Editorial: HSRA should not keep eminent domain maps secret
- Published Saturday, February 20, 2010, by the Palo Alto Daily Post
Railroad map shouldn't be secret
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is refusing to let the public see the maps it is using to determine where the train will go -- and how many homes the agency might have to seize through eminent domain.
The authority has said that it will build its tracks alongside Caltrain between San Francisco and San Jose. But high-speed rail will require its own tracks, which will have to go on one side of Caltrain or the other, or above Caltrain or below it.
So back on Jan. 18, the Post asked the rail authority for maps showing the parcels nearest to the tracks. We wanted to do a story showing which properties would most likely be in danger of being seized by the authority to make way for the new train.
State law Ignored
We made the request under the state open records act, which requires a response within 10 busiiness days. The rail authority didn't respond until Feb. 11 -- long past the legal deadline.
On Feb. 11, rail authority's Jeff Barker apologized and promised to get us the maps in a day or two.
Seven days later, the authority's Rachel Weninger told us that her agency had no such maps.
But wait a minute. At a Feb. 9 community meeting on high-speed rail, Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt asked for maps, and the authority's regional manager, Dominic Spaethling, promised to get them the next day. It's been more than a week, and no such maps have been delivered to the mayor.
Putting off bad news
We suspect the agency has plenty of maps, but it doesn't want to release them because the public will awaken to the reality that this new railroad will devour a lot of prime real estate in our communities -- homes in beautiful neighborhoods. It will likely result in the chopping down of El Palo Alto, the 1,070-year-old tree that gave Palo Alto its name. Schools and businesses won't be safe either.
But no matter how bad the news, the rail authority doesn't have the right to keep secret a public document such as a map. The authority's documents belong to the public, not to government employees.
By hiding these maps, the rail authority is damaging its credibility at the very time it needs to build trust among residents.
[BATN: See also:
Peninsula NIMBYs push to end HSR in SJ; eminent domain report delay
Peninsula NIMBYs seek HSR eminent domain maps, push SJ terminus
HSRA denies it has eminent domain maps sought by Palo Alto