Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

For Anyone Listening to KGO Radio Around 8 PM Tonight...

...why yes, that was me ("Kevin along I-5") calling in to Dr. Bill Wattenburg, filling in for Gene Burns this evening. After I left Mt. Shasta City, KGO's signal grew strong enough to hear as the sun set. I don't always agree with Dr. Bill, but after listening to him talk for a while, I decided to try and call and ask his opinion on High Speed Rail. I was fortunate in that his phone lines were not completely swamped, and I got in the queue. About twenty minutes after getting in the queue, I stopped at the Klammath River rest area, thinking that I was soon going to get on the air and that I'd rather do the call while stopped, despite wearing a headset. But I needed to use the restroom, so when they went into a news break, I went into the building -- and my already weak signal died.

After completing my business, I went back to the van, called back in, and explained what happened. The call screener said, "Okay, I'll put you back in the queue in the same place." He didn't tell me where I stood, and I'd used up most of the time I'd gained on my schedule, so I decided to go ahead and head north again.

Just as I crossed into Oregon, I lost the call again. In the hope that third time would be a charm, I tried again, and just as I started down the steep grade after Siskiyou Summit, Dr. Bill called on me.

I started by saying how I regretted never having met him while I was working on my degree in computer science from CSU Chico, where he teaches. As I hoped, this seemed to make him more amenable to me, and he joked a little bit with me when I said that I don't always agree with him, although in the particular case he was discussing a lot tonight, I mostly do. He had been going on about the need to build more nuclear power plants -- I think he's right -- and I said, "One of the things that those plants could power would be a high speed electric rail system. What do you think about the proposed high speed rail system proposed in Proposition 1A?"

He said that he was generally for it, although there are of course significant engineering and financing challenges. I asked him to confirm that in his opinion, there is nothing earth-shatteringly difficult about the proposal -- that is, it's based on the already extensive and successful high-speed rail systems such as in Japan and France. He agreed with that, as I figured he would, and he also said that he thinks that California has sufficient population to support such a system.

Knowing that callers need to make their point and get out, I said, approximately, "I'm 43 years old. I hope that I will live to see the day when I can ride a high speed train between the two halves of our state, and that our country will catch up to the other developed nations of the world and join the 21st century."

Before saying goodbye, Dr. Bill said, "You said you got a degree in computer science from Chico. Do you use it today?

I said, "Yes, I do. I'm a database programmer for a supply chain management company." He sounded pleased by that, and pleasantly ended the call.

(Everything here are semi-quotes based on my memory. No, I didn't record it or take notes. I was driving up I-5 at almost 60 MPH on a steep downgrade that was narrowed by construction barriers!)

Hanging up the phone, I reviewed the call in my head. I hope I sounded relatively smooth, but I also feared that I might have sounded as if I were a paid shill for the promoters of 1A. While I'm pleased that the California Alliance for Jobs has bought airtime to promote 1A, I also know that people tend to distrust big money, and that there's an automatic suspicion that anyone who sounds like they know what they're talking about is obviously a "plant" of some sort. Well, I'm no shill; I just care a lot about this project.

Shortly later, a woman called in to criticize the HSR project, primarily complaining about the routing through Pacheco Pass instead of Altamont and more or less saying we shouldn't do anything unless we can get it perfect. She got flustered and side-tracked (pun intended), and Dr. Bill, who has no patience for fools or people who can't keep their stories straight, sent her packing. I wouldn't be surprised if the woman is one of the NIMBYs along the Caltrain line who want to make the Nasty Noisy Trains Go Away and stop coming into their bedrooms and killing their children.

Look, I don't like the Pacheco routing either, and I agree completely with what she said about it being mainly there to pander to powerful South Bay politicians. Altamont would have been better. But as I said a couple days ago, I'm going to vote for it anyway, because the perfect is the enemy of the good, and this will be good enough -- just not perfect.

It was only a few minutes after my call before I arrived at my hotel. It's hard to get KGO on the radio in the hotel room, so I didn't hear the rest of Dr. Bill's program after the anti-HSR woman's call and thus do not know if anyone else called in to say "No trains in my backyard!"
Tags: high speed rail, politics, trains

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