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Silicon Valley News Notes

Cortese vs. VTA

San Jose Vice Mayor Dave Cortese recently fired off a guest column in the Evergreen Times, hammering the Valley Transportation Authority (he sits on the board) for suspending progress on the Eastridge light rail extension in his district. Cortese says the $334 million project was promised to voters when they approved Measure A, the sales tax measure for a variety of transportation projects, in 2000. Along with the 2.6-mile extension through District 8, the plan included three light rail stations and an expanded Eastridge transit center. "The VTA wants to cut one of the most highly anticipated projects in our county in order to balance the books," Cortese wrote in the Evergreen Times. "Most outrageous has been the quiet suggestion that if you cut this extension you can build BART to San Jose. That is false." But the costly project, which by one estimate could carry 1,100 people each day—2,200 boardings—by the year 2030, is just one of many in the Measure A proposal that's being reconsidered. Basically, Measure A just didn't raise as much money as projected and now the VTA board will review each project over the next few months. Cortese says the rail extension to Eastridge should get priority and that cutting it out at this point would be an outrage. But the histrionics don't seem to have impressed Michael Burns, general manager for the VTA, who says each proposal will get its due. "No decisions have been made to cancel any projects, including the Eastridge Light Rail Extension," Burns said. 

Not Not Over

It's never easy to pick up the pieces after an election is lost, so it's no surprise that Dominic Caserta is still reeling from his loss to Paul Fongin the June 3 primary race for Sally Lieber's Assembly seat. Maybe this might make him feel better: his biggest critics plan to tone down their anti-Caserta website. The folks behind, which went up after Caserta gained momentum in his race for the District 22 Assembly seat, said they are going to change the tone of their anti-Caserta site, making it a little less heavy-handed and aggressive, said Kirk Vartan, who runs the website. Vartan (who isn't even a Santa Clara resident) said people had mentioned to him that maybe the site went a little too far. "The feedback I got was that it was too negative," Vartan said. "I don't want someone to read it because it's too biased or too extreme." But don't take it as a signal that he's warming up to the Santa Clara councilman, who he says betrayed his constituents when he cast his vote in favor of developing the former BAREC site instead of keeping it open space. Why even keep the anti-Caserta site up and running now that Caserta has lost? "It's there in case he decides to go for another office. I heard he might go for mayor or do something else," Vartan said. "I want this to be current and ready to go at all times." Caserta says he hasn't perused the site in a while and doesn't see the point of keeping it up and running. Regardless, he's long past the point of feeling bothered by the website and its content, Caserta said. "I talked to people who thought it was over the top," Caserta said. "I don't know if it helped me, but I don't think it hurt me."

The Latest Dirt

Speaking of BAREC, where is Erin Brockovich when you need her? Apparently, the neighborhood organization SaveBAREC lost yet another battle in their attempt to block a housing development planned for the 17-acre site in Santa Clara. The group challenged Santa Clara's approval of the environmental report, saying that along traffic and historical preservation issues, the report didn't adequately address one biggie: Toxic dirt. The Bay Area Research and Extension Center (BAREC) was a research farm that was run by the University of California until 2003. The land is contaminated because for decades the soil was sprayed with toxic pesticides. Although the state acknowledges that the dirt needs to be cleaned as a part of the development project, residents say what they plan to do doesn't go far enough. But a Santa Clara County judge disagreed. The organization raised and spent $40,000 on attorney fees to challenge this environmental report. So even though the group could appeal, it might be too costly. But that doesn't mean the end for residents who are concerned about the toxic chemicals. There are 131 lawsuits pending against the state from residents who are seeking damages, claiming the chemicals are linked to cancer deaths nearby.


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