Thursday, June 03, 2004

Mass Transit Boondoggles

Central Indiana governments have been meeting with one another to consider the formation of a Regional Transit Authority, with the focus being the possibility of developing a light rail system.

The proposal includes a minimum $500 million dollar start-up cost to taxpayers, and won't begin service until 2011.

I was very pleased that the Star printed some of my objections in a feature story. There are so many objections to raise with this that I can't begin to name them all, so I'll name a few.

1. The best rail route from Indy to Carmel is the old Monon. Problem is, the Monon was abandoned and converted into a trail. The Monon Trail is beloved by the citizens of Central Indiana. It's development has spurred the revitalization of nearby neighborhoods and the development of new housing and restaurants. Carmel's mayor Jim Brainard is not suggesting going the trails-to-rails route, as he knows it is political suicide. So, in order to get a route from Indy to Carmel without using the best route, which was graded and straight, a brand new course must be taken, building from the ground up. This is the path of maximum expense.

2. Speaking of the Monon Trail, the route from Indy to Fishers, and the Noblesville, is the most viable for trains because it at least still has track on it. No right-of-way to acquire. No land surveys to conduct. The track is shot, but it's a whole lot cheaper to repair that to start from scratch. Problem is, everyone in Central Indiana knows how good the Monon Trail has been for the areas near it. Question is, why wouldn't the people who live near the old Nickel Plate rather see that route similarly go the way of rails-to-trails? Their property values would go way up, as would their quality of life. Nice, fun greenway or noisy unsafe transit corridor? Hmm... This could also become political suicide if these issues are observed, and especially if the parks people get involved.

Let's help bring this proposal to an end. More to come.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

No Air Castle

Today's Indy Star featured an article on the looming formation of a Regional Transit Authority and a light rail boondoggle for Central Indiana.

Republican suburban Mayor Jim Brainard wants the region to subsidize a rail line from downtown Indy to Carmel, on Indy's north side. Cost? $500 MILLION. Time table? Ready to roll by 2011. So much for fiscal responsibility. The Democrats love public transportation and are unlikely to oppose this massive waste. Who to turn to? The Libertarian Party.

Critics of mass transit question building such a heavily subsidized service, especially because most systems do not have enough capacity to make a significant dent in automobile traffic. And studies show that more is spent per mass transit user than for highway and street improvements.

"Transportation is a private concern, whether it's moving people or moving freight," said Mike Kole, the Hamilton County chairman for the Libertarian Party of Indiana.

Kole says some mass transportation systems, such as New York's subway, are effective. But he questions whether Indianapolis, a smaller city where residents live in less dense neighborhoods, could really benefit from a rail system.

"How many in the region could you honestly serve?" he said. "And yet you would expect them all to pay for it."

But Brainard still backs building mass transit in the Indianapolis area and the north suburbs.

"All transportation is expensive," he said. "So the question is really, what type of transportation is better for the region? To be competitive, I think trains would be ideal."

Has anyone ever moved to a city because of the trains? People move for jobs, for neighborhoods, for lower taxes or crime, for better schools or other quality of life, but for trains? Carmel is the wealthiest city in the state, so how is the region somehow not competitive? Wow.

This is an issue which will allow us to illustrate the folly of robbing Peter to pay Paul to those who normally have no time for us. Here we have the wealthiest city and county in the state seeking half a billion dollars in subisidies to provide transportation for their citizens at the expense of everyone else. The people in Shelby County will understand how they are getting rooked. So will the people of Marion, Johnson, and Madison Counties. Likewise, the inner city residents of Haughville.

Now, let them hear us!

LP National Convention Report 2

Another thing high on my Convention wish list was that some of the national LP's platform planks would get kicked out. Alas, the platform was supported in much greater numbers than at the 2002 Convention.

Again, my fight is against the Kook Factor. We have platform planks, such as those on the LaGrange Points in space, and as-of-yet undiscovered resources, that rightfully cause the LP to be the subject of well-earned scorn. My fellow Libertarians, do not wonder why we're deemed irrelevant and dismissed out of hand by so many who give us a fair look. Too many of our party are more eager to build air castles in support of esoteric issues of interest to about 37 American geeks rather than provide concrete solutions to the real issues of the day that affect millions.

The quick analysis is that the Conventions held in presidential years tend to attract newer members, purists, and kooks, whereas the off-year Conventions have a greater percentage of County Chairs and serious candidates for offices such as County Commissioner and Township Trustee. The normal faction of the LP shows up for all of the Conventions, but was greatly outnumbered this year. The normal faction of the LP will have to try again in 2006 to remove the albatross that is the national platform from around our necks.

LP National Convention Report 1

I had gone on at some length in favor of Gary Nolan for President with previous posts, so it should be no surprise that I was fairly disappointed that Michael Badnarik instead won the nomination of the Libertarian Party. Nolan was a strong finisher, dropping off the ballot with only five fewer votes than Badnarik on the second round of voting.

My disappointment is two-fold:

1. I am a County Chair, and as such, I want a Presidential candidate who will focus on boosting top affiliates at the state and county level. Nolan did this in the months leading up to the Convention. Badnarik only did a marginal job. Nolan promised to boost Indiana and Hamilton County. Thus far, no word from Badnarik, though I will make overtures.

2. The kook factor. Badnarik carries some baggage that is sure to have him labeled a kook in many quarters. Nolan was free of this. You cannot expect that with today's lightning quick communication, that one's kook notions can be kept from view for long. Check out this string on blogcritics. Fellow Hoosier Libertarian Al Barger is a regular contributor at blogcritics, and his report on Badnarik's victory was quickly followed by kook sightings.

Americans are so completely sold on the two-party system that they are automatically on the lookout for reasons not to like a third-party candidate. Of course, I believe this is misguided, but it is the reality, and reality must be dealt with, not a preferred ideal. Our candidates cannot give voters reasons to dismiss us out of hand. We must always be compelling. More importantly, we must be exceedingly normal. A Republican or Democrat can be forgiven as a rapist and elected before a Libertarian can promote gold or militias or even the Constitution and be supported by the average American. Until we learn this, we will suffer the kind of abuse the blogcritics readers heaped on.
On Home Ownership

I’m not a first-time homeowner, but man, there is nothing quite as satisfying! When Ame and I moved to Indy less than two years ago, the plan was to rent for the short term to discover which neighborhood would be right for us, save the money for the down payment, and to buy the house. We did it!

I enjoy pruning bushes when they are my bushes. I spent an hour pruning, and I really had a great time. I know that sounds weird, but my fellow homeowners know what I’m talking about. I hope that if you currently rent, you will soon thrill to washing your windows, cutting your grass, and scrubbing a toilet you own. It’s nothing remotely like fun to clean someone else’s toilet.

We are in Fishers, Indiana, which is on the southeast side of Hamilton County, or the northeast side of Indianapolis. It’s a great place to be, and has all of the things that are important to us: a friendly, well-to-do community with families; walking proximity to loads of amenities including the YMCA, walking trails, a park, interesting restaurants and shops, and the Post Office even.

I haven’t enjoyed being in my living space since I left my double in Parma, Ohio. Being there had been my greatest thrill until now, even though it wasn’t the first home I owned. That was in a run-down neighborhood in Cleveland. I was proud of my achievement of homeownership there, but had a hard time having any thought beyond, “I can’t wait until I can afford to get beyond this”.

Even that beat paying rent, though. I highly recommend home ownership.