Schwarzenegger replaces Diridon on HSRA board
- Published Monday, January 3, 2011, by the Palo Alto Daily Post
Controversial HSR official is replaced
In an announcement in the final hours of his governorship, Arnold Schwarzenegger put an end to Rod Diridon's controversial career as a high-speed rail authority board member.
Schwarzenegger replaced Diridon, the former Santa Clara County supervisor whose name is on the San Jose train station, with Los Angeles Business Journal publisher Matt Toledo. Diridon, 71, had become a lightning rod for high-speed rail critics after a comment he made last year about "rotten apples" that many perceived as being directed at rail opponents, though Diridon later said otherwise.
Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of Palo Alto's Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, said the rail board lost its only "self-identified environmentalist" in Diridon.
"The board just got a lot more conservative," Alexis told the Post. "This may affect decisions within the Central Valley about where the train should go."
But Alexis didn't think his departure will have much effect on the Caltrain corridor of the project. That's because the segment from San Francisco to San Jose has been put on hold, Alexis said.
Many residents have called for the rail authority board to reconsider running the trains from San Francisco to the East Bay and south using the Altamont Pass.
Diridon, however, told the Post that's no longer an option.
"Those plans have been studied three times over and Pacheco is a final decision," Diridon said yesterday.
Diridon, a Democrat, said the Republican governor wanted to appoint someone more conservative than he and with a background in business.
While some politicians have said Diridon's departure is a blow to Silicon Valley, Mayor Pat Burt of Palo Alto said yesterday it's less important to him that someone from this region is on the board; rather he hopes board members are objective and are "truly appreciative of the potential impacts high-speed rail could have on our local communities."
Robert Cruickshank, chairman of Californians For High Speed Rail, said it was a mistake to replace Diridon, whose whose transportation background can't be matched on the current board. Cruickshank said Schwarzenegger should have left new appointments to incoming Gov. Jerry Brown.
"He was a great asset to the board and to the high-speed rail project," Cruickshank told the Post. "Without him I don't believe the project would have survived this long."
Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger reappointed Curt Pringle, the former mayor of Anaheim, even though he's no stranger to controversy. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating Pringle for trips he took to Europe, the Los Angeles Times uncovered that Pringle received thousands of dollars in consulting fees from agencies with financial interests in the rail project, and the OC Voice released e-mails in which Pringle said he had no faith in the project's engineers and was furious about the project's lack of outreach in his city of Anaheim.
Pringle also faced allegations that his position as mayor of Anaheim and on the Orange County Transportation Authority were incompatible with his position on the rail authority. Pringle no longer holds those seats and has maintained that the issue is "moot".
Alexis said his reappointment doesn't come as a surprise, given that rail authority CEO Roelof Van Ark likes him and some see Pringle as the face of the project.
Ted Crocker, a Burlingame rail critic and co-founder of High Speed Boondoogle, said Diridon's removal shows Schwarzenegger's preference for building toward Los Angeles from the Central Valley before building on the Peninsula.
"I think Pringle has been perceived as being good for the HSRA and Diridon has been perceived as bad," Crocker told the Post.
Schwarzenegger also appointed Thomas Richards, a Fresno developer and a Schwarzenegger political donor, to Richard Katz's seat, who resigned. He retained vice chair Lynn Schenk and David Crane. The governor can appoint five seats, while the state Senate and Assembly can each appoint two board members. Former state senator Quentin Kopp is appointed by the state Senate, and continues to serve on the board.
David DeBolt and Diana Diamond contributed to this report.
[BATN: See also:
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