Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - January 15, 2010

Letters

Rail woes

Editor,

For the last year, California, and especially the Peninsula, has been inundated with propaganda about how our future will be saved if we embrace High Speed Rail.

However, as facts emerge (highlighted by the most recent HSRA business plan), it's becoming clear that the only things that will be saved if this project moves forward are the jobs of the board members pushing it through.

Here are a few things that HSR won't save.

For starters, $42 billion that the state could desperately use to offset existing debt, improve schools and secure our water supplies. HSR will not save a single community that it barrels through from the tremendous noise it will create to the tune of 270 trains per day in 2035 (HSRA business plan, page 79).

It will not save our transportation system or energy consumption, as a vast majority of California's transportation needs involve regional commuting difficulties, not long-distance travel.

Finally, it will not save our state from the present recession, as only a fraction of the 600,000 promised construction jobs will ever come to fruition. It's beyond deceiving that the criteria used to arrive at this number defines a full-time job as one year of work during the course of construction and not full-time jobs created that will last throughout the entire course of construction (HSRA business plan, page 110).

So before California becomes indebted to this project any further, let's save ourselves from everything we didn't bank on.

Richard Hackmann

Embarcadero Road

Palo Alto

Rush to judgment?

Editor,

In a Jan. 7 letter to the Daily Post, Yoriko Kishimoto responded to my letter asking why she supported the high-speed rail measure last November without knowing all the details and problems behind it.

How refreshing it would have been had she simply said, "I made a mistake. If I knew then what I know now, I would not have urged residents to vote for it."

Instead she says, "In retrospect, of course I wish we had had the resources and knowledge then that we do now."

Is this how one wins awards for "leadership," advocating for critical issues without full knowledge?

Kishimoto writes, "... the voters were asked to support the concept of high-speed rail without a mechanism to ensure good governance and accountability." Why not have the honesty and courage to write, "I asked voters to support high speed rail"?

Rather than acknowledge her mistakes, Kishimoto uses her letter as a PR opportunity to pat herself on the back for all the wonderful things she's doing with the Peninsula Cities Consortium — things she should have done before recommending a yes vote.

She claims her consortium does more outreach than VTA or Dumbarton Rail — while admitting that she's on the boards of both organizations.

When "we focus our energy to tackle the big issues moving forward," as Kishimoto suggests, let's make sure we do so with our eyes wide open. Let's elect State Assembly leaders who don't rush to judgment and who have the courage to admit their mistakes.

Pat Marriott

Oakhurst Avenue

Los Altos

Wage dispute

Editor,

I'm informed by 50 years in construction.

Good outcomes occur when contractors respect workers, pay prevailing wages and pay for apprentice and lifetime training, empowering workers with competent, comprehensive craft capability.

Cutting corners, low-balling labor costs and exploiting untrained workers produces shoddy construction, with taxpayers bearing the social costs of construction.

I'm no Palo Alto resident, but I've handled the tools here in hi-tech labs, restaurants, downtown buildings, student housing and the V.A. Hospital.

Thousands of construction workers have invested pieces of our lives in your structures. We deserve a voice in the prevailing wage controversy. Our union apprentice programs equal any in the country. A five-year apprenticeship in my local union equips one to produce safe, efficient, skilled pipe-trades work anywhere on the planet. We work with confident efficiency that can lower the overall cost of construction.

When Palo Alto ducks paying prevailing wages, it disrespectfully denigrates workers. It produces a climate of contractor competition in a dog-eat-dog race to the bottom on workers' backs. Competition should be based on management skills and a trained, safe, efficient workforce.

The irony of Palo Alto's low-ball policy is that prevailing wage payment on government-funded projects became law when Palo Alto's proud resident, President Herbert Hoover, signed the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. That pen stroke was significant in his effort to backfill the economic ditch we call the "Great Depression."

We're back into a similar economic ditch. Palo Alto ought not dig it deeper by shortchanging workers and inviting shoddy construction.

Fred Hirsch

Carmel Street

Santa Cruz

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