.Letters to the Editor: Hear, Hear and Many More

A letter to the editor of Good Times

Hear, Hear

Re: “Super Responsive” (GT, 5/25): Thank you for covering the race for District 3 Supervisor and allowing all three of us to speak our minds on crucial county issues.

One important correction: your reporter stated that I “claimed” to have a recording of the Santa Cruz Together PAC meeting. This meeting was recorded by local resident Ann Simonton, who then confronted members of the City Council of Brown Act and other perceived violations at the next Council meeting.

The audio file was posted over a week ago at the Reimagine Santa Cruz website, and prompted broad discussion in our community, including among many former elected officials. I filed an FPPC (not Brown Act) complaint based on apparent collaboration between a candidate and an independent PAC in that recording.

It is up to all of us, IMHO, including our news media, to have broad discussions about the Brown Act, and seeming infractions, as well as possible FPPC violations. Who is funding our elections, and who is playing by the rules or not are all important to voters making a crucial decision in roughly one week.

Ami Chen Mills

secure document shredding

Santa Cruz

The article did not intend to imply the recording does not exist; it obviously does. The use of “claimed” in the sentence referred to the allegation that the recording documents improper campaign activity, which has yet to be determined. We regret any confusion. — Editor


Land Grab

Your issue on Measure D (GT, 5/18) was very well done, factual and balanced, each side making their case. As a Greenway supporter, one thing I want to add is that electric light rail for transportation should go down the middle of the freeway, paid for by the feds and the state. 

I think Roaring Camp, the largest “No on D!” contributor, did a great marketing job. Last year, they got the option to operate on the coast line (from the latest failed freight carrier), if only someone will pay millions to rebuild it. I think they want to use it for a tourist train, but have pushed “transportation needs,” “land grab” and “Save The Beach Train!” to get people on their side. 

We should have a beautiful, continuous Greenway and electric rail transportation between Santa Cruz and Watsonville. A high-impact train (way more “land grab”) next to a peaceful, scenic trail is not the way to do it.

Steven Robins

Felton


It Takes Vision

As the first woman in the U.S. to start an insurance company, I know a bit about executing on a vision that others don’t yet see. I believed in nonprofit organizations and their ability to safely and effectively serve our communities, even when providing care for vulnerable children and frail elderly. The entitled old guard said it could never be done. Then and now, they worked to undermine our success and keep the benefits of this effort from those who need it most. For 32 years, using a cooperative model, the nonprofit insurer I started and headquartered in Santa Cruz, Nonprofits Insurance Alliance, has succeeded and now insures 23,000 nonprofits in 32 states. 

That’s why I am so bothered by the matter of Measure D. I now urge every voter to turn away from the naysayers and share my vision for light rail in Santa Cruz. This has been studied thoroughly, resulting in green, efficient Electric Passenger Rail being selected as the preferred transit choice by the Regional Transportation Commission in February 2021. Many of the entitled old guard are trying to distract you from a better vision for the future. I say don’t listen to those without vision—those hoping to foreclose the opportunity for light rail in Santa Cruz. The future belongs to those who can see the possibilities. No on D!

Pamela Davis

Santa Cruz


What No Doesn’t Talk About

It’s incredible to me that the No on D folks continue to assert claims that are so easily proven to be false.  

Measure D expressly preserves the rail corridor for future transit—read the measure itself to verify this. Measure D would not stop trail construction; the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is planning Greenway’s trail as well as the trail-with-rail simultaneously. According to the RTC, Measure D would not stop planning or seeking funding for future transit on the corridor.

Railbanking is no “scheme,” according to the RTC’s several informational reports on the subject. It’s been used hundreds of times across the nation to preserve rail corridors intact for future transit, and at least 11 trails have returned to rail service. 

Health benefits for our county? 200 local doctors agree that outdoor active transportation—protected bicycle and pedestrian trails—is the most significant thing we can do to improve our county’s health and safety.

What do the No on D folks never talk about? How long it will take to build a train! And what it will cost! Good Times has offered several carefully researched articles recently in which to verify these facts. Vote yes on Measure D, based on facts.

Nadene Thorne

Santa Cruz


What Yes Doesn’t Talk About

The one thing Greenway never talks about is that if Measure D passes, not only will the railroad tracks be ripped out and further trail construction delayed for years, we will be stuck with widening Highway One as the only option for addressing our present and future transportation needs. Greenway doesn’t want anyone to know the total cost of widening the highway is more than double the cost of adding passenger rail. Greenway also doesn’t want anyone to know that outside funding for highway widening projects is becoming harder to get because state and federal agencies realize highway widening doesn’t really work over the long haul. Greenway doesn’t want voters to know the truth, because if voters knew their trail only plan was actually more expensive and would just make the Highway One parking lot bigger, no one would vote for Measure D. Stop the deception, vote no on D.

Andy Drenick

Santa Cruz


State of the Rails

I just read Greg Becker’s letter in the May 4 edition of Good Times. It made many assertions. My memory and experience suggested that those assertions were not accurate. So, after reading the letter, I drove through the stop-and-go traffic on Highway 1—traffic that will increase because Measure D removes one of our transit options—and took a look at the actual condition of the tracks.

Now, let me give some background. I’ve been involved in the historical preservation of railroads and rolling stock for several decades. I have carried rails, pounded spikes and restored old equipment to running condition.

The letter suggests that the present line from Santa Cruz to Watsonville is somehow deficient because it is old. Yes, it is old. It is made of used rails that are no longer viable for a Class I railroad such as the Union Pacific. The Union Pacific uses sequences of heavy and powerful locomotives (400,000 lb., 6,000hp each) to haul long and heavy freight trains at 80mph.

Our proposed use of the coast rail line comes nowhere near that kind of intensive heavy use. Rather, our proposed passenger rail cars are roughly the weight of a city bus and move at less than 60mph. They are butterflies compared to the Union Pacific’s elephants.

As anyone who is familiar with rails knows, each rail has the date of manufacture and the weight molded right into the steel. Those numbers may be masked by the light, harmless rust that affects rails, but with a bit of brushing, they can easily be read. Class I railroads generally use rails that weigh as much as 140 lbs. per yard. Ties are usually concrete or high-quality wood reinforced with wire mesh.

Our existing coastal rail is a mix of used rail. I saw rails of 90 lb. per yard and heavier. I spotted dates from 1917 and 1937. Some parts needed some re-grinding—a routine form of rail maintenance. And I am sure that a lot of those wooden ties will need to be replaced and the ballast (the rocks under the tracks) may need some work.

Those rails are heavier, stronger and newer than rail that I’ve laid and seen in actual use in places like Niles Canyon. Even the oldest of those rails are 40 years younger than the steel that holds up the Brooklyn Bridge in New York or the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Sure, our existing coastal rail is not the kind of shiny new, ultra-heavy-duty, sub-millimeter perfection we will have for the California High Speed Rail or the UP and BNSF central valley mainlines. But it is certainly a good foundation for our lightweight needs.

Yes, the federal regulatory apparatus and its definitions are troublesome. But our RTC seems more willing to pull the covers over its head and cry “I am afraid, I am scared” than actually trying to productively engage with regulators.

I noticed that once again the Measure D proponents sweep an important aspect under the rug: That the rail line was purchased for more than $14 million on the express and explicit grounds that the line be used for passenger rail transit.

In other words, the rail line is encumbered and may not be used for another purpose than passenger rail transport. That $14 million would have to be repaid if measure D passes. That money will have to come out of the pockets of Santa Cruz County taxpayers. And even if we were to pay that money back to the State of California, that encumbrance would still remain.

Sure, we expect people like Gov. Abbot of Texas or Donald Trump to use money appropriated for one purpose to pay for something entirely different. But we are better than those people; we should expect that when our government levies taxes on us and spends our money for a designated purpose that that money not be diverted elsewhere.

Karl Auerbach
 

Santa Cruz


Northern Comparison

Compare the idealistic Santa Cruz hope for a passenger rail service with the realistic outcome of the Marin-Sonoma Smart Train. That train actually goes places, from the San Francisco Ferry in Marin County to the Santa Rosa Airport, a major transit route through counties with 750,000 people. Yet ridership and income are really low and taxpayers are supporting it. Santa Cruz County has 250,000 people and the destinations—Watsonville to Davenport—are even more unlikely to create a sustainable service. The Measure D proposal will create a faster, legally less complicated, cheaper and healthy means for non-automotive transportation through Santa Cruz.

James Rosen

Santa Cruz


Rail-Trail? Bus-Trail!

I’m an engineer with an All-Express Passenger Train patent. Unfortunately, the local application intended over 100 years ago for only slow-moving freight trains and twice a day tourist trains would be better served today by a flexible surface that would be useful over many generations.

One surface worth consideration, already proven on playgrounds, can eliminate “used-up rubber tire wastes” by incorporating them within a gem of a transportation corridor that has been wasted for the past 10+ years!

Rubber-wheel trains throughout Paris, France proved passengers can’t tell the difference from standard trains. That aspect and local interest in TIG’s “wannabe bus of tomorrow” implies genuine buses can be made desirable.

A Strategic Bus-Trail doesn’t have to violate the integrity of a Trail-Only, it can be used in conjunction to more expeditiously transport passengers between Watsonville and Santa Cruz than any Rail-Trail, without involving time-consuming transfers.

Vote yes on Measure D!

Bob Fifield

Aptos


Down to the Wire

It is now coming down to the wire and the fate of the historic Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line is in the voter’s hands regarding Measure D. A yes on D means the potential loss of a very useful and needed rail infrastructure by caving in to the self-serving and elitist anti-rail groups and their deceptive tactics.

Voting no on D will preserve the rail line for future use by environmentally sound electric rail vehicles, which will help to reduce traffic congestion on Highway 1, prevent railbanking, which is a farce anyway, and save the beloved Santa Cruz & Big Trees/Roaring Camp whose operation is in jeopardy should D pass. Furthermore, saving the branch line ensures that existing Watsonville businesses who currently use the line to ship commodities will continue to do so and Santa Cruz County residents who wish to commute and travel will have intercity connections at Watsonville Junction in Pajaro. 

In this case, the pros outweigh the cons. Think Rail With Trail and please vote no on Measure D.

Gary V. Plomp

Gilroy


These letters do not necessarily reflect the views of Good Times.To submit a letter to the editor of Good Times: Letters should be originals—not copies of letters sent to other publications. Please include your name and email address to help us verify your submission (email address will not be published). Please be brief. Letters may be edited for length, clarity and to correct factual inaccuracies known to us. Send letters to [email protected].

5 COMMENTS

  1. FPPC found no merit in the complaint against Kalantari-Johnson. Egg on face for Ami Chen Mills and Ann Simonton, perennial S-Stirrer.

    Bina West Miller was the first female to start an insurance company. In 1892. Yep, let’s start with a misrepresentation.
    https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=Bina+West+Miller+was+the+first+female+to+start+an+insurance+company.+In+1892

    IF D passes, maybe SOME tracks will be removed. The rail option will still be viable according to the RTC, and will continue pursuing design plans and funding for it. SC only had to fulfill “initiating” passenger rail and does not need to pay back the state per agreement.

    The much larger population for the Sonoma-Marin voted to NOT increase any more taxes for buttressing their rail. It is used by the wealthy there because others cannot afford even the subsidized fares.

    BRT is less expensive and more flexible. It can go off the Line and onto city streets, eliminating the first and last mile.

    If you say that the rails are old and deficient, how can you say that we already have an alternative transportation choice? RTC has determined that most of the rail will have to be replaced to be safe.

    Roaring Camp is not in any danger, rail will NOT reduce GHG emissions nor traffic congestion much, railbanking is needed either way. No Way has more top money donors with funding hiding behind fiscal sponsors, using their own tax ID and FPPC #. We won’t know their $$$ nor expenses until AFTER the election. Surprises will be forthcoming. Many No Way people would benefit $$$ if rail is done.

  2. Thanks Mr. Drenick for pointing out the obvious. Tearing out the tracks leaves us with the futility of widening the highway at double the cost. No thank you. I’m definitely voting NO on D.

  3. Thanks Pamela Davis for your vision and perseverance to affect real change that has benefitted so many non-profits. Creating a better, more equitable future, clearly takes vision. I’m standing with you and so many others in voting NO, NO, NO on D.

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