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Rohnert Park Ripples by Jud Snyder - November 2016

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Rohnert Park Ripples by Jud Snyder - November 2016

By Jud Snyder

It Ain’t the ‘Wabash Cannonball’

Rohnert Park residents, homeowners and renters. seem to have adopted a distaste for the heralded joys of traveling by train. They see it as an outrageous intrusion, a “train to nowhere,” and an economic disaster soon to happen. All we have is a train from Airport Blvd. north of Santa Rosa down to the north side of San Rafael, 43 miles of trackside scenery.

This is the beginning of Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART, usually spoken with a sneer in this otherwise Friendly City. Future intentions are a commute train from Cloverdale all the way down to the Larkspur ferry terminal. That’s their goal but the trail is riddled with potholes and boulders that must be smoothed out like beheading a speed bump.

We can blame this antagonistic attitude on the SMART Board of Directors who are making the rules and train fare costs armed only with a sledge hammer. They’re issuing their directives backed only on “how much will it cost?” yardstick and not thinking if the RP community will accept this intrusion. They found out. The community said “no dice,” and “please go away.” 

In other words, SMART did no advance planning to introduce the idea of commute trains to residents. It was just “here it is – get used to it.” 

What SMART should have done weeks ago

First, show well in advance what SMART trains will look like. Make thousands of little model SMART locomotives, say, 8 to 12 inches long, with wind-up mechanism so they’d scoot across carpets. Make sure all the Christmas gift collection stations in both cities are crammed with these wind-up models. Make them available at merchant’s counters, say for a dollar or two apiece and the merchant keeps the money, not SMART. Offer visits by school kids to board a real train and handle the controls (but not the whistle). Offer train rides for $5 from RP down to Petaluma and then return. Maybe throw in a catered snack like dessert and coffee for an extra $5 or less. Have several train engineers in fancy uniforms to visit school to talk to students and distribute wind-up train models. They don’t have to be fulltime train engineers but be able to answer a lot of questions from students. It’s their buttons and badges that count. Design a special SMART train engineer cap which can be copied and sold in many stores for a buck or two, with the merchant keeping the money, nothing for SMART.

Yeah, they should have started this introduction to the community process months ago. But they took the ham-handed approach, merely looking with disinterest at theoretical community attitudes and blundering ahead foolishly thinking only of nickels and dimes from their own budget. “Irresponsiblity” is only a mild word for this board of directors. One of them is the next mayor of RP, Jake Mackenzie, still vice-mayor for another month or so. 

Now we have the latest bit of bad news: Engines in all 14 cars will have to be replaced and there won’t be any commute train operations until sometime next spring instead of December 2016. This should allow the board of directors some time to really introduce SMART to the citizens. Let’s hope there’s someone on the board of directors who’s keenly aware of public relations and civic responsibility.

Water situation looks OK for Sonoma County

You can’t apply the “irresponsible” label to the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA). They’re juggling a lot of creeks, cattle ranch holding ponds, irrigation to vineyards, hand-built canals and migrating salmon and steelhead waterways with the Russian River sitting on its watery throne.

Reservoirs are in good shape, nobody’s seriously thinking about El Nino any more and the only alien cloud is global warming.

We usually have a good solid rainstorm a few weeks before the Christmas holidays so we can look forward to rowboats being paddled down main streets in Guerneville and maybe even Cotati. We had a minor sort of rainfall back in mid-October to introduce residents to what rain looks like.

One final note. Please take time to vote even though this year’s election has a strong “are these the best two we could find?” flavor. As I say every two years, “Democracy is the worst way to run a country but it’s way the hell better than whatever’s in second place.”