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Second Hearing Planned After TAM Approves Allocating $8M to SMART

The Transportation Authority of Marin decides help close budget gap for the controversial passenger train service.

After two votes, the Transportation Authority of Marin approved allocating $8 million in local funds to help close Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit’s $21 million budget gap.

SMART appealed to TAM, as well as the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, for funds to construct the initial rail line and multi-use path from downtown San Rafael to Santa Rosa Railroad Square in April. During the first vote, the TAM board voted 7-7 on the plan.

“SMART promised it would not take local funds,” said Supervisor Susan Adams, who represents San Rafael and voted against the motion. “We have a fiscal responsibility to decide what is best for TAM. We’re not SMART board members.”

After a brief break, when most of the public left, TAM reconvened and Joan Lundstrom of Larkspur decided to change her vote in hopes that a pedestrian bridge over Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the Larkspur Ferry would be possible. The new vote was 8-6.

TAM Chairman Steve Kinsey said the item would be put on the future agenda so the public could be present.

A date for the meeting has not been set for the board to take another vote, TAM Executive Director Dianne Steinhauser said.

The $8 million from TAM is part of a “three-legged beast” that enabled SCTA and MTC to contribute the remaining funds needed to begin construction, according to  Steinhauser.

MTC shuffled $22 million in toll funds that were left over after the Larkspur SMART station was cut. Even after this, SMART still needed $21 million to being construction, so MTC contributed $10 million and SCTA contributed $3 million.

“I think is it short of miraculous that we are able to provide these one-time funds,” Steinhauser said. “The difficulty of past months was seeing if we could participate without holding back any projects.”

Before the second vote, Marjorie Shank, among many others, urged TAM not to give SMART more money.

“You’ve already given them raises for no performance,” she said. “How much money is going to be given to the train that goes nowhere that will continue being the train that goes nowhere?”

Opponents also worried that SMART will cut the multi-use path to save money, and continue to ask for more financial support in the future when budget shortfalls occur.

“All projects like these are built in phases and usually need other agencies' help,” Supervisor Judy Arnold said.

Arnold, who is SMART’s vice chairperson, supports allocating the funds because she said 63 percent of her district voted for the rail line.

“TAM has a responsibility to help SMART succeed,” she said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Jonathan Frieman June 27, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Marie, phone her. 499-7331. You'll get directed to her or one of her aides. I know why she voted yes, but let her tell you.
Jonathan Frieman June 27, 2011 at 03:03 PM
The ugly side of politics is also found in the median vote last week. Businesses are charged more than homeowners. The supporting signs were left out for far too long, meaning the city endorsed the election. It's a tax on top of tax, because government won't do the job anymore. And the people supporting this are lazy--they won't do volunteerism and they want people who cannot afford to pay to be encumbered with extra costs.
Jonathan Frieman June 27, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Hey, we should talk about Judy. Give her a call and find out why she voted the way she did.
Lloyd June 27, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Judy Arnold is, was and always will vote contrary to her constituency in favor to her special interests. Her blatant disregard of the will of her district speaks volumes of her disregard for our needs. She believes she is above all of us and her opinions are much more valuable than us common folk. I find the entire interlocking process to be a web of corruption and conflicts of interest. It is disgusting and we should recall everyone of our so called elected officials that participate in this travesty of democracy.
Lloyd June 27, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Tom when Judy was contacted about her one sided endorsements and stance on the Novato Housing element her response was a canned reply. She believes we don't have the will and as time goes by we will forget and simply continue to vote for her. Actually rumor has it that she wants to move onward and upward but hopefully the people in her constituency will never vote for her in any capacity ever again.

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