News - March 23, 2011

Fergusson ponders D.C. trip reimbursement

• She recaps high-speed rail trip.

by Sandy Brundage

It was past bedtime even for night owls by the time the Menlo Park City Council reached the staff reports section of the March 15 agenda, but those who stayed awake past 1 a.m. heard a recap of Kelly Fergusson's recent two-day trip to Washington, D.C.

Accompanying Palo Alto Councilman Larry Klein and high-speed-rail (HSR) lobbyist Ravi Mehta, Ms. Fergusson met with 11 congressional staff members and legislators, including Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, she said. The councilwoman described Ms. Eshoo as saying California had botched HSR, but wasn't against Caltrain modernization.

Their discussions in Washington, D.C., focused on the first four of five points laid out in a memo she released on March 3, Ms. Fergusson said: Build high-speed rail right or not at all; publish a credible ridership study and business plan; correct oversight deficiencies; and invest in electrification to benefit both Caltrain and Menlo Park.

Palo Alto's position on electrification is that the city doesn't want to spend HSR funds on the project, while Menlo Park's stance is not so clear-cut, Ms. Fergusson said, therefore she didn't spend much time on that topic. She said Palo Alto had created a booklet outlining that city's position on HSR and steps the council had taken. "It serves to bring anybody up to speed in a half hour or less."

"It was really a great two-way opportunity for education," Ms. Fergusson told the council, and reported that some of those she met with weren't aware of the flawed ridership study.

Fellow council member Kirsten Keith asked for a written report listing everyone her colleague met with in D.C. and indicating whether they were a staff member or legislator.

Ms. Fergusson said she hasn't decided whether to ask the council to reimburse the approximately $1,400 trip. In the days leading up to the trip, residents expressed indignation over her plan to stay in a $400-per-night hotel.


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