Saturday, August 22, 2009
The City strikes back
by Larry Geller
Friday, the Advertiser posted the City's statement in response to questions about rail funding on its website. The issue does deserve further debate, and I hope the print edition will engage the city administration in the future. I don’t think the questions raised in Did City lie about financial plan? have been answered in the city reply to the Advertiser.
The response argues the Clintonesque point about whether a “revenue shortfall” is indeed a shortfall. You can read the original article and the rejoinder and see what you think.
The response calls the May 1 report “outdated” but of course it was not outdated when issued, it just takes time to get it via a FOIA request. On May 1 it was presumably a current report.
Also, with regard to city transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka’s statement that the project didn't have a funding shortfall to the City Council on June 10, had they informed the council of the situation by sharing their May 1 report, the Council could have asked what changed between May 1 and June 10. The May 1 report to the FTA was supported, Yoshioka’s statement was not, and this gives the appearance that he lied, when one finds out about the opposite statement issued in writing just over a month earlier that was withheld.
One point in the rejoinder which bears some examination is this:
The outdated report was supplied to The Advertiser by opponents of public transportation, who advocate instead for more freeways, including toll roads. The newspaper frequently relies on these opponents for information and provides their point of view. But the newspaper has been inconsistent in explaining to its readers who the opponents are, and what interests they represent.
This looks like an attempt to “shoot the messenger.” Who cares whether Cliff Slater handed the report to the Advertiser or the devil himself. Opponents did not write the report, and they did not withhold it from the City Council and the public.
On the complaint that the Advertiser has not identified who opponents of rail transit are, the city is correct, and I have complained as well, but it is irrelevant here. I wrote, for example:
One of the longest-running deceptions has been the omission, in countless op-ed articles in the Advertiser, of HOT lane proponent Cliff Slater's deep involvement with the Libertarian belief tank Reason Foundation, which pushes for HOT lanes and privatization of public assets. He's been a rail opponent with a one-track mind. The newspaper should have noted that he has been listed as a trustee of this organization as well as a member of the Reason Foundation's Business Advisory Board. But not a word of this in his numerous articles pushing HOT lanes.
Again, good point but not relevant to the report or the possible deception. (Check out the article, though, it covered a lot of ground on rail and toll roads and how communities should plan first before laying track.)
This sort of thing will go on unless the City Council or concerned citizens put a stop to it. One way is to hold officials accountable. If the City Council was deceived, they should take what action is available to them. If not, they become complicit by condoning the city administration’s behavior.