When it comes to putting Palo Alto's formal opposition to the California high-speed rail project in writing, longer is better.
That's what the city council decided Monday in adopting language that calls on the state Legislature to abandon the $100-billion undertaking.
The council's Rail Committee was tasked with drafting a position, as well as more than a dozen guiding principles for the project if it isn't nixed. The panel, however, was split, with Larry Klein and Gail Price favoring brevity and Pat Burt and Nancy Shepherd preferring depth.
Presented with two competing proposals, the full council opted for the more detailed statement.
"It's important ... they understand our reasoning behind it," said Council Member Greg Scharff, adding that he typically falls in the "shorter is better" camp. "It's not just Palo Alto making a declarative statement."
The position drafted by Burt and Shepherd reads in part: "The city of Palo Alto believes that the high-speed rail project should be terminated for the following reasons: 1. The current project fundamentally contradicts the measure presented to voters under Prop. 1A in 2008. 2. The business plan is fatally flawed and not credible."
It is backed by a list of discrepancies between the current project and the one approved by voters three years ago.
"Since the revised (high-speed rail) business and funding plans do not meet the projected ridership, fare, job creation and other significant requirements, the city believes that the voters were not given accurate information during the 2008 election to make an informed decision on a (high-speed rail) project for the state of California," the statement concludes.
By contrast, Klein and Price produced a one-sentence explanation: "The city believes that the state should terminate the (high-speed rail) project since it's too expensive, has no credible funding plan, is based on deeply flawed and unreliable data, and the (high-speed rail) project was put before voters under Prop. 1A on the basis of serious, material representations."
Mayor Sidney Espinosa said the lack of depth was problematic. "It seemed so short it would leave people with questions."
Price ultimately voted with the majority to adopt the longer statement, noting that it was more important to formally register her opposition to the bullet train project. Klein was absent Monday.
"I still think briefer is better," Price said.
Palo Alto resident Bill Nugteren, however, criticized both statements as elitist. Instead, he urged the council to adopt a position that establishes its objections but also recognizes the value of high-speed rail.
"We are, in my assessment, 50 years late in building high-speed rail," Nugteren told the council.
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