looking for Plan B” on high-speed rail, and he and other senators also questioned whether the state could build the bullet train without neglecting other, badly needed transportation work, such as highway reconstruction.

Other candidates seeking to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th Congressional District are Democrats Tony Daysog, Ki Ingersol and Cheryl Sudduth; Republican Tue Phan; and independent Jason Ramey.

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
Under: Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Swalwell wants airport perimeter security check

A Bay Area congressman wants an updated assessment of the nation’s airport perimeter security needs following a Santa Clara teen’s stowaway voyage in the wheel well of a jetliner taking off from Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The 15-year-old jumped a fence to get into the airport Sunday, and miraculously survived a five-and-a-half hour flight to Hawaii despite freezing temperatures and low oxygen levels.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, the only California congressman on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, notes there have been several such breaches since the Government Accountability Office last evaluated airport perimeter security in 2009. Several Democrats on the committee requested an update in February, and Swalwell wrote to the agency Tuesday to bolster that request.

“While we have made significant progress in airport security since 9/11, this latest incident near my congressional district in the Bay Area raises serious concerns affecting passenger safety,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in a news release. “I join my colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee to call for an updated assessment of airport perimeter security so we can identify vulnerabilities, protect our perimeters, and prevent future breaches.”

Read the full text of Swalwell’s letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Transportation, U.S. House | No Comments »

Neel Kashkari wants ‘Crazy Train’ derailed

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari launched a “Crazy Train” online petition and video today taking aim at Gov. Jerry Brown’s unwavering support of the high-speed rail project to connect the Bay Area with Los Angeles.

With California ranking among states with the highest unemployment and poverty rates, the rail project is evidence of Brown’s misplaced priorities, Kashkari contends – one of the clearest differences so far between him and the Democratic incumbent.

I’m guessing they couldn’t buy the rights for this:

Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, Transportation | 1 Comment »

House members battle over high-speed rail

California House members battled over the future of the state’s high-speed rail project at a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Here’s what Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, chair of the state’s democratic House delegation, had to say in favor of the project:

And here’s what House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in opposition:

My colleague, Jessica Calefati, wrote a great story last week about how this battle is playing out on the ground in the Central Valley – check it out.

Posted on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
Under: Transportation, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Transit strike ban bill dies on party-line vote

A bill to ban all California public transit workers from going on strike died on a party-line committee vote Monday.

SB 423 by state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, had gone first to the Senate Public Employees and Retirement Committee. There, senators Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; and Marty Block, D-San Diego, all voted against it, while senators Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, and Ted Gaines, R-Granite Bay, voted for it.

BART strike (AP photo)Huff suggested in a news release that the bill should’ve been heard first by the Senate Transportation Committee, since it’s all about making sure our transit systems actually work for the public.”

“But instead it was sent to the committee that focuses on the concerns of public workers,” he said. “That should tell you something about the priorities of the majority party.”

“Last year Californians witnessed the Bay Area come to a screeching halt not once, but twice, as leaders of the BART employee union called strikes and BART trains went dark,” Huff said in a news release. “Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents could not get to work, go to school, see the doctor, or visit with family and friends and it cost the region $73 million each day. We have made the public rely on public transit, but as a legislature, we have failed to make public transit reliable. That’s a major failure. Californians deserve a government that works for everyone but today they were let down.”

Huff in September had gutted and amended SB 423 to compel BART workers to honor the no-strike clause in their contracts even after those contracts expire. But he only amended the bill on the last working day of the legislative session, so no action was taken.

He later amended the bill further to ban strikes by all California public transit workers, with anyone who violates the ban subject to removal or other disciplinary action. Huff said the bill provided “a fair violation determination process” for such workers, but if a violation is found, such workers would lose two days of pay for every day of strike. Public transit unions similarly would have been banned from instigating strikes, and if the Public Employee Relations Board found a violation, that union’s rights would have been forfeited for an indefinite period; after three years of forfeiture, an employee organization could have sought reinstatement by the Legislature.

UPDATE @ 1:11 P.M.: Beall says he voted against the bill because it “just was not solution-oriented. It offered nothing to resolve the underlying bargaining issues that separate employees and management or to keep both sides at the table, such as binding arbitration.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
Under: Bob Huff, California State Senate, Jim Beall, Leland Yee, Mimi Walters, Transportation | 3 Comments »

Senate GOP leader offers new transit-strike ban

All public transit employees in California would be prohibited from striking, under a bill rolled out Monday by the state Senate’s Republican leader.

State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Brea, pitched the reworked bill during an interview with Ronn Owens on KGO Radio.

Bob Huff“If we’re going to make the people of California reliant on public transit systems, then we also have an obligation to make sure those systems can be relied on,” Huff said. “Shutting down public transit is neither safe nor fair. Police officers and fire fighters aren’t allowed to strike because they provide a vital public service. The same reason applies here. Public transit is a vital public service and it’s too important to be used as a bargaining chip against the needs of the people.”

Huff in September had gutted and amended SB 423 to compel BART workers to honor the no-strike clause in their contracts even after those contracts expire. But he only amended the bill on the last working day of the legislative session, so no action was taken.

When BART workers did go on strike, it cost the Bay Area about $70 million per day, according to the Bay Area Council, and public opinion weighed heavily against the striking workers.

“There are approximately 400 public transit agencies in California serving 1.35 billion riders each year and when union contracts are up, threats of strikes increase dramatically,” said Huff. “Workers for the two largest transit systems in California – San Francisco and Los Angeles – have combined to strike nine times since 1976. Management is just as responsible for creating these situations, and enough is enough.”

Yet Huff’s new bill would control and penalize only workers and unions, not management.

Huff’s newly amended SB 423 would ban strikes by all California public transit workers, with anyone who violates the ban subject to removal or other disciplinary action. Huff says the bill provides “a fair violation determination process” for such workers, but if a violation is found, such workers would lose two days of pay for every day of strike.

Public transit unions similarly would be banned from instigating strikes, and if the Public Employee Relations Board finds a violation, that union’s rights would be forfeited for an indefinite period; after three years of forfeiture, an employee organization could seek reinstatement by the Legislature.

BART’s biggest unions didn’t immediately respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2013
Under: Bob Huff, California State Senate, Labor politics, Transportation | 14 Comments »

20,000 petition signatures favor transit-strike ban

An East Bay Assembly candidate who’s been crusading for a legislative ban on transit strikes says he’ll deliver 20,000 petition signatures to an influential lawmaker’s office Friday.

Steve Glazer“Back to back, the petitions are larger than a 10-car BART train,” said Steve Glazer, who is an Orinda councilman, political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, and Democratic candidate in the 16th Assembly District.

Glazer and supporters intend to walk Friday from the Pleasant Hill BART station to the district office of state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, to deliver the petitions.

During the BART strike earlier this month, DeSaulnier had said that what Glazer is doing “is popular, but the reality is more complex than that.” The senator said he’s interested in an idea advanced by Stanford Law Professor Emeritus William Gould IV — who chaired the National Labor Relations Board in the Clinton administration — to enact a law providing for arbitration and prohibiting strikes in public-transit disputes. “But I’m not going to do it if it has no chance of success, if both sides are against it,” he said.

A few days later, when BART and its unions settled their negotiations and ended the strike, DeSaulnier issued a statement saying his committee “is investigating how other metropolitan areas around the nation avoid this kind of situation. After conducting the investigation, the committee will pursue every possible remedy to ensure this never happens again.”

Glazer said Thursday that “the complexity is kind of a smokescreen for those who don’t want to take action… Bans such as this are done in many places in the United States successfully, so there are plenty of templates to examine.”

Glazer said that besides the petition signatures, more than 1,300 people have used his website to send individualized emails of support for such legislation to DeSaulnier.

“By my count he has nine BART stations in his district, he probably has the most riders on BART of any legislator… so we’re certainly looking for his leadership and courage and backbone,” he said.

Among other 16th Assembly District candidates, Republican Catharine Baker, a Dublin attorney, voiced support this month for a Republican Senate bill that would force BART employees – not all transit employees – to honor the no-strike clause in their contract even after that contract expires. Senate Republicans since have said they intend to introduce a broader strike-ban bill covering all transit workers.

Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, another Democrat in the 16th District race, said Glazer and Baker are engaging in “political gamesmanship” when neither was privy to the BART negotiations. The third Democrat in the race, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, has declined to comment on the matter.

Posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, California State Senate, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 6 Comments »

More calls for Legislature to nix BART strike

With little or no progress apparent at the bargaining table, calls are growing louder for the Legislature to throw an obstacle on tracks as BART rolls toward another strike as early as Oct. 11.

Steve Glazer16th Assembly District candidate Steve Glazer, a Democrat who also is an Orinda councilman and a political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, will be at the Orinda BART station Thursday morning to hand out fliers to commuters and meet the press regarding his online petition drive urging the Legislature to ban BART strikes.

“A BART strike will cripple our economy, hurt workers getting to their jobs, limit access to schools and health care, and damage our environment,” his petition says. “The impact of a BART strike will be felt across the state. It should not be in the hands of a regional BART board. We need a statewide law.”

Glazer is running to succeed Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who’ll be term-limited out of office next year. Also seeking that seat are Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti – both Democrats – and attorney Catharine Baker, a Republican from Dublin.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Brown on Wednesday urging him to call an emergency legislative session in order to act on SB 423, which would compel BART unions to honor the no-strike clause in their expired contracts. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, introduced the legislation by gutting and amending another bill on the last day of the regular legislative session, and started touting it a few days later.

“The hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents who rely upon BART to get to work or school each day deserve peace of mind that they can get to where they need to go without the threat of a strike,” Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia, said in a news release Wednesday. “We call upon the governor to take swift action to ensure that this labor dispute does not create a transportation nightmare.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Bob Huff, California State Senate, Connie Conway, Transportation | 5 Comments »