Letters to the Editor

High-speed rail + Trump’s appeal + Humboldt homegrown + Public employee unions

In this Feb. 26, 2016, file photo, the supports for a 1,600-foot-viaduct to carry high-speed rail trains across the Fresno River are seen under construction near Madera, Calif. After years of prep work, Gov. Jerry Brown's finance department decided Friday, March 3, 2017, that California's $64 billion high-speed rail project is ready to lay some track. The administration approved the rail authority's request to spend $2.6 billion on work in the Central Valley. The decision lets the authority ask the state treasurer's office to sell a portion of the nearly $10 billion in bonds voters approved in 2008 for a bullet train.
In this Feb. 26, 2016, file photo, the supports for a 1,600-foot-viaduct to carry high-speed rail trains across the Fresno River are seen under construction near Madera, Calif. After years of prep work, Gov. Jerry Brown's finance department decided Friday, March 3, 2017, that California's $64 billion high-speed rail project is ready to lay some track. The administration approved the rail authority's request to spend $2.6 billion on work in the Central Valley. The decision lets the authority ask the state treasurer's office to sell a portion of the nearly $10 billion in bonds voters approved in 2008 for a bullet train. AP file

Bogus bullet train

Re “Skeptics may lecture, but California high-speed rail is already proving them wrong” (California Forum, Sept. 10) It’s time to tell the truth about the now so-called California High-Speed Rail project promised to, and approved by, voters in 2008. As a state senator, I authored the legislation establishing the California High-Speed Rail Authority with Gov. Pete Wilson’s support in 1996, and I was flabbergasted by authority chairman Dan Richard’s op-ed about the now reinvented conventional rail project.

Yes, the Authority has a rail project under construction in the Central Valley, running from Coachella to Sanger, not Merced to Bakersfield. If you want to reach Bakersfield, the authority will provide a shuttle bus from Sanger. Yes, more than $3 billion has been spent, but it’s not “investment” money. It is state taxpayer money and federal funds.

Based on a genuine high-speed rail system in two phases, the first from San Francisco to Anaheim, California voters authorized $9.95 billion in general obligation state bonds. The Voters Handbook promise has, however, been changed. California isn’t building a “true state-of-the-art system.” It’s not electrified and can’t achieve the speed promised voters.

The authority and Gov. Jerry Brown allowed wealthy San Francisco Peninsula residents to obtain a law prohibiting a track dedicated to high-speed rail through San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, forcing shared and decreased use of the existing Caltrain tracks, thus limiting the authority to four trains per hour in morning and evening peak times.

Consequently, there won’t be enough riders paying fares to cover operational costs. The 2008 ballot measure prohibits taxpayer subsidy of this now-planned track to nowhere. As the “father” of true high-speed rail, I regret its “horizon” isn’t now bright, unless the governor and Richard restore 2008 promises to taxpayers.

Quentin Kopp, San Francisco

Trump’s victory

Re “Every time Trump speaks, he brings us closer to mob rule” (California Forum, Sasha Abramsky, Sept. 10): Donald Trump surely never read Alexis de Toqueville’s “Democracy in America,” though by gut instinct he grasped and exploited the Frenchman’s observation that a disengaged, politically lazy populace could create conditions ripe for a despot and mob rule. Having resided abroad and examined America through a different lens, I find credible the thesis of Kurt Anderson’s recent book, “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire,” in which he argues that a nascent America, becoming a unique refuge for religious freedom, spawned numerous sects professing any belief they so wished, including many defying logic and reason. The broad strength of this impulse to fantasy and humbuggery is now baked into the American character. In some of us, anyway. Trump is no anomaly. He is our history’s fruition.

Spencer P. Le Gate, Sacramento

Times change

Re “With climate change upon us, where’s the safest place in California to live?” (Shawn Hubler, Sept. 10): As someone who helped “invent” Haight-Ashbury, I find the modern aspect of weed now being somewhat socially acceptable, to be strangely refreshing. Back in the 1960s, having pot was so totally illegal that we went to great lengths to conceal it to avoid ending up jail. Back then, mere possession of pot was so fraught with danger, that we wouldn’t even use certain words about it, over the phone. Have times changed? How about this: Shawn Hubler’s well-crafted column expounded on the theme of climate change vs. safe living locations, and cited some of Humboldt County’s advantages, including fresh salmon, historic Eureka, and good weed. Amazed, in a generation-gap way, I had to read that twice! How times have changed.

Melanie Kinkead, Sacramento

Joe Arpaio

Re “Two sides of labor, two paths for Republicans” (California Forum, TakeTwo, Sept. 10) The online image of Joe Arpaio with Donald Trump’s arm around him is perhaps a coincidental prediction of the future. Arpaio didn’t know it at the time, but Trump was his savior. Unfortunately, the devil can disguise himself and has the power to release the unlawful from justice.

Dan Fong, Rancho Cordova

Superhero

Re “In California, accountability depends on transparency, which is under siege” (Dan Walters, CalMatters, Sept. 10): Just when it appeared that every superhero slot had been filled, along comes Dan Walters. Even after “retiring,” Walters, now with CalMatters, looks out for taxpaying voters by exposing those who should, but don’t. Without a cape or a cool mask, Walters qualifies as a superhero to many.

John W. DeKellis, Rocklin

Unions

Re “Unions are strong in California. This case is about to put that unity to the test” (California Forum, Sept. 3): Service Employees International Union Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker’s narrative about union attacks portends a larger economic crisis that will follow. It’s absolutely true: weaker unions and lost collective bargaining rights will mean lower wages and reduced benefits and pensions. Those lost middle-class dollars will flow into the coffers of the wealthy few who are funding the union-busting campaigns. Those lost middle-class dollars will no longer be available to fuel the American economy. I made a choice to join a union, and as a state employee, to join the generations of middle-class workers whose work was the backbone of a vital economy. I’m proud of how my job contributes to the people of California, to my family and the community. Our families and communities are stronger because we enjoy a healthy and secure labor force. Union-busting threatens us all.

Cheryl Allen, Sacramento

Public employees

Re “California’s economy depends on the future, but labor here is stuck in the past” (California Forum, Sept. 3): In his op-ed, Rob Lapsley cites a 1983 Sacramento Bee editorial column that states that collecting bargaining for public employees could put employees in position to dictate to elected officials. Lapsley is correct. The working person should never have access to elected officials. Influencing our elected officials should be only the province of the moneyed business community. Thanks for putting me in me place.

Michael Santos, Antelope

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