Columns
June 24, 2017
link to facebook link to twitter

Coffeegrounds

Jud Snyder
SMART DRIVES ITS WAY and maybe Spreckels gets a break
June 15, 2017

NOBODY ASKED ME but I’ll ask myself anyway. OK and speaking in an op-ed tone of voice, we think Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, petulantly called SMART by its coterie of skeptical fans, deserve some sort of award for sheer persistent determination to build a 48-mile commuter train from Santa Rosa’s municipal airport down to near the center of San Rafael and within shouting distance of Larkspur Landing and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Building a commuter train is not a unique venture. Other cities like Chicago, Boston and the Washington DC area have thriving commuter train networks. All of them cost a lot of money but they all had the advantage of owning a set of rails already in place and they were updated by local workers, most of them immigrants, already in their homes or rentals in the big cities. 

The only exception was much of the railroads built across the west was handled by emigrants brought in by the shipload from China for they had special skills to create railroads through the Sierra mountains and elsewhere west of the Mississippi river. 

 

MOST OF THESE TRAINS were not built for commuters. But the roadbeds and rails formed the basics for the commute trains we have today. There’s a kinship between the rail barons who hired many Chinese workers and the SMART commute workers.

The trains moving north from Oakland were novelties and drew many celebrants and cheers. The SMART commute leaders (We hate to call them rail barons) are introducing a new arrival to Rohnert Park and Cotati. The citizens living here have only seen freight trains rolling through once in a while at a patient 20 mph. 

 

“HEY FOLKS, LET US introduce a new noise to your neighborhood.” Thus began the persistent grinding down of the impact. The SMART commuters won’t go away. Sometime later this month the reality will replace all the persistent grinding noise and SMART train engineers have federal train rulebooks in their pockets and nothing will change.

The only thing people will miss is that ghostly image called “quiet zone.” I don’t know who started this bit of municipal flim-flam so many people held close to their hearts, but now it’s headed for the euphemism hall of fame. It’s still looking for a home.

 

WHAT WE HAVE TO WORRY about now is Governor Jerry Brown. No, it has nothing to do with California divorcing from the rest of the country and forming a separate nation. But it has a kinship with commuter trains. 

Jerry Brown, like his father, former governor Brown, had a fondness for trains, and his latest Pat plan is to drill two tunnels under the Sacramento River Delta east of Antioch and ship NoCal water to SoCal which is suffering from a lack of water for irrigating its thousands of acres of needed fields for our supermarket choices.

Brown’s plan notes sinking water levels in the vast majority of farm lands south of the Delta while here up north rivers and reservoirs at or above capacity. But there’s another reason. Brown is very much in favor of an express railroad between Los Angeles and San Francisco or maybe Oakland. 

Of course, he’d prefer this train to be speeding along a better developed farmland than sinking water wells sucking the water tables lower every year. We’ll see,  it still has a long way to get state legislature approval.

  

HERE’S A LATE ITEM: On the RP City Council agenda there’s a notice written in city hall-speak that’s not easy to translate. But here goes.

The city’s already working on the 2017-2018 budget and we are guessing the Graton Casino Mitigation Fund approved by RP and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, several years ago with their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), now in their own 2017-2018 budget are trying to include Spreckels Performing Arts Center in its own budget.

Listed under Rohnert Park Foundation Fund and among the donations is this from the Graton Rancheria - $218, 792. Along with other donations from ticket sales and the contribution from Graton Rancheria and minus some expenses, the total from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancher is $208,792 for 2017-2018.

If this is approved by the city council, it means Spreckels Theater has a life until the end of 2018. If my translation of city hall-speak is correct.

But my deadline gets in the way. Sigh.