In 2005 the far-right editorial board at the Orange County Register joined conservative Republicans in a deranged attack on Measure D, which would have diverted existing public safety monies to the Orange County Fire Authority to help pay for necessary fire equipment. It didn't create any new taxes, and met a need that nearly anyone who has lived in OC for any length of time agrees is real. But the Register got its way and Measure D went down to defeat. Afterward the Register and their allies, like Jon Fleischmann, celebrated its defeat.
Almost a year ago Southern California went up in flames. As the fires worsened around the region, the OCFA was left without the adequate resources to respond when the Santiago Fire broke out. Equipment that Measure D would have paid for was not available and the fire spread. My hometown of Tustin was threatened, and the fires were within blocks of where my family lives. A sudden wind change saved that community, but doomed Portola Hills. Dozens of families lost everything they had.
I wrote about this a year ago at Calitics in order to show the madness of conservative philosophy, the staggering costs of being cheap. In response to my article the Register devoted their lead editorial page to attacking me. I didn't mind, it was a nice sort of validation from the hometown paper. I was kind of shocked by how they defended their position on Measure D, which had led to the predicted and tragic results in October 2007 - by advocating against public firefighters:
A broader goal would be more privatization efforts and more private ownership of land. Private firefighting firms would have a financial interest to promote prevention, and more private ownership of land would mean better-maintained property. Private owners are far better at protecting their property than public owners, who follow an entirely different set of objectives.
That should help you understand what we're dealing with when the Register editorializes against Prop 1A. Their editorialists represent the farthest fringe of the California right-wing. They are inherently opposed to any new government spending on principle and believe that even effective services like the fire department are bad. They are quite willing to play recklessly with public safety and ignore basic social needs in order to pursue their strange agenda.
So it was a foregone conclusion that they would oppose Prop 1A. And like all the other HSR deniers in our state, their arguments are built on a lack of evidence or a complete misunderstanding of reality. The bulk of their editorial is drawn from the throughly discredited Cox-Vranich study. They go on to make a clearly false claim:
If a high-speed train were economically feasible – that is, if revenue from anticipated operations were projected to be higher than capital and operating costs – private investors would be lining up to put money into it.
Of course, as readers of this blog know, they ARE lining up to put money into it, as shown at the June CHSRA board meeting. What the ostensibly pro-business Register doesn't understand is that private investors are not going to put down money until the state does so first. Californians must make the first move by approving Prop 1A - which as amended by AB 3034 provides firm safeguards to ensure that if federal and private money somehow doesn't materialize, California voters won't be on the hook.
The editorial repeats other common flaws, such as the notion that without a strong train network we can't attract many HSR riders. Matt Melzer discredited that claim as well by showing how California compares favorably to Spain, where HSR is a stunning success. The Register claims California lacks a "train culture" which the editorialists can easily disprove if they walked about two blocks west from their offices on Grand Avenue to the Santa Ana Train Depot, where Metrolink and Pacific Surfliners do a booming business.
The irony is that Orange County voters have already rejected the Register's bizarre anti-government rantings. In 2006 voters renewed a 1/2 cent sales tax which included massive new investment in Metrolink and other passenger rail, as well as improving public transportation links to train stations. Most Orange County Republicans wholeheartedly endorse Prop 1A, including Anaheim mayor Curt Pringle, who sits on the CHSRA board.
Orange County residents will reap significant benefits from HSR. The Anaheim station, part of the first phase, will provide commuters faster trips to Los Angeles and other parts of the region via the many connecting services at Union Station. It will enable OC residents to visit family and friends in the Central Valley, the Bay Area, and yes the Monterey Bay region more easily (and vice versa). It will help sustain the Disney resort as a viable tourist destination especially as air travel becomes unaffordable for most families over the coming years (whether Disneyland tickets become affordable is unfortunately out of our hands). HSR will create good local jobs, save OC residents money, and spur long-term economic development.
Orange County knows better on Proposition 1A. I would not be surprised to see OC vote for Prop 1A come November 4. The Register can write a good rant. But increasingly OC residents are seeing the high cost of far-right dogma.