It wasn’t all that long ago that I had the opportunity to witness a true political spectacle. It was fairly early in the morning, yet a well-dressed crowd had gathered at the distinguished Goldwater Institute to hear the pros and cons on going forward with the proposed light rail project to be funded from an already empty public purse.
We’re talking Billions and Billions of (your) dollars here. This is money that you, your children, their children and every succeeding generation will have to earn to pay for this boondoggle. This is an especially obnoxious project because in the best of circumstances, as it is planned, it cannot hope to accomplish the task of moving large numbers of people efficiently or effectively. Of course, even the ‘pro’s, were ‘cons’…..con-jobs that is. That’s why it amazes me that full-grown adults had anything to even discuss in this regard.
Haven’t we all been down these tracks before?
True to the billing there was the traditional discussion panel. There were politicians; a current mayor, a state legislator, even a U.S. Congressman. There was one real expert, there was a perfessor from an out-of-state government-sponsored college (from socialist Kalifornia) and a local newspaper editor-provocateur for the Socialist movement. There were a couple of other guys, but their significance was lost the moment they opened their mouths to reveal their self-serving employment ties to the project.
Probably just as impressive was the audience. There were radio and TV personalities, more politicians, an activist newspaper writer who has stayed on this story exposing the truth (to the chagrin of the project’s proponents) by pointing her fenger at the facts, and there were some genuinely concerned private citizens.
It was a well-mannered rumble, and the prize was/is your money, so you might just want to sit up and take notice of what’s really going on here. I dare say if this stupidity goes through, most folks won’t have enough of their own money left to even be able to pay the small price of their attention.
On the whole, it was a humorous event that would have been thoroughly enjoyable if we weren’t talking about such big dollars for an obsolete decoration that has no possible chance of doing anything other than worsening the problem it was supposed to correct. But then, that’s what government projects are for, right? After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the same trolley system was dug up and removed from our very own downtown.
Now why do you suppose this ground-level stupidity was removed? Because it was obsolete and it caused so much traffic congestion and more pollution because cars were on the road longer polluting the air waiting for trolley cars to pass. The taxpayers paid for that, too. In every city that has pushed this nonsense through, a ground-level light rail system has lessened the quality of life for all Citizens and proven to be the most expensive, least effective way to move people. Would Phoenix be any different? No.
Our expert displayed an impressive command of the numbers, the effects and even of the spin the spenders kept trying to put on the whole deal. Each time he rose to speak in rebuttal of the ‘pro’ commentaries he was clear, concise and very precise. It really wasn’t fair to pit the spenders against this genteel and learned man.
The very boy Mayor of one of our Metro cities showed himself to be an able speaker, it’s just too bad he had nothing of substance to say. Well he did say one thing; “We should go ahead and waste taxpayer monies…because ‘we’ want it”. That was it. I guess the only rationale response to his ‘argument’ would be, “Oh yeah?”
Then we had the trolley builder guy. He treated the audience to some good old math lessons that left the audience scratching their heads. Not thinking of his own profits… should it be built, of course. This character forwarded the notion of building this brand new blight because it wouldn’t have a continuing cost in tax dollars of $20.00 per rider per trip—only $12.00 to $16.00! And that’s in addition to the rider’s fare.
I got the idea that this guy would tell you to buy a billion buggy whips (with tax dollars) because they were on sale for a dollar off. As long as he makes his commission, that is. Essentially he said that we should bankrupt the county as long as there is perceived ‘growth’.
In a courageous move putting the real motives on the table, the ‘pro’ contingent made it very clear that they thought we should ‘extend’ the ½ cent ‘temporary’ freeway tax to cover the additional cost overruns sure to come up. After all, the dumbed down voters are already paying it…..just once, I’d like to see a ‘temporary’ tax measure come to an end. How about you?
One of them said we should go ahead with it just because we (in the collectivist government sense) had filled out all the paperwork! And then he lamented that entire companies were formed just to help comply with all the repressive government regulations. Now that’s something to think about.
The ‘Executive Director of the Regional Public Transportation Authority for Valley Metro’ (now there’s a bureaucratic BS title) forwarded the misguided notion that he thought we should go ahead with light rail ‘just in case the pipeline broke again’. How that ties in to a very limited rail system is just too much for my limited intellect to grasp.
Along with all the blah, blah, blah he took the opportunity to belittle the Goldwater Institute’s adverse research results, said that we (in the collectivist sense) were ‘competing’ with other cities, that ‘true conservatives’ want this to go through, and sin of all sins—that Libertarians were ‘nay-sayers’. I guess his socialist Truth is all there is with a title like his.
Our Congressman did a good job of making fun of the spenders with some well-thought-out zingers that made the audience smile. At one point he made a crack about a sports team he had coached that went 0-8, bad enough, he said, to be offered a publicly financed stadium.
My two big gripes with all this are first, that it is economic suicide for the taxpayers and well outside the legitimate purview of government authority, and second, that the proposed design is foolish and cannot hope to even slightly ease the ‘problems’ it pretends to address.
But there are other considerations mainly having to do with safety and security. Given the recent light-rail bombing event in Spain, maybe it would make some sense to cool our jets on this project until government can complete their project of ridding our world of all the bad guys. But there are some other facts you may want to consider as well. How’s about that light rail travel fatalities are 3x, and crime 5x what they are for buses? Now there’s a nice opportunity to need even more government personnel to ‘fix’ the problems they create….see how this game is played?
Then of course there’s that nagging problem of when ‘you’ get to vote on all this. Why do you suppose the proponents of the project are insistent on a May, rather than a November vote date? They wouldn’t be trying to put in on the ballot when they can easily stack the vote with a much lower turnout, would they?
Sadly, with gas costs going through the economic roof (“Thanks”, Janet) a rail system might be nice and even economically feasible for private investment, but government projects are like flypaper---they just make a mess and leave a goo on everything it touches.
If you have any interest in the future of Arizona, I would urge you to visit www.startl.us, get the facts and make a decision. Your children are counting on you.
I like the idea of mass transport, just not funded from the public trough, and the rails should go to the air not clogging up the downtown streets. There’s never been a centrally planned, government-run project that came in on time or on budget, and this is no exception. The city should at most put in the infrastructure and the tracks themselves—then lease out the concession to private firms. Like a Disneyland ride right here under the Arizona sun a sort of a Jetson type monorail would be more fun, and could easily be extended for just one 6th the cost, with none of the negative congestion. Heck, I’d offer to do it myself and make it a tourist-attracting thing.
Let me paint you a couple of pictures: If we get this plan it will spell economic disaster for your pocketbook. But if you and I let this go forward, at the very least we should try something different from the unanimous flops we can draw on from other cities. Want it to pay? Then make it fun.
What kind of usage do you think we’d see if Phoenix to Tucson were a $5.00 fare and zipped along exploiting the view from above ground-level? Why not go for the long runs, and let private entrepreneurial companies tie in for local service. Wow! It could be great! Imagine a raised level system zipping from one end of the Valley to the other, like the privately funded system in Las Vegas. It works there. Why not here? The key is that private funding means the owners pay attention to ‘service’. If there’s a need, there will be a profit. If there’s a profit, it will attract the private sector. Keep in mind that ‘cost expectations’ by the government ‘experts’ have already doubled to $60 Million per mile! And construction hasn’t even begun. The Voters were flat out lied to—deliberately, to get this special interest boondoggle through.
The proponents say this is an all or nuthin’ proposition, if it is, do you have the courage to stand up for your child and say “Nuthin’”?
Better yet, if we’re not going to do it right, (i.e. self-financed and self-sustaining), why not scratch this nonsense altogether?
Barry Hess is a past and potential Libertarian Candidate for Arizona Governor, as well as Vice-Chair for the Arizona Libertarian Party.