Pringle Sidesteps Attempt to Curb His Power on Rail Board

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Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle sidestepped an attempt this week to curb his authority at one of his most important posts, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

One member of the authority, former state Sen. Quentin Kopp, this week proposed putting limits on what members can do if they are also elected officials in another jurisdiction, like mayor of Anaheim.

Kopp’s proposal would have prohibited board members, including Pringle, from participating in decisions that pose the “possibility of a significant clash of duties or loyalties between the offices.”

The High-Speed Rail Authority is a nine-member board tasked with overseeing the taxpayer-approved $43 billion project to build a bullet train system from Anaheim to San Francisco.

Kopp’s proposal is significant because Anaheim would be the southern end of the first phase of high-speed-rail construction and millions of dollars in changes need to be made to plans for a new city rail station to accommodate the trains.

Earlier this year, Pringle asked his High-Speed Rail Authority colleagues for financial help with the city project.

As one would expect, Pringle criticized Kopp’s amendment. But so did other board members, including Rod Diridon, who served for decades as a city councilman in Saratoga and as a member of the Board of Supervisors in Santa Clara County. The San Jose train station is named for him, a political practice known as tomb stoning.

“If we followed this stricture, the only people who could serve on these boards would be retired people,” Diridon said.

But board member David Crane, a special adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for jobs and economic growth and a member of the California Economic Development Commission, said everyone on the rail authority should work for “a system that people could have complete confidence is doing things for the right reason.”

He said board members shouldn’t be voting on items where the interests of local constituents might clash with the overall interests of the state.

“This strikes me as just common sense,” said Crane.

Pringle, calling himself the “target” of Kopp’s proposal, said Anaheim isn’t seeking benefits that differ from other cities along the proposed route. Pringle also sits on the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors, which sets overall transportation policy for Orange County and spends millions on transportation projects.

In the end, the board didn’t vote for Kopp’s proposal. Instead, Crane and some other board members said they would work on a rule that makes it clear when members should excuse themselves from discussions or committee and board votes. The issue will be back before the board in October.

— TRACY WOOD

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