Here’s a Twitter post from Jake Mackenzie regarding today’s Close to Home column by fellow SMART director (and supervisor candidate) Debora Fudge: “well said in rebuttal to the untruths recently perpetrated here for crass political purposes in the supes race.”
Hmm. Before this, the kvetching from SMART board members was directed at the media. You know, the Marin-first stories were wrong. SMART never did more than tentatively decide to possibly explore whether there might, maybe, someday, who knows, be some federal money to fill the $155 million fund gap.
Before spotting Jake’s tweet, I already was going over SMART’s podcast of the Jan. 20 board meeting to double check our story and a subsequent editorial. You can listen to it here. It’s quite clear that the board took up one proposal: pursuing a Larkspur to Petaluma (or Santa Rosa or wherever the money would take them) while asking for federal money to build the rest. They acknowledged that it was a gamble, but the vote to proceed was unanimous. The jokes about getting sandbags suggest that board members knew this wouldn’t be wildly popular in Sonoma County.
Here are a couple key comments from Lillian Hames, SMART’s general manager:
— “We feel at the staff level we’ve exhausted looking in a variety of places, and now we have to move forward with some sort of strategy, so we can, A) help us garner the existing funds that are already set aside for SMART, so we can keep going, and, B) so we can go forward with the work that needs to take place on the design side so we can better ask some of the questions on what specifically the section should be.” She later made clear the only unanswered question was whether SMART would reach Santa Rosa or only Petaluma by 2014.
And from Fudge:
— “So you’re suggesting the southern section be built first because we have all that local money, and we shouldn’t risk that.”
— “We tried to find another way. But there isn’t another way right now.”
Any more? Well, there’s this from SMART’s press release issued after the meering:
— “For a number of reasons, including the commitment of regional bridge tolls to re-build the CalPark Tunnel between San Rafael and Larkspur and the desire to provide an alternative to a congested Highway 101 through the Novato Narrows, it is likely that the ‘local project’ will be from Larkspur north to a station in Sonoma County. The location of the Sonoma County station would be determined by project costs and available funding. The ‘federal project’ would complete the SMART line from that station north to Cloverdale.”
— “ ‘As painful as this is, I think it is the most fiscally responsible plan right now,’ said Chairwoman Fudge. ‘It protects the funding we have and identifies a source for what we need.’ ”
As I noted, the plan was approved unanimously. In addition to negative public reaction, SMART got a letter dated Jan. 27 from MTC, the regional agency that needed to endorse the request for federal funds. The key line: “We cannot support the SMART project …”
SMART gambled. They lost. They need a new plan to make up for a $155 million shortfall. This wasn’t a story muffed by the media. In fact, the stories have been carefully qualified. And the furious spinning is all about the contest between Fudge and Mike McGuire for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
— Jim Sweeney