As a fairly new resident of Larkin Valley, I responded to a note in the paper to have lunch with my county supervisor, Zach Friend. This was held at the Seascape Golf Club sponsored by the Aptos Chamber of Commerce, though the $35 tab was a moneymaker for the thinly sauced rigatoni and some grilled sauceless chicken.
Being a fan of Sinclair Lewis, I have a great curiosity about what chambers of commerce (the name sounds a little ominous) actually do. Over 30 years of having a business in Santa Cruz, I have been invited once and asked later to join the local group. As Groucho might expect, I never received a follow-up call and I have yet to see a promotion they have executed for local businesses. I do see some social events, which might be the main idea.
The Aptos event was held on a weekday and attendance was dominated by what Democrats call “good old boys.” They obviously benefit from not having to work so much. There were women there, mostly my age (old). I sat at a table with three other old guys who eyed me with some suspicion—maybe I look like a Democrat—and who never spoke to me.
After way too long with the rigatoni and my tablemates, the supe was introduced as a great friend of the chamber and the community and he held forth on his career path and said notably that this was the best government job since you only had to convince two other people to go along with you. 100k a year with health benefits for life, and 100k a year for life if you get re-elected, not so bad for a part-time job. But then the Chief Administrator gets 300k for really running things. (Okay, I know, nobody put a gun to my head and said I had to own a restaurant.)
Then, of course, there was the obligatory Q&A. First a softball from an apparent fan who asked about his biggest recent accomplishments. He cited some library and park work and then no hands went up, so, naturally I got out the dagger and raised my hand and simply said “Highway 1.” Apparently to buy himself some time, he wanted to know if that was a question. I patiently explained that working downtown and living in his district, I couldn’t leave for work before 10 or come home before 7. He narrowed his eyes and threw up his hands and said people are talking about trains, and buses, and highway widening and HOV lanes but we needed to realize that this was not really a transportation issue but a planning issue. People simply needed to live where they work. Now my 9-mile commute seemed even longer and I envied his apparently very flexible hours even more. I left hungry.
I now see that the supe couldn’t vote on the rail trail issue because he has a house with an easement for the railroad. I suspect that much of the opposition to the rail is generated by folks who bought houses with easements 30 years ago for a hundred thousand and who are now terrified that the house will now be worth only 1.9 million instead of 2 even with a very quiet electric train going by occasionally.
It is odd that car-crazy Japan can do electric trolleys between towns and we find them quite exotic.
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