Friday, October 29, 2004


No tax, no train--Vote "NO" on M!

Willard Richards supported transportation tax Measure M, in a letter in the Press Democrat (10/28, "Future necessity").

He said,

"There are now many acres of empty land near the rail stations in Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and other cities. Only after passenger rail service is assured will it be attractive for builders to invest in the major developments near rail stations that are necessary for passenger rail to be successful."

Richards says major developments near rail stations are necessary for the success of passenger rail service; but builders will not invest in such developments until rail service is assured. It's kind of the opposite of "If you build it, they will come." From the developers' point of view, it's more like, "If they come, we will build it."

Yet the old NWP Railroad has been gone for years, and the developers continued to build Santa Rosa without it. There's a paved street in front of every home in Santa Rosa, and most of those homes aren't close to the old railroad tracks. Those neighborhood streets feed into collector streets, collectors feed into arterials, and arterials feed the Highway 101 freeway.

The developers and their friends at City Hall didn't worry about overbuilding the existing transportation network, as Santa Rosa tripled in population-- from 50,000 to over 150,000 since 1970. And since Measure A in 1990, they've tried repeatedly to get us to tax ourselves to widen the 101 freeway from Marin County to Windsor. Measure M is just their latest attempt to trick us into paying for the obvious impacts of continuous growth.

Commuter rail advocates have compromised with the development and business interests for years. They've forgotten that the fundamental problem was and is unmitigated GROWTH, for private profit. It's just silly to argue that Santa Rosa can be rebuilt so that we live close to the tracks, and can commute to work on a train that doesn't exist.

If Measure M passes, 80% of an estimated $470 million will be spent on widening Highway 101, and other road and street projects. But some of the 19% for transit will go to keep SMART and commuter rail planning alive.

George Ellman (Sonoma County Transportation and Land Use Coalition) and Ken Wells (Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition) wrote in the PD 10/18 ("Pass Measure M"),

"Without Measure M there will be no funding to continue the planning and environmental engineering of the existing rail line, and the rail project will run out of steam in 2005. Measure M will ensure the SMART passenger rail project stays on the track."

And from the opposite side, Fred Levin (Sonoma County Taxpayers Association) wrote 10/25 ("Why Measure M lacks credibility"),

"Measure M is a ruse. The proponents will tell you that only a mere 5 percent of the proposed sales tax revenue, some $23 million, will go to the SMART district. The actual reason for this measure is to keep the multimillion dollar a year commuter rail going for two more years until it can ask you to pay an additional quarter-cent sales tax to fund the operations of the train to nowhere."

The simple issue is whether it makes sense to spend millions more on a potential rail line that few care about now, and few are likely to use if it's ever built. The greater issue is whether rail advocates should spend their time and our money to accomodate continuous growth, instead of fighting to limit it.

I'm voting "NO" on Measure M, just as I have on all the pro-growth measures since 1990.

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