Save Caltrain with Measure RR

So many of the goals of Menlo Together – sustainable transportation, environment, housing affordability, equity – depend on having Caltrain service continue and improve over time.  

Measure RR on the November ballot will save Caltrain from being shut down, fund affordability and equity programs, reduce congestion, keep pollution out of the air, and enable Menlo Park and other cities to add housing near public transit where residents need to drive less. 

In addition to voting yourself, you can help with phone banking and text banking to reach voters.

There are online events to phone bank this weekend, including:
* Sunday, October 18, at 3pm with Silicon Valley Sunrise – click here to RSVP
* Sunday October 18 at 5pm with Mark Cordes, new CEO of San Francisco Transit Riders – click here to RSVP

Have more questions? Read on… 

Caltrain’s budget is in terrible shape because of the pandemic. Pre-Covid, Caltrain got most of its revenue from riders, but with most offices legally required to be closed, ridership has been steeply down. Caltrain’s public funding comes from its 3 county transit agency partners whose budgets are down because of the pandemic.  Without Measure RR, Caltrain faces a shutdown of 2.5 years or more!

Measure RR will prevent Caltrain from being shut down, and in the future will provide more frequent service at more times of the day, to relieve congestion and to make more kinds of trips convenient – you could go to San Mateo for dinner without having to look for parking.

Before Covid, Caltrain kept 4 lanes of cars off the highway and local roads. Congestion will be terrible if pandemic restrictions ease and Caltrain is still down.  

Our Climate Action Plans in Menlo Park and other cities depend on Caltrain to provide effective alternatives to driving. Pre-Covid, Caltrain removed 400 million driving miles per year from the roads. This would grow by about 240 million with improvements funded by Measure RR, removing 110 additional metric tons of carbon emissions each day.

Measure RR will fund implementation of new equity policies, including a 50% discount for low-income people, and better connections to local transit which more low-income people depend on to get to the train.

During the pandemic, Caltrain is supporting essential workers – about 50% of riders are travelling for jobs in health care, life sciences and government.  

Riders who have been required to stay home due to Covid plan to return – 70% of people who were regular riders before Covid plan to use Caltrain as much or more than before, according to Caltrain’s poll. 

Voters are voting early in record numbers, but about 80-90% haven’t voted yet. Many haven’t heard yet about Measure RR and how it will save Caltrain from shutdown, improve affordability and service, and save our region from congestion and pollution.  

So if you have an hour or two this weekend, click here to sign up to phone bank this weekend, or sign the pledge card to get connected with more ways to help.  

Voting is different this year so please make a plan to vote early by mail or at a dropoff site near you – check out smcvote.org for more info and to track your ballot.

Menlo Together D3 Candidate Forum – Video and Questions

Thanks to everyone who registered and attended the Menlo Together D3 City Council Candidates Forum.  Here a link to the video of the event. The list of questions is below.

Menlo Together’s goal was to enable voters to hear the perspectives and opinions of candidates on the interrelated issues of housing affordability, transportation, sustainability and racial justice.  Menlo Together provided questions to all candidates and the public in advance, on the day of the event.

On Saturday, candidates Fennell and Nguyen made short statements in lieu of participating in the forum. Nguyen made her statement at the beginning of the event. An event organizer read Fennell’s statement at the end.

All three candidates participated in the League of Women Voters forum on Wednesday, September 30, which can be viewed here.

Menlo Together Candidate Forum Questions

Question 1: 

California law requires cities to affirmatively further fair housing through zoning plans and policies that counteract and undo racially discriminatory laws and policies.

Examples of enduring discriminatory practices include concentrating affordable housing in under resourced neighborhoods and excluding affordable homes from other neighborhoods using single family zoning. 

What strategies to affirmatively further fair housing do you support, and which will you prioritize during your term?

Please be as specific as possible. 

Question 2:

During the Covid crisis, many tenants and some homeowners face financial challenges like never before and the challenges will persist for long after the pandemic ends.

What are the most important things you will do in your role on city council to prevent evictions and displacement of our most vulnerable residents?

(Note to Moderator – if they mention County and State solutions, ask how they will contribute to the desired outcome)?

Question 3

There is robust data showing a strong correlation between driving speed and the safety of streets for everyone – people driving, walking, and bicycling. The speed that drivers drive depends more on street design than on the posted speed limit.

Unfortunately, there is a state law that doesn’t allow the city to enforce a lower speed limit if most drivers are moving faster.  There are three parts to this question:
* Would you support setting speed limits to a max of 25mph citywide?
* Would you support setting design standards to gradually redesign streets to support 25mph speeds?
* Would you support the city joining other cities in advocating for changes to the state law?

Question 4

Meeting the Climate Action Plan goal depends on council direction and staff execution. Currently only 3 of 60+ steps to advance the Climate Action Plan are on the agenda for this year.  This is a two part question.
* What measures will you prioritize and how would they move the needle? 
* Given the unique and significant vulnerability to climate impact in Belle Haven, what measures would you advance to improve resilience?

Question 5:

We believe that racial equity is achieved when outcomes – in terms of housing, education, health and wealth – can no longer be predicted based on race and are improved for everyone.  What are two strategies you will prioritize to achieve racial equity in Menlo Park; and given the moment we are in, one of your strategies should be related to policing.  

Audience Question #1:
What does increasing housing affordability in Menlo Park look like to you?

Audience Question #2:

We received several questions about policing and public safety, so we will batch them into our first audience question:
* Do you support reallocation of police funding to alternative, community-based emergency responders? If yes, how will you achieve this change?
* Regarding city funding received by Facebook and allocated to the Facebook Community Response Team, (or Beat 4 of MPPD), do you support this allocation of funds?  If not, how will you achieve this change?

Audience Question #3
When the Housing Element is updated again, what will be the candidate’s preferred make up of the advisory committee steering the effort?

Audience Question #4
We have a lot of housing and retail projects going on right now, on El Camino. How many of those units are “affordable-15% less” and is it true that after a set time period, those rents at the “affordable range”, will be go back to fair market housing and those occupants will be forced out.  How will you work to control this.


Lightning Round short answer questions

– Do you support Measure RR, which provides dedicated funding to Caltrain, would prevent a shutdown because of Covid, improve affordability and improve service in the future? (C, J, M)

– Do you support Schools and Community First Prop 15, which will assess commercial property at market value and reclaim $11-12B in revenue for local government and public schools? (J, M, C)

– Do you support ending Menlo Park Police Department’s participation in the federal 1122 program which provides surplus military equipment to cities? (M, C, J)

– Would you support assigning resources to Caltrain grade separations – this was postponed to cut costs in the last budget cycle (C, J, M)

– When we redraw city council districts, will you support an independent redistricting commission? (J, M, C)

New addition from audience member – make it a simple Y/N/don’t know – Do you support Prop 16, 17, or 18?


Menlo Together and elections

One of Menlo Together’s goals is to help community members across the city get more engaged in the issues we care about and to learn about how to participate in city decisions, for example the recent Civics 101 event led by Belle Haven residents primarily for a Belle Haven audience.

We’re thrilled when Menlo Together participants take leadership roles in community groups, join commissions, and move on to run for office, though it is not appropriate for them to be members as candidates.

Jen Wolosin was one of the founding members of Menlo Together. She stepped down from Menlo Together when she launched her campaign for city council. She is listed on our site as a former member.

Menlo Together does not endorse candidates for office.