Nearly two years after Santa County voters OK’d a $6.3 billion sales tax to bring BART to downtown San Jose, upgrade Caltrain and repair the region’s crumbling roads, the public will finally start to reap its rewards.
That’s because the California Supreme Court this past week refused to hear an appeal by Measure B foe Cheriel Jensen, a Saratoga resident who single-handedly held up hundreds of millions of dollars by suing to block the half-cent sales tax. In her complaint, Jensen more or less claimed that a BART extension to the heart of San Jose wasn’t feasible because it would disturb an aquifer.
The octogenarian, a retired urban planner who didn’t respond to San Jose Inside’s calls for comment, has a history of headline-grabbing—if not misguided and scientific-consensus-defying—environmental and health activism.
In 2015, Jensen sued the county to stop it from spraying mosquito-killing pesticides designed to prevent the spread of West Nile virus. A judge dismissed the claim.
Last year, she introduced a long-shot state initiative that would ban genetically modified organisms, nix school vaccination requirements, outlaw over 300 chemicals, including fluoride and chlorine, and establish a new environmental oversight agency.
Jensen’s attempts to halt the Measure B sales tax froze $360 million in escrow while the court decided the case. Thankfully for the 72 percent of voters who passed the measure in 2016, the state’s high court refused to consider the appeal, which effectively upholds the sales tax until it sunsets in three decades.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo applauded the court’s decision.
“With this victory, we can immediately put hundreds-of-millions of dollars to work paving our roads, improving our highways and expressways and upgrading our mass transit systems,” he said in a news release. “Today, we’re one step closer to building the 21st century transportation infrastructure that our residents deserve.”
One of the first orders of business for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), the agency presiding over the Measure B’s tax revenue, is to divvy it up to local cities for pothole repairs.
“We are ready to provide $9.5 million dollars in advance to cities to relieve the ‘pot hole pain’ they’ve endured for so long,” Santa Clara Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill, who chairs the VTA board, told reporters Wednesday. “We look forward to signing the agreements with all of our partner agencies in Santa Clara County, so we can get this much-needed work done to improve mobility for the millions of people who rely on us to keep them moving where they work, live and play.”
To see how else the VTA plans to spend the proceeds, click here.