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Train in Vain: BART and VTA officials are scrambling to finalize terms before a key deadline.

Public Eye


IS BART to San Jose in trouble? As a November deadline for federal funding looming, BART and VTA officials are scrambling to finalize the terms of their agreement. On Nov. 28, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is scheduled to adopt its 25-year plan for Bay Area transit projects. Instead of making separate requests, projects in the nine bay counties must be included in the plan, which is expected to pump $82 billion into the region. BART to San Jose needs to be included in the request, called the Regional Transportation Plan, to get in line for federal funds.... Meanwhile, officials from VTA and BART are still haggling over operations and maintenance costs, and haven't decided how--or even if--Santa Clara County will formally join BART with a buy- in. Staff from both agencies recently started sitting down once every other week to close the gap in their talks. Policy makers are also meeting biweekly, bringing together BART's elected board members and VTA board members, including San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and Sunnyvale City Councilman Manny Valerio, VTA's chair.... "It's slow progress," BART General Manager Tom Margro said after this Monday's meeting. "We've been exchanging drafts of the sections of the agreements. It's a pretty intensive progress, and a lot of things have to be agreed upon. And since Santa Clara County's not in the district, it needs to be very clear who's going to pay for all this. Sometimes it gets very difficult." With other extensions planned around the bay, BART's stance is clear: Santa Calra County must mitigate any additional costs that the new line creates. "The last couple meetings haven't been as pleasurable as everyone wanted them to be," adds Santa Clara City Councilman John McLemore, an MTC board member. McLemore says there's a chance that MTC could revise the regional plan later, but right now the distance between the two sides "is like a Grand Canyon."

Home Again

To the list of millions of air travelers stranded after last week's hijack attacks, add San Jose Police Chief Bill Lansdowne. After speaking at a conference in Atlantic City, the chief caught a morning flight home from Philadelphia. But about an hour into the flight, the pilot told passengers that all planes were under orders to land immediately. A few minutes later, they landed in Columbus, Ohio. "After that, we were on our own," says Lansdowne. While the chief stayed in touch with the department, Assistant Chief Tom Wheatley ran the department in his absence. Though the city opened its emergency operations center and beefed up security at the airport, a police spokesman says there weren't any serious incidents. Lansdowne finally got on a flight to Phoenix and connected home on Thursday night.... Also on an unintended odyssey last week was Santa Clara Mayor Judy Nadler, who found herself stranded in Montreal. Nadler didn't return calls, but Eye's sources say that rather than sit around and wait for U.S. skies to reopen, Nadler flew to Vancouver, British Columbia. She then took a bus to Seattle, and from there boarded a train that took a day and a half to get her back home.

Capitol Crisis

In Washington, staffers in Rep. Mike Honda's office closed up even before the Pentagon crash. Press Secretary Ernest Baynard says he called Honda, who was on his way to a budget meeting, told him the news and urged him to leave the Capitol. Baynard adds that, although the congressional leadership was quickly evacuated by helicopter, "the rank and file members of Congress were pretty much left on their own," which rumpled a few egos....Rep. Zoe Lofgren was sending an email when the news came, and later evacuated with everyone else. Speaking on the House floor the next day, she cautioned against lashing out at others based on appearance. "It is important to remember that it is not how we look or how we dress or the religion that we follow that distinguishes us as Americans," Lofgren said. "Let us punish America's enemies, but take care never to dishonor our country by blaming other loyal Americans merely because of their religion or ethnicity."

Going Oprah

Bureaucrats in the county offices have had plenty to giggle at recently after they finished reading a new Oprah-esque newsletter dished out by the office of Supervisor Blanca Alvarado. Alvarado's "How to Live a Happy and Prosperous Life," the first in a 10-part series on "happiness," offers tips on find-ing your personal mojo while keeping the blues at bay. While Eye's state of happiness is not a debatable topic--Eye is sun-shine--Alvarado's advice just might help out in the long run: "To lessen disappointment in life, master your expectations"; "Assess more, wish less"; "Trim your expectations"; and, "Be realistic." In other words, don't dream...."It doesn't surprise me there's some snickering out there," says Sylvia Gallegos, Alvie's chief of staff, "because this goes beyond the traditional forms of communicating. Either people will see value in it or they won't. For those who do see the value in it, great." Gallegos says the entire staff chipped in on writing duties, and that the series will publish every other month. One county aide praised Alvarado for catching the self-healing trend while it's hot, then knocked her for riding out the wave in public. "Sometimes residents just want their supervisors to fix the potholes. Isn't that a reasonable expectation?"... By the way, Eye has been hearing that Alvarado may not seek re-election. Gallegos confirms that Blanca is on the fence. "On a good day, she'd love to stay for another term because there's a lot of good work that can be accomplished," Gallegos says. "But on a bad day, she's ready to quit today, so she hasn't definitively made that decision."

The Envelope, Please ...

In its September issue, the Willow Glen Times enlightens readers with its first Best of Willow Glen issue, naming some of the leafy district's highlights. Anointed as Best Auto Repair Shop was Precision Tune Auto Care Inc., on Lincoln Avenue.... If that sounds familiar, maybe that's because Precision made headlines in the Willow Glen Resident a few weeks earlier, in an article detailing how the shop agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a fraud case filed by the DA's office. As part of the deal, the shop admitted no wrongdoing. However, services allegedly offered include charges for unnecessary repairs and work that leaves cars unsafe to drive.

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From the September 20-26, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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