Proposed Caltrain tax meets resistance

Daily Post Staff Writer

After years of resentment over not having a voice on Caltrain’s board, Palo Alto City Council has put off a vote on whether to support a state Senate bill that would bring a one-eighth cent sales tax for the agency to the 2020 ballot.

The council voted 6-2-1 Monday night (Councilman Adrian Fine was absent) to revisit the issue next Tuesday, 10 days before the state Legislature’s deadline to pass Senate Bill 797.

Berman on board

The bill’s authors include former Palo Alto councilman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, now a state assemblyman, and state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

Palo Alto has long felt that it lacks representation on the boards of Caltrain and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

“We have almost no power against San Jose, believe it or not, and it’s extremely frustrating. The same on Caltrain,” said Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, who has sat on the Caltrain board and chaired the VTA board. “You can’t keep governance and funding separate.”

Support for tax

Mayor Greg Scharff urged supporting the tax to ensure a stable source of funding for Caltrain. Councilman Cory Wolbach agreed, calling on the council to win the favor of Caltrain so “when we shoehorn ourselves into those (governance) conversations, we’re not laughed out of the room.”

Council members Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou voted against returning to the issue. DuBois noted that as the city with the busiest Caltrain station between San Francisco and San Jose, Palo Alto should have more of a voice.