Friday, October 31, 2008

"We've gotta protect our children!"

It's a line from The Music Man. "We've gotta protect our children!" In the movie version Buddy Hackett shouts the line at a town hall meeting, after Professor Harold Hill gets the townsfolk all riled up about the pool table that came into town.

What's wrong with a pool table? Nothing. But the little town in Iowa had never seen one before, so its residents were easily duped into believing it was evil because it was different. Professor Harold Hill exploited their ignorance to sell his band instruments to protect the kids.

A variation of this tactic is now being used to support Proposition 8. Oh-My-God if men can marry men and women can marry women they'll be telling our kids about it in school! And that would be HARMFUL!!!!

Well, they don't actually say it'll be harmful. There's absolutely no evidence to suggest that it would be. So they can only imply it by screaming some variation of the alarm "We've gotta protect our children!"

Same-sex marriage is no more a danger than a pool table, and the moral agenda of the pro-8 movement is as bogus as Professor Harold Hill's boys band.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anti Prop 2 arguments are ridiculous

The arguments against Proposition 2 don't pass my ridiculous test. If something sounds ridiculous it probably isn't true.

Do Proposition 2 opponents really expect me to believe that allowing chickens to turn around and stretch their wings will force grocers to import toxic eggs from Mexico?

Clearly, they're trying to scare us away from doing the right thing because it will cost them some money to comply. But hey, if Prop. 2 passes they'll have a generous six years to make the necessary arrangements before it takes effect. I think they can manage that.

I certainly don't expect that anyone will risk their business by importing bad eggs.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why I'm voting against Measure Z

For those of you who just crawled out from under a log, Measure Z is the proposed half-cent sales tax increase to pay for roads, plus a few bus routes, in Monterey County. While there may be some good reasons to support it, I'm not jumping on the pro-Z bandwagon for three reasons.

First, Measure Z is not the original version of the proposal as envisioned by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County. The original plan included a small percentage for much needed intercity passenger rail projects which have already been delayed several years for lack of funds.

Unfortunately, county agriculture and tourism interests, the two largest industries in the county, said they wouldn't support the tax increase if rail was included. They didn't feel rail would do anything for them. TAMC caved in and now the measure is primarily directed towards roads. Big business has no business dictating transportation policy for the rest of us.

Second, roads have traditionally been funded with fuel taxes. It is the fairest method of funding roads because those who drive more pay more. Those who use larger vehicles, which put more wear and tear on roads than smaller vehicles, also buy more gas and thus pay more fuel taxes for road upkeep.

Unfortunately, state and federal fuel taxes have remained at 18 cents per gallon each since the mid '90s. With inflation they have lost a third of their value since that time. Measure Z wouldn't even be needed if it weren't for cowardly politicians who refuse to raise the gasoline taxes because, well, it's a tax and politicians hate tax increases. They also hate subsidies, but they hate tax increases more. The net effect of Measure Z is that shoppers are being asked to subsidize drivers.

Third, Pacific Grove and Seaside voters (not me!) approved a one-cent sales tax increase already this year. If Measure Z passes, sales taxes in these two towns will grow to a whopping 8.75%! In most states the sales tax is a more modest 4-6%.

I'm not going to tell you how to vote here. There are some good arguments in favor of Measure Z. But in my not so humble opinion, if we're going to ask shoppers to subsidize roads, we should also be allowed to subsidize alternatives to pavement, like rail, which is much, much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Otherwise, let motorists pay their own way at the pump, in direct proportion to their driving habits, instead of at the department store.

For some background information, see my earlier entry They Should Like Trains.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yes on Proposition 1A

After four years of delays, we finally have a chance to vote for California's high speed rail program. Please don't be put off by naysayers who say we can't afford it. We can't afford not to connect California's largest cities with the latest, cleanest, most energy efficient, and most comfortable form of transportation known to man. It should be a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, people with no brains say we shouldn't be spending money on trains when we have roads to fix and more to build. But that's the whole point. High speed rail is expensive, but building more roads or airports to carry the same growing number of travelers between California's northern and southern cities would cost two to three times as much!

Critics call it a boondoggle. They said the same thing about BART 35 years ago, but nobody says that about BART today, because it has proven to be an indispensable part of the San Francisco bay area transportation system. Modernizing California's transportation systems is essential, not a luxury.

High speed rail will reduce pollution and greenhouse gasses, save energy, save money, protect the environment and enhance the state
economy. And did I mention that trains are also fun to ride?

Vote YES on Prop 1A!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vote Felix for Seaside City Council

I have known Felix Bachofner for more years than I can remember, and I am happy to report that my good friend is running for a seat on the Seaside City Council this November 4th.

Felix will bring a breath of fresh air to Seaside politics. For too long we have suffered through mediocre city councils with little or no vision for our city's future. Several generations of mayors and councils have talked about redevelopment, but we still have little to show for it. Opportunities have been squandered by setting our sights too low.

Take the new development at Fremont and Broadway. That property was ideal for a major anchor tenant, such as a department store, to form the foundation of a new downtown which the city has long sought to develop on Broadway. That property needed something that would draw customers from all over the peninsula. Instead, our city council sold it below market value to a developer who gave us yet another Starbucks, a Kinkos, and a failed bank. Other spaces in the complex remain vacant and the Broadway vision has yet to materialize.

On Canyon Del Rey we had a prime property alongside Laguna Grande where now sits a Chili's restaurant. There's nothing wrong with chain restaurants, but the standard corporate architecture fails to take advantage of the scenic setting, and actually detracts from the most attractive park in the city. Perhaps if the city had required the developer to seek designs from local architects we might have a restaurant that blends into the natural surroundings and takes advantage of the lakefront setting with indoor/outdoor seating.

Years ago when Felix sat on the Seaside Planning Commission he and his fellow commissioners, along with the presiding city council, approved a train station for intercity rail service on Del Monte Avenue just north of Canyon Del Rey. But the late Jerry Smith, seeking to distance himself from the previous administration, killed the train station and replaced it with, yup, Starbucks. Felix would never put coffee ahead of our transportation needs!

Each of these council decisions carelessly took the first proposal that was presented and they were approved with little foresight, discussion, or architectural review. Felix wants to set a higher standard. He doesn't seek to approve whatever happens to come along. If a proposal doesn't make the best use of a particular site, Felix will work to find a better use. If a good project idea comes along, he'll ask the right questions and find ways to make the project work better, look better and provide a better payoff for both the developer and the city tax base.

Let's have no more willy-nilly development in Seaside. Vote for Felix on November 4th and support quality development in our city.

Go to to learn more.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm glad I moved

I'm glad I moved my website and Mental Notes when I did. For eleven years the Monterey Peninsula Toy Box was hosted at no cost to me on AOL's Hometown service. I was notified today that AOL Hometown will be shutting down on October 31st, along with AOL Journals, which hosted these Mental Notes since 2004.

I had a lot of time on my hands this summer when I decided to move the Toy Box to a real hosting service. It took several weeks and many long hours of work to move everything, but it was worth it. If I had to do it now, during the busiest time of the year at work, I might not have been able to do it and the whole thing might have shut down for many weeks if not permanently.

My AOL Mental Notes archives may be saved. AOL states they will provide a way to transfer one's entries to another blogging service yet to be announced. Meanwhile, I went back and saved some of the more important entries just in case they get lost.