Rabid anti-tax, carpetbagging libertarians blast SMART tax
- Published Wednesday, October 25, 2006, by the Marin Independent Journal
Rail tax standoff
By Mark Prado
[Photo caption: Adrian Moore (left), who opposes using federal money
for a rail line, faces off with supporters of Measure R on the
ballots in Marin and Sonoma on Nov. 7. A group called Americans for
Prosperity brought its anti-government spending campaign to Larkspur
on Tuesday to protest the North Bay train plan.]
A Washington D.C.-based, anti-tax group barnstormed into Marin on
Tuesday to protest the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit plan as a
waste of money, and found itself flanked by noisy, sign-waving
train supporters at a news conference in Larkspur.
Americans for Prosperity <http://www.americansforprosperity.org> --
a nonprofit, grassroots, anti-government spending group -- brought
its "Taxpayer Trust Tour" to Larkspur to protest the SMART program.
The Marin stop was part of a statewide seven-city tour, which was
launched in Sacramento on Monday by the group to speak out against
various ballot issues.
"It's not an efficient use of taxpayer money," said Tim Phillips,
president of Americans for Prosperity, speaking of federal grants
for SMART, prior to his group's news conference along train tracks
near the Marin Airporter.
"If the local county wants to pass a tax increase themselves,
more power to them," he said, referring to the proposed sales
tax increase. "But to have $110 million in (supplemental) federal
dollars for a SMART project that will have (few) riders each day
at a time when there are other priorities, such as health care and
education, is not wise."
Soon, Phillips was surrounded by train supporters who peppered him
with questions about his stance.
Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation <http://www.reason.org> -- a
nonprofit think tank promoting free markets -- joined the spirited
impromptu debate, saying if locals wanted a train they need to do it
without federal dollars.
"They can pay for it on their own -- pass a half-cent sales tax and
it will pay for itself," he said. "This is a rail system that will
carry a trivial number of people."
Coy Smith, CEO of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, countered there
is nothing wrong with getting federal money to pay for the train.
[Photo caption: Walter Strakosch holds a sign in support of ballot
Measure R on Tuesday in Larkspur.]
"We live in this county, we should have the right to decide what
transportation system we need for our workforce and community.
Federal dollars go all over California and sometimes federal
dollars need to come to Marin."
On Nov. 7, voters will decide whether to approve Measure R, a
20-year, quarter-cent sales tax for a 70-mile rail line from
Cloverdale to Larkspur that would cost an estimated $387 million
to build, with annual operating and maintenance costs estimated at
$17.6 million. The cost of the proposed bicycle and pedestrian path
that would run adjacent to the rail is estimated at $80.4 million.
The measure will have to garner a two-thirds vote to pass.
Once the news conference started, anti-train advocates found
themselves flanked by SMART supporters who held green signs, chimed
in with comments and applause, briefly interrupting speakers, and
started a mantra-like cheer: "Think SMART, yes on R, SMART train
will take us far," at the event's conclusion.
The event mirrored a pro-SMART rally in August in San Rafael, when
local protesters showed up to voice opposition to the rail plan.
Moore suggested that freeway expansion is the only way to deal with
increased congestion in the Marin-Sonoma corridor.
"These guys are classic, they come in from out of state and want
more L.A.," scoffed train backer David Schonbrunn.
SMART FUNDING SOURCE
Sales tax..............................66 percent
State funding..........................10 percent
Fare revenue............................9 percent
Federal funding.........................6 percent
Regional Measure 2 state
bridge toll increase....................3 percent
Sonoma County Measure M
sales tax increase .....................2 percent
Station related development.............2 percent
Lease revenue...........................1 percent
North Coast Rail Authority..............1 percent
Source: Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit
Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@...