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Fireworks 0, BART $250,000

Columnist says Livermore City Council's decision to fund BART study wastes resources.

One year, our family went back to visit relatives in Texas during the Fourth of July holiday.  While we like to think that here in the Bay Area, we light off a lot of fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, in Texas it’s like you are in the middle of a battlefield.

And standing in the midst of it all was one of my more frugal cousins, who kept calculating the costs of every bang, burst and fizzle.

“There’s a dollar right there. There’s five bucks gone,” he would say with so much pain in his voice that you’d think it was actual firepower cutting down soldiers in warfare.

He never could understand the value of the spectacle for those watching it.

I was reminded of this last week when so many fireworks displays were canceled around the Bay Area, particularly the tradition here in Livermore with our annual family-friendly Fourth of July fireworks.

Any reasonable person could accept the fact that times are tough for government entities. People are losing their jobs and budgets need to be trimmed. Some of those budget cuts slice deeper for some than others. And in the overall scheme of things, losing a fireworks display is less painful than someone’s job getting cut or a social service left unmet.

So while our neighbors gathered for our traditional potluck barbecue last week, we knew it would not be capped off by watching fireworks.

But there were some explosions around our chat circle after the sore subject of City Council's most recent wasteful dollar decision was raised. The council felt that in these times it needed to spend up to a whopping $250,000 for yet another .

Haven’t they studied this thing to death? One more study is not going to do anything but line the pockets of consultants who have been profiting from this for quite some time.

The prudent thing for council members to have done would have been to allow the measure to go on the ballot and then mount a campaign that would present their side to the voters. It certainly would have cost far less than another study regurgitating the same story.

The people in favor of the route through downtown have valid points as to why they believe this is the right thing to do. If the majority of voters agree, then that is what will happen.

If the voters want BART to stay on I-580 and keep that congestion out of our downtown, they have a right to vote that way as well.

With money so dear these days, who can even say if there will be anything in the coffers to support a costly plan that would bring BART through an underground tunnel to the surface downtown?

All those money incentives could be whisked away as easily as the shutdown of a fireworks display, which seemed like small potatoes in the budget stew.

Mayor Marshall Kamena says the study will clarify the issues for the voters. It seems that the issues are already clear. We know the pros and cons of each route. No one is saying that any alternative is perfect. But when looking down the tracks at a project decades from completion, one thing we all need to keep in mind is that this country is running low on funds.

And while we might not want to give up even the simple pleasure of a fireworks show, the truth is that we cannot afford to be wasteful. Approving a study that won’t give us any more information and could cost up to a quarter of a million dollars is certainly a waste of the worst kind. 

jake3_14 July 15, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Livermore resident, I didn't wade into this discussion to introduce more facts about the situation — there are plenty to be found in existing documents, audio, and video records. My concern is with how the facts are being discussed: obsolete and irrelevant data presented as proof, logical fallacies repeated, attempts to shift the burden of proof away the person asserting a claim, and the like. Our nation is turning into a population that can't be reasoned with, because they don't use or understand the tools of rationality. That inability leaves us vulnerable to whoever can stomp on our emotional buttons the hardest, and that always produces bad outcomes. All I ask is that we marry the emotional and intellectual sides of this debate.
Livermore resident July 15, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Jake3_14 You are bringing nothing to the discussion. We are dealing with people and not computers. May be in November, you will start having felling when the people vote out John Marchand and Kamena.
Joanne Hurley July 28, 2011 at 11:48 PM
I wouldn't say that 8,000 voters out of 40,000 registered voters is a majority. The more I read, the more I'm for Downtown BART. And yes, I know I will never take a train to the edge of mono lake; don't be extreme. I'd like to be able to take BART to a train station and not have to then take a bus two miles to pick up another train. I'd rather see no BART than BART on I-580, frankly. I don't see how it benefits Livermore to direct BART at the Central Valley commuters. It will cost us a lot of money to offer police and fire protection, and to clean up potential graffiti and trash, but we won't be bringing anyone into an area at which they can walk to and spend tax dollars to bring revenue to the City. It will drain the General Fund and offer nothing in return.
JoAnne July 29, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Since the initiative adoption, BART is on 580 where it will attract the commuters from Livermore and Central Valley to achieve the results of removing cars from 580 to prevent increases of traffic congestion and pollution along that corridor. The ridership levels given for Livermore and to justify BART to Livermore have always relied on the Central Valley commuter. . 8,000 signatures is not a majority and it is probably a self selected rather than a representative sample of Livermore. There were also several telephone surveys (mine came from an out of state agency) and focus group studies (an acquaintance made $100 to participate) that were done regarding the BART downtown alignment. The focus of the phone survey was BART and John Marchand, and it was an extensive survey since other people that I knew received the call (pretty expensive campaign expense!). The phone survey and the focus groups were scientific representative samples, unfortunately, since it was a campaign survey, the results are not public. The results must have been strong enough to indicate that BART on 580 was the clear and obvious majority, which is why there was the sudden and dramatic adoption of the BART initiative.
Livermore resident July 29, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Mrs. Hurley, 8000 is a vast majority of voters. You need to take into account that only a sample of the registered voters were asked to sign the petition. If the success rate for getting a signature was 95%, the total amount of the Livermore voters opposing Downtown Bart is 40,000 * 95% = 38,000. Those are very simple statistical math. The City Council understood it very well when they decided to adopt the measure. I agree that BART will need to have police force to keep it safe. If I understand your statement correctly, you are afraid that BART will bring crime to where it goes ..., and you should. I just do not want it downtown and its path to Vasco.

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