Friday, November 27, 2015

SMART needs another $600 million to fully realize its vision

SMART needs another $600 million to fully realize its vision

The total price tag for the proposed 70-mile SMART train route, including train stations, is currently projected to be around $1 billion.
By Tom Gogola
The tracks are laid, the cars are here—but the train stations?
As the highly anticipated Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) service rolls down the line to a late 2016 opening, an October document released by SMART indicates it will eventually need an additional $120 million to fully develop nine stations along a 43-mile “Phase I” route from San Rafael to Airport Road in Santa Rosa.
The station funds are a piece of the $600 million SMART needs to raise to realize the vision of the rail as a sleek, green and efficient alternative to unrelenting congestion on Highway 101 for commuters in Marin and Sonoma counties.
The SMART project list includes another $124 million for a promised bike and pedestrian parkway along the tracks; $11 million for a presently unidentified second station in Petaluma; $42 million for a Larkspur track extension; and, eventually, $178 million for the Phase II SMART extension, about 25 miles of track north to Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.
The station build-out has reached a new phase. On Nov. 17, contractors poured the top layer of concrete for a station in San Rafael and were headed north once they finished.
“This really marks the beginning of the station-finish process,” says Matt Stevens, community education and outreach manager at SMART.
The head of the rail district says the $120 million represents station enhancements that would take place over the next 25 years, as he stresses that the document in question is a planning document requested by the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“We are building the stations from downtown San Rafael to the airport,” says SMART general manager Farhad Mansourian. He insists that the money to build the stations in time for late 2016 is available now. “Absolutely. By the time we finish our project, we’ll have spent just under $500 million for the entire system of 43 to 45 miles.”
The station designs were approved by the SMART board of directors earlier this year. According to a report from the May 6 board meeting, the approval came with a board request for a range of improvements that totaled $12 million across the system. Those are listed as “unfunded requested improvements” in SMART documents.
Marin and Sonoma County residents voted to support Measure Q in 2008, which imposed a quarter-cent sales tax for 20 years to fund SMART’s construction, and which has sent over $200 million SMART’s way, according to revenue estimates. SMART has pieced together multiple revenue sources to supplement Measure Q.
Based on information contained in the Oct. 21 planning document, the total price tag will approach
$1 billion by the time the 70-mile system  is complete. The additional $120 million for station 
Read the full article in the Pacific Sun HERE
Richard Hall of  Remarks:

  • Glad to see somewhat objective reporting from the Pacific Sun, I have yet to see this reported on by either the IJ or the Press Democrat despite forwarding them both the documents.
  • Good to read this statement affirming SMART is approaching a "price tag" of $1 billion...

    "Based on information contained in the Oct. 21 planning document, the total price tag will approach $1 billion by the time the 70-mile system  is complete." 

    However Mike Arnold and I peg the total price tag as easily beyond $1bn and nearer $1.5bn. We have a records request due today from Farhad / SMART (if they don't deliver today they are late).
  • Neither the IJ or the Press Democrat have touched upon this additional $695m (not $600m as reported) in funding asks from SMART to complete the line originally promised
  • The bike lobby is clearly screwed over, the promised multi-use path is clearly unfunded, now estimated at $124m (instead of $91m from prior estimates). Arguably SMART, that only passed by a narrow margin, would not have passed without promising this path; now they've reneged on that promise.
  • The $120m additional for stations is dismissed by SMART's spokesman Matt Stevens as the "station finish process" or by Farhad as a "wishlist" of improvements for MTC. Puhhhlease!
  • The Petaluma station is interesting as it appears to show SMART is actually exacerbating sprawl, opening up development on land previously off limits or beyond the "urban land boundary". Why else would Pacific Lumber offer the land at Cornerstone up for free for a station if not so that then their adjacent land value becomes higher in value and more attractive to developers.
  • Of course any such development would go through the "full public process" - I think we all know how that works by now! The argument for development is alluded to since the station site is so close to the (now vacant?) Firemans Fund offices.
  • Sadly once again the media references the train in paragraph 2 as a "green and efficient alternative" clearly they are not in possession of the facts about diesel trains and ridership, or low emissions of cars - I submitted an op ed explaining that this narrative doesn't fit the facts that hopefully an outlet with integrity will publish.

"Broken Windows Create Wealth" Fallacy explained

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Give Thanks to to the Little Things

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another.
Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough, and we'll be more content when they are.
After that, we're frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with.
We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.
We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our partner gets his or her act together when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice holiday, when we retire.
The truth is, there's no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when?
Your life will always be filled with challenges.
It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway.
A quote comes from Alfred D. Souza. He said,
"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."
This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
So, treasure every moment that you have and treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time...and remember that time waits for no one.
So, stop waiting until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until winter, until your song comes on, until you've had a drink.... there is no better time than right now to be happy.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching.
Robert Westerburg

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

"We Shall not be Moved" Marin City 11/23/2015

Stealing Property Rights in South Carolina

If you own land outside the "urban growth boundary" you may suffer a similar fate as these property owners in South Carolina. Urban planners and politicians are re zoning property rights out of existence. Some of the black landowners have held this land since after the slave days. We cannot let this happen in America.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Rise of the Beautiful Ones" in High Density Utopia

High Density Utopia

PD Editorial: Ready for regional government?

PD Editorial: Ready for regional government?


Housing, its availability and affordability, is at or the near the top of the public agenda throughout the nine-county Bay Area.

So, too, are roads and transit.

Despite the region’s robust economic growth since the Great Recession, or perhaps because of that growth, the increasingly high cost and tight supply of housing is making it difficult for many families to make ends meet or even to live near their places of employment. And frustration with commute-hour congestion is often accompanied by the fury that is producing threats of a property tax strike in rural Sonoma County unless deteriorating roads are repaired.

Is surrendering local control the solution?

That might be the easiest answer, but we aren’t convinced it’s the best one, or even that it’s equitable, much less politically viable.

Indeed, regional government has been considered and rejected before. However, it may get a new look after being put forward again in “A Roadmap for Economic Resilience,” a report prepared by the Bay Area Council, an influential organization representing some of the region’s most prestigious employers, a list including Apple, Intel, Kaiser and Oracle.

“For all its strengths, the Bay Area lacks any cohesive and comprehensive regional economic strategy for sustaining economic growth, weathering business cycles and supporting shared prosperity across the region,” the report says. “Given the regional nature of the economy, its labor pool, housing sheds, job centers and commute flows, viable solutions must reflect a regional perspective.”

That, the Bay Area Council report said, could include punishing cities that fail to meet housing targets set by regional planners. The report also suggests a cap on development impact fees (which, in theory, are supposed to offset costs of schools, parks and other infrastructure to serve new development), waiving environmental reviews for housing projects and taking away local discretion over plans that are consistent with local zoning and building codes.

To upgrade the transportation network, the report recommends allowing a regional agency to impose bridge tolls, sales taxes, fuel taxes and/or a vehicle registration fee.

The Bay Area already has two large regional government agencies — the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments — though neither has the kind of teeth that the report envisions.

And while major regional efforts, such as Plan Bay Area, usually respect local priorities, larger cities and counties tend to have greater influence on the governing boards. That’s a reason for concern in North Bay counties should there be a serious effort to give these agencies greater authority.

In its report, the Bay Area Council points at regional governing schemes in Portland, Ore., where commissioners are elected, and the Twin Cities, where they are appointed by Minnesota’s governor. However, it isn’t clear that residents of Sonoma and other smaller counties would have any more influence under either of these approaches.

It is undeniably true that housing and transportation are regional concerns and that solutions have proven elusive, but it won’t be easy to persuade people that their interests would be better served by a board of super-supervisors further removed from its constituents

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What's wrong with Common Core?

Like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the EPA’s regulatory assault on energy production, Obama’s anti-suburban moves, American policy in the Middle East and other fundamental transformations, Common Core is so big and sprawling a change that it’s often tough to see it whole. That problem has just been solved by Drilling through the Core, a book that’s bound to become the go to handbook of the Common Core’s opponents.

Drilling through the Core is a collection of essays by the most informed and prominent critics of the Common Core, including Sandra Stotsky, Ze’ev Wurman, William Evers, and R. James Milgram. It includes a wonderful treatment of the Founders’ views on the study of history by James Madison biographer Ralph Ketcham.

But what sets the book apart is the 80 page introduction by Peter Wood. Calmly and with crystal clarity, Wood explains and connects nearly every aspect of the battle. It’s all here, from the most basic explanation of what Common Core is, to the history, the major arguments for and against, and so much more. The controversies over both the English and math standards are explained; the major players in the public battle are identified; the battle over Gates Foundation’s role is anatomized; the roles of the tests and the testing consortia are reviewed; concerns over data-mining and privacy are laid out; the dumbing-down effect on the college curriculum is explained; as is the role of the Obama administration and the teachers unions.

I found the sections on “big data” particularly helpful. I confess that despite my considerable interest in Common Core, I hadn’t much followed the data-mining issue. Boy was that a mistake. It strikes me that the potential for abuse of personal data is substantially greater in the case of Common Core than in the matter of national security surveillance. With Common Core we are talking about databases capable of tracking every American individual from kindergarten through adulthood, and tremendous potential for the sharing of data with not only government but private groups (balanced against assurances of privacy that seem decidedly weak and unreliable).

There are those who have declared an interest, not only in tracking information like students’ addresses, economic status, race, immigration and disciplinary records, free lunch status, religious affiliation, parents’ political affiliation, as well as every test you’ve ever taken, special education status, and other academic data, but even positively creepy indicators like facial expressions, eye tracking, and “smile intensity scores.” Furious parental opposition has already blocked some of this nonsense in some places. But there is still a very real possibility that Common Core will usher in cradle-to-grave dossiers on every American. At a minimum, we ought to be debating this issue. I doubt that most of the millennials exercised by NSA surveillance have even heard about Common Core data-mining.

Part of the problem here is the sheer range and complexity of an innovation like Common Core. Yet the rushed secrecy in which Common Core was adopted has also limited the number of people, to this day, who truly understand what is at stake. The extent to which the math standards have been dumbed down; the degree to which all the Common Core standards were adopted without being properly tested or evaluated; the sense in which the standards amount to an immensely expensive unfunded mandate on states—all of this and more has been disguised by the secretive and very arguably illegal and unconstitutional manner in which the standards were adopted.

Wood also does an excellent job of explaining how the supposed flexibility of the standards will soon be effectively eliminated as the newly-designed tests kick in. As with Obamacare, the most controlling aspects of Common Core have been conveniently delayed until several years after adoption.

In short, if you want to understand how common core works—including all that the creators of Common Core would prefer that you not understand—Drilling through the Core is the book for you. After taking in Wood’s invaluable introduction, you can pick and choose from among the topical articles that interest you most.

For making up your mind about this still-poorly understood issue, or for taking part in the battle, Drilling through the Core is essential reading.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached

How "public input" is faked at Plan Bay Area meetings by Paid Shills

This public visioning sessions for Plan Bay Area were conducted around the bay area where the audience was seeded with professionals and paid activists posing as "the public" . Our democratic rights have literally been stolen by a sham process. We will fight back.

See this Marin IJ article detailing the paid activists in Marin that helped pass this plan.



HARES, as you know, are very timid. The least shadow, sends them scurrying in fright to a hiding place.

Once they decided to die rather than live in such misery. But while they were debating how best to meet death, they thought they heard a noise and in a flash were scampering off to the warren.

On the way they passed a pond where a family of Frogs was sitting among the reeds on the bank. In an instant the startled Frogs were seeking safety in the mud.

"Look," cried a Hare, "things are not so bad after all, for here are creatures who are even afraid of us!"

However unfortunate we may think we are there is always someone worse off than ourselves.