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Op-Ed: Transportation Authority Has Engaged Public from the Start on SMART

TAM chair Steve Kinsey responds to op-ed from train opponent Mike Arnold.

I’m glad that Mike Arnold alerted Patch readers to this evening’s meeting of the Transportation Authority of Marin even if he continues to use his blustery way and inaccurate scare tactics to incite folks to come out. Local government benefits from public involvement, even if we have to take time to clean up the misinformation before digging in.

Let me start by correcting Mr. Arnold’s assertion that decisions are being made out of public view. Tonight TAM will hold its second public meeting to discuss SMART’s identified funding shortfall. The same issue was also discussed in public at last month’s TAM meeting, during which Mr. Arnold was given time to offer up his predictable bombastic comments, just as he has done in the Patch today. He also spewed the same inaccuracies in Marin’s daily paper this week, forcing a correction from TAM’s executive director that was printed the next day.

Tonight, TAM will discuss the amount of funds being sought to help SMART get started. We will present how it can be done without siphoning a single dollar from currently programmed projects in Marin. We will also discuss other conditions that TAM should impose if we do choose to share any funds with SMART. We will take no action tonight.

There will be another public meeting at TAM’s offices on June 13 allowing the discussion to continue. Then, following the fourth public discussion over a two-month period, TAM’s board will consider taking action on June 23.

Beyond process, the reality is that Mr. Arnold has never wanted to accept that voters in both counties supported SMART by significant majorities and now all transportation agencies have a part to play in delivering a functional transit system. No one wants to pay more for less, yet most public works projects — from town halls to highways to health centers and, yes, rail programs — do experience cost increases in the course of their implementation.

TAM will not ignore that duty, but we will also not act in ways that prevent the public’s involvement.

Likes Facts June 03, 2011 at 04:22 PM
I agree that it was not a good idea for Supervisor Kinsey to give in to his frustration over the misleading statements in Mr. Arnold's opinion piece. The fact that Mr. Arnold has himself made numerous ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with his position, including Supervisor Kinsey, doesn't make it effective or wise for others to do the same. I try to ignore this, however, and focus on the facts.
Lloyd June 03, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Too many promises have been made by our County Supervisors writing checks they can't cover. Now they are claiming that no one could have foreseen an economic downturn. Well be that as it may it seems to me that now that the entire scheme has changed so should the ability to adapt the plan. If they can't produce a product that is self sustaining (nee the "smart choo choo) or have a back up of federal or state transportation dollars then the entire argument to move forward is moot. The idea of jumping off the brink into the abyss of a life/fund sucking transit project seems absurd. The unwillingness to admit that assumptions that were made were incorrect just makes this that much more suspicious as to why they seem so intent on moving forward despite what appears to be mass public outcry.
Mike Arnold June 03, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Likes facts ignores what was sold to the voters in multiple venues. "No Marin money would be used to fund SMART" was how most people heard and interpreted it. Especially after voters reminded the same restriction applied to Measure A funds. So the voters didn't really "read between the lines" as "likes facts" would want them to. It reminds me of Clinton's famous line, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Do you really want to rest your case on this? Why not just fess up and say you're a SMART supporter and you don't care what was promised. In regards to the meeting, the fix is in: Marin county will give money to SMART, regegging on their promise and has bent over for Sonoma and will cough up 5x the amount of Sonoma per taxpayer as Marin to help close the gap. ($8 MM in Marin/Marin Taxpayers= 5 x $3MM in Sonoma/Sonoma Taxpayers) I dare likes facts to find any personal attack written by me regarding Steve Kinsey. You'll have multiple columns and articles to look for any personal quote. If you can find a single published example, I'll buy you a drink; that is, if you come out of the blog closet.
Robert J. Cleek June 03, 2011 at 09:56 PM
SMART is an expensive long term investment in infrastructure that, by every measure of experience around the world, will pay long term benefits to both Marin and Sonoma Counties. Making such an expensive investment in the pit of a huge recession when most of us are immediately concerned with our short term personal economic circumstances requires a vision of the future that strains the eyes. That said, the arguments against SMART are no different than those made against the Golden Gate Bridge in the midst of the Great Depression or the Marin County Civic Center in its day. Where would Marin be now without the perserverence of determined county supervisors who pushed through those investments in the face of similarly rabid opposition? The more Mr. Arnold repeats his mantra, "The train to nowhere." the more I realize he's describing not SMART, but his vision of Marin's future in the 21st Century.
Phil Maher June 04, 2011 at 02:12 PM
How about these "facts"? Marin is currently scheduled to receive only three of the promised five stations; one at Hamilton Field, Civic Center, and the other in downtown San Rafael. The trackage that SMART allegedly credits to Marin is extremely disingenuous. Being generous, and putting the North Novato station (Atherton) back into the equation, as well as the supposed eventual link to Larkspur Landing, the actual USEABLE distance for those tracks dedicated to total distances traveled in the direct service of commuters between stations in Marin is 13.9 miles (roughly half of what SMART claims is subject to Marin's benefit). Now, considering the scope of the IOS (Phase I) and the elimination of both Atherton (MP 28.7) and Larkspur Landing (MP 14.8) and you're left with only the distance between the Hamilton Station (MP 23.8) and San Rafael (MP 17.0) for a grand total of 6.8 miles of track that will serve all of Marin's currently proposed and funded stations. In other words, based on Marin's share of the currently projected costs of (37.5%) of the $470 mil for all this first phase- it's going to only run Marin County taxpayers about $26,000,000.00 per mile ($4,924.00 per foot)..for a worthless train and a bike path. With a price tag like that, you could literally afford to plate both rails with gold and still have money left over. Feel a little duped?

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