|Tunnel to Nowhere|
South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti (who, as all celebrity gossip fans know, is the son of TV star Valerie Harper) gave a most impressive presentation on why this ecological disaster in the making should not happen. He pretty much carried the night.
Of course, Cacciotti was preaching to the choir because not a soul on our City Council wants this thing, either. After all, nobody lives here in the hope that someday helpful regional planners will succeed in replicating the 710 Cancer Corridor on our doorstep.
The unintended comedic highlight of the evening was presented to us by one Harry Baldwin of the so-called 710 Freeway Coalition. After defending this lethal project from every living person in the room, Harry was then asked by John Harabedian if he was being paid to advocate for the kinds of things he was claiming as true. Harry had no choice by to admit that yes, he really is a monetarily compensated consultant. Meaning that the only person in the Council Chambers last night defending the 710 Tunnel had to be paid to do it. Which is even better than if nobody at all had shown up to defend it.
A number of other people came to the podium to speak. One obviously wise gentleman from South Pasadena relayed a story that is just so typical of SCAG. Apparently the former Soviet planning official currently running our regional planning organization, Hasan Ikhrata, had freely admitted in a meeting setting that the 710 Tunnel really was "all about moving goods." Which, of course, means that its true purpose is all about moving cargo laden diesel truck traffic from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles inland. A few months after that Ikhrata completely completely denied that was so. The 710 Tunnel instead being a 16 foot high tubular hole that only cars would ever get to use.
Saying that this tunnel is being built to accommodate massive amounts of truck traffic out of the ports is apparently something so politically incorrect now that we are no longer permitted to discuss it in that context. Rather, to use Harry's memorable phrase, the 710 Tunnel is intended to "help reduce air pollution." Which begs the question, why is it people like Mr. Baldwin always peddle their obviously toxic projects by claiming they are good for us?
The next thing you know people will be claiming that building a couple hundred densely packed mixed-use condos in downtown Sierra Madre will help save the world from global warming. Oh wait, I forgot. That topic is being covered at our next City Council meeting.
A more realistic assessment was offered by Chris Koerber. This is very much a typical "process" situation. Metro, Caltrans and their compensated fellow travelers like Harry Baldwin, all claim that they need to be allowed to finish "the process." Which currently means getting an Environmental Impact Statement for the project finished by 2014.
The problem being that once this EIR is complete the deal is pretty much done, and the project can then start being built. Which is what a government driven "process" is really all about. Forcing through vastly unpopular projects like this tunnel. It is how the slow and inexorable movement of government bureaucracy pushes its goals forward despite the strong opposition of the very people it claims to serve, and whose money sustains it.
Another point that came up is Metro had recently incorporated Sierra Madre into its "710 Study Area" without informing us of that honor. And then when the time came for this matter to be discussed in a public forum, Sierra Madre wasn't even invited to attend the meeting. Nor were any of the other towns farther down the San Gabriel Valley included in this study, either.
A question I have asked that still hasn't been answered (at least to my satisfaction), is who or what exactly are the forces behind Metro and Caltrans that keeps pushing this developing disaster along? Obviously the case has been made that this is a terrible idea. Yet somehow they march on no matter how large an outcry in opposition. What exactly is the source of their power?
All in all that was a great moment for our City Council. We should all be feeling pretty proud of them today.
There were a lot of other things discussed last night as well, but I'll leave those for others to discuss.
One thing that I did find to be a little awkward is how the matter of the Dial-A-Ride was handled. I don't think there can be any doubt that the City Council showed some real compassion in helping to preserve as much of this vital service as possible. Obviously everyone watching was aware of just how important it is for senior citizens and the disabled of this community.
And if they weren't, all they had to do was listen to Heather Allen speak about it. Probably one of the most effective speeches given at public comment in quite a while.
But as one poster put it last night, didn't the Community Services do a proper survey over the period of a month or so to gauge what the actual ridership might be? There was either no data or the Mayor just decided not to refer to it. This decision was made, but it appeared to involve an awful lot of unnecessary guesswork on the part of the City Council.
I really do think this could have been handled a little bit better.