Letters for September 3, 2009

No vacation, anyway

Re “Cancel the Vacation” (Editorial, Aug. 6):

I understand the sentiment, but have to take issue with a few things. First, while it sounds nice to say there’s misinformation on both sides, that claim is hardly representative of what’s really going on. Maybe some Democrats are giving different variations of how the bill will be paid for, but that’s up for debate. What’s not up for debate is the fact that Republicans are flat out lying about any number of things. Just a few of their fear mongering “facts” about health-care reform would be death panels, health care for illegals, and making private insurance illegal. None of these are true, all of them are absurd, and all of them are being repeated by right-wing radio and many Republicans in Congress. Finally, while it sounds nice to tell members of Congress not to go on vacation, and the idea has merit, I see two problems with that statement. First, when members of Congress don’t go back to their districts, people, media included, roundly criticize them for “going Washington.” Seems to me like it’s lose-lose. Furthermore, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen what a member of Congress does during recess, but it’s hardly a vacation. They are meeting with various local officials, interest groups, and constituents, and their days are often longer than what they do in D.C. I’m not trying to pity them, but it’s not like they aren’t working.

Sam Christos
Las Vegas

Business savvy

As business owners, we have to examine everything with a realistic gaze. Averting your eyes simply because you don’t want to see something—or because it isn’t convenient—won’t change the facts. Your bottom line, your ability to make a profit, and your ultimate survival as one of the millions of business owners in America depends on an honest appraisal of the realities confronting you.

No one would dispute, for instance, that a business which does not budget for rent increases in a booming area or for soaring fuel costs for a commercial fleet in the next few years may face an unpleasant financial reckoning when the costs suddenly do climb. Businesses will fail if they don’t plan to accommodate the reality surrounding them.

That is why it is troubling to us as business owners to watch the reaction of some in our great country to the current debate over the pending clean energy jobs bill that will be taken up by the Senate in September.

The bill is necessary because we have two very serious problems looming in our near-term future.

First of all, the science is clear that climate change is real and happening now. The Earth’s temperature has risen 1.4 degrees around the world since the late 19th century and is expected to continue rapidly on an upward trajectory if we do not act now to curb it. Climate change is here, and we can see its effects with our own eyes and in our own wallets.

Secondly, we are rapidly approaching a major energy crisis. Most folks probably remember last summer when gas prices soared to well over $4 a gallon in most regions of the country. Unfortunately, at our current rate, summers like that will soon be the cheaper exception to the expensive rule. Last fall, the International Energy Agency estimated that our oil supply will peak in 2020 and that chronic and worsening shortfalls will follow, which will invariably lead to more price spikes.

Both of these crises have the potential to put our economy through even worse spasms then it has endured lately. According to the Center for American Progress, the volatile oil market has already cost our economy $8 trillion from 1970 to 2005. Meanwhile, it is estimated that climate change could cost the American economy up to $1.9 trillion a year by the turn of the next century. Yet simple energy efficiency measures could save the economy $1.2 trillion by 2020.

The reaction of those clinging to the failed status quo of dirty coal and big oil is also troubling because every crisis presents an opportunity. We have a huge opportunity in front of us to transition the American economy and create permanent, competitive long-lasting jobs right here at home. We have led every technological revolution of the last two centuries—electricity, railroads, telephone, automobiles, television, computers—and there’s no reason we can’t lead the clean energy revolution that has already begun. In fact, some studies have estimated that as many 1.7 million new jobs could be created with investments in clean energy.

As business owners, we inherently understand the need to plan ahead—to stay out of the red in the near term, and in the black for many years to come. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to get it right. Driven by common sense, not ideology, we know that the time to act is now. We hope that Senator Reid takes this opportunity to push America in the right direction—away from the dirty fuels of the past and toward the clean energy of the future.

Tim Healion
Business Advocating Social Equity

Political science

Re “Democracy inaction” (Feature story, Aug. 20):

“Democracy inaction” should be required reading for every first-time candidate. Dennis Myers may have killed off a large number of would-be political careers before they began with his essay. He also may have provided much-needed therapy for office holders.

Michael Sion

Get Reid involved

Re “A train would reign, not be built in vain” (East of Eden, Aug. 13):

In Jen Huntley’s recent column, she writes eloquently about the benefits of having passenger rail service extend from its current eastern terminus in Auburn all the way to Reno.

We couldn’t agree more.

We just wish it were as easy as Ms. Huntley suggests. If it were, this service would have been in place more than a decade ago.

Just to provide a little more information, the Capitol Corridor rail service (not the Caltrain service, which runs between San Francisco and Gilroy) provides 16 round trips daily between Oakland and Sacramento, with seven extending to San Jose and just one extending east of Sacramento to Auburn.

There have actually been two different efforts to try and bring the Capitol Corridor service to Reno. The first effort was led by Caltrans in 1995, the second by a consortium of interests including the town of Truckee, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, Nevada Department of Transportation, and the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency (PCTPA) in 2003.

In both efforts, the sticking point has been the same. That is, Union Pacific owns the tracks that the Capitol Corridor service would run on, and UP’s priority is freight. Because passenger rail service takes away from freight capacity, UP has been unwilling to allow Capitol Corridor trains to use the rails. Specifically, a capacity bottleneck between Sacramento and Roseville has added to UP’s resistance to add any more passenger trains east of Sacramento.

But we haven’t just taken “no” for an answer. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority and PCTPA have been continuously pressing UP to figure out what it would take to increase service east of Sacramento. We don’t have an answer yet, but we keep trying.

And we haven’t lost sight of our goal to get those additional trains to make it past Sacramento to Roseville and Auburn, then over the Sierra to Truckee and Reno.

Any support we can get from Nevada interests is greatly appreciated. But the reality is, until we can persuade UP to let us add rail service to Auburn, you won’t see Capitol Corridor trains in Reno.

Celia McAdam
Executive Director, Placer County Transportation Planning Agency