Lisa Batey's "Community Soapbox" of Sept. 15 characterizing those who testified against light rail on Aug. 31 as tired old whiners may be true, but the facts remain the same: A huge jump in crime at Clackamas Town Center since the onset of light rail, and we did vote it down twice by huge margins. This last time, though, we didn't get to vote when our council gave Tri-Met $5 million of our money without a whimper.
Sam Gillispie lived in Milwaukie for many years, has been on the North Clackamas School Board for 16 years, and is deeply concerned about the line running so close to our schools. Several Oak Grove residents were rightfully angry with our council for "kicking this can of worms down the road to us."
The real story here is not that Tri-Met is in truth violating their commitment to all of us by delivering an inferior product, a Toonerville Trolley stripped-down version, far from what they've been promising for years. No, the core story is the cynical way in which the agency manipulates the system and the people. The fact that the federal government might come up short by hundreds of million was not lost on them, but they went on with the project knowing that the regional government could not allow them to fail. The only ones to suffer are the taxpayers and the many hundreds of decent, concerned, citizens who attended countless meetings lasting thousands of hours, listening to the numbing presentation, the fairy tales, yes, the lies. Oh, the joy of public involvement.
Tri-Met General Manager Neil McFarlane's reference to the loss of federal funds as a mere hiccup added insult to injury - it was more like a slap in our face. At a Citizen's Action Committee meeting on Sept. 16, the slashes to the original rail plans were announced, and they were appalling. Their promises to bring funds back into the project later should be taken with a grain of salt - Hillsboro and Beaverton were still waiting for promised station cameras 10 years later. The delay in publication of the Environmetal Impact Statement is also of concern, as a shortened public viewing process will surely impair our chances to analyze it. Incidentally, Ms. Batey should enjoy all the people parking in her neighborhood now that the parking facility at Park Avenue has all but been eliminated from the project. She should have picked that up as a member of the Milwaukie Planning Commission.
A quick review of other transportation issues: The Sellwood Bridge is rockin' and rollin', and would take only $330 million to replace; the Columbia River Crossing has a price tag of $3.6 billion dollars, with not a penny in sight - wouldn't it seem that transportation priorities would dictate that the $1.5 billion earmarked for the Milwlaukie disaster be divided up on those projects with far greater benefits to the entire region? Tri-Met has put a $125 million measure on the ballot to buy new buses - the $1.5 billion could double the number of buses in the entire tri-county region with new, clean-running equipment. They've laid off employees, cut service and raised fares a nickel. TriMet seems to be trying to become the personification of that old saying: "This is a helluva way to run a railroad."
Far from being commendable, our city council was close to being derelict in their duties to the citizens who elected them. What about the list of demands they presented to TriMet two months ago? What about the quiet zones? Anybody can see this is a one-sided deal with the only loser being Milwaukie. Who is going to stand up for the citizens, or do we again have to do it ourselves? If this situation gets any rougher, the blame and the shame lie at the feet of TriMet and our council.
Ed Zumwalt is a Milwaukie resident.