Report by Mike Barnbaum, Associate Director of the Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada, on Sunday 24 March 2013
The New San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, created by legislation from Cathleen Galgiani (AB 1779) and signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Jerry Brown on September 29, 2012, held its first meeting on March 22, 2013 in the City Council Chambers of the City of Merced. The meeting was called to order shortly after 1:30 P.M. After new member introductions and the pledge of allegiance, the historic Swearing In of New Members took place and the election of officers. A discussion took place regarding geographic region the three top officers are from so that to ensure that along the San Joaquin Valley Rail Corridor (Bakersfield to Sacramento/Oakland) had one member covering the Southern Portion of the Corridor, Central Portion of the Corridor, and Northern Portion of the Corridor. After the discussion took place, the new SJJPA Board Members agreed that they have accomplished that goal. With that being said, the new S.J.J.P.A. Officers are as follows:
- Chair – Supervisor John Pedrozo of Merced County (Central)
- 1st Vice Chair – Supervisor Henry Perea of Fresno County (South)
- 2nd Vice Chair – Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn and appointed to the S.J.J.P.A. by the Sacramento Regional Transit District Board
The legislation that created the S.J.J.P.A. and the coming together of the first meeting ever was work done behind the scenes by eleven astute people that made up Ad Hoc Staff Working Group including but not limited to Mike Wiley and Jeffrey Damon of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. All eleven of these people were publicly recognized during the first meeting.
Following the recognition of the eleven Ad Hoc Staff Working Group Members, the SJJPA took public comments. This writer was last, out of courtesy of other in attendance. Many public comments came from students of the new U.C. Merced as well as transportation professionals. Tom Richards, Vice-Chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority testified to the new members as to how the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority served as a great model over the years as to why the new S.J.J.P.A. was needed and ultimately created through state legislation. This writer talked about goal setting, particularly setting one critical goal of “Closing The Gap” that has been much talked about at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee by the Treasurer of the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) Bill Kerby. The “Closing the Gap” refers to eliminating bus service in favor of providing rail service between Bakersfield and California’s Busiest Rail Station, Los Angeles Union Station. Los Angeles County is the largest County in the United States of America in terms of population and is the second busiest Amtrak Station in the United States of America in terms of passengers. The last this writer, from Sacramento, had checked, Sacramento is the second busiest Amtrak Station in California and the seventh busiest Amtrak Station in the United States of America.
Following public comments was the adoption of the consent calendar. The consent calendar was adopted unanimously, including the meeting schedule for the remainder of Calendar Year 2013 and the location of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the S.J.J.P.A. This writer addressed the group in regards to the date of the next meeting proposed for the Friday that comes on the heels of a major three day weekend. After brief conversation, the board decided to proceed with that date and the remaining dates on the 2013 meeting calendar. The next meeting of the S.J.J.P.A. will occur on Friday 24 May 2013 at New Sacramento City Hall Council Chambers from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. so that new Board Members in the San Joaquin Valley will have the ability to ride Train 701 directly to Sacramento arriving at 12:25 P.M. and back on Train 704 directly from Sacramento departing at 4:55 P.M. This is the only way for San Joaquin County Board Members and participants to attend a S.J.J.P.A. Meeting in Sacramento so as to not have a run-in with Peratta’s Law. This was a law writted and signed into law year’s ago by former State Senate President Pro-Tem Don Peratta which prohibits exclusive Amtrak Bus travel when using Amtrak to do a roundtrip in their itinerary. The law, in plain English states that when using Amtrak on an itinerary, a segment traveled by train must be included somewhere in that passenger’s itinerary or the travel can not be sold by Amtrak under any circumstance.
With that being said, the following will be the meeting schedule for the remainder of 2013 set for the Fourth Friday of Each Month as Follows:
- May 24, 2013 at New Sacramento City Hall from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. (Train 701 to Sacramento & Train 704 to San Joaquin Valley)
- July 26, 2013
- September 27, 2013
- November 22, 2013 (This is the Friday “Before” Thanksgiving Day)
Members are also being polled by the Ad Hoc Staff Working Group for a special meeting for June 28th and/or another date in June, not yet known, to come to agreement on final selection of managing agency. The Managing Agency currently in place for the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority is the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, headquartered in Oakland, California.
As the meeting proceeded a presentation was made about Intercity Passenger Rail Lobby Days in Sacramento that will be held over a 2-Day period on April 10 & 11. Caution was made into who would go from the new SJJPA Board so as to not hve a “quorum” present in the halls of the Capitol. If this occurred, a meeting would have to be noticed under California’s Open Meetings Act known as the Brown Act.
An Oral presentation was made regarding the selection process and criteria for selection of a Managing Agency and their Criteria. Staff of Agencies that have expressed interest in being the Managing Agency exempted themselves from speaking or presenting on this item. The item did allow for public comment of which this writer took full advantage as as transit rider, of promoting why the Sacramento Regional Transit District needs to be the Managing Agency of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. Among other things, the Sacramento Regional Transit District has completed a quarter of a century of operating Light Rail Service to the people of the Sacramento Region in 2012 and that on Monday 1 April 2013, the Sacramento Regional Transit District will turn 40. The comments made by this writer was to demonstarte to the Board Members and the independent presenter of the item that the Sacramento Regional Transit District is not new, and that the Sacramento Regional Transit District has a “track” record – no pun intended – of rail operations that is well established in the marketplace of the San Joaquin Valley for those Counties between Kern and Sacramento.