Jim Weller, expert land title consultant, sent the following report about Rail and Trail and Greenway to a few outlets including BrattonOnline. He states…
“We got trouble, my friends. Right here in River City, with a capital G, and that stands for Greed, and that rhymes with Green — as in Greenway.
(The municipality of Santa Cruz, California has been called “River City,” because it is at the place where the San Lorenzo River flows into Monterey Bay. I intentionally invoke the libretto of the 1957 musical stage play, “The Music Man.” Read on.)
Here we are, now, in 2021.
You see, in the County of Santa Cruz, California (home to some 275,000 people) it is unfortunately the present case that a small, shadowy special-interest group, who are organized as a 501(c) 4 “dark money” political action committee, having cleverly adopted the euphemistic name, “Greenway,” are threatening the public good and our local civil order with disruptive, paid-for propaganda and misinformation.
Just like a bunch of damned Trumpite Republicans.
In my well-informed opinion, if I do say so myself, this despicable Greenway con game needs to be exposed for what it is — a fraudulent scheme aiming to privatize the single most important piece of Santa Cruz County’s public transportation infrastructure — for their personal financial gains.
Yes, I said fraudulent. I meant it. Political fraud. Are you ready to look at the anatomy of a shameless attempted public rip-off of massive proportions? Dig.
The back story:
Around 2002, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) began negotiating to purchase the existing 32-mile long Santa Cruz Branch railroad from Union Pacific Railroad Company. It was a complex transaction. It took a while to conclude. The RTC finally closed escrow in 2012, for a purchase price of $14.2 million (a good deal at twice the price). Tens of millions more public dollars have been invested since then, improving the public rail infrastructure.
RTC is an instrumentality of the State of California. Its functions are to plan for and allocate funding for state highway and public transportation infrastructure. Every county has such an agency. The RTC is funded by the state, separately from the County general fund, as an independent public authority. The commissioners of the RTC include the five members of the County Board of Supervisors, one representative each of the four incorporated cities, and representatives of the Metropolitan Transit District, which provides local bus and paratransit services, some of whom are also City Council members.
The Santa Cruz Branch railroad corridor was purchased with state funding, pursuant to the 1990 California Proposition 116 public transit bond measure. Its purpose was, and is, explicitly for a future public passenger rail transit system to be implemented in due course, when fully planned and funded. Early in 2021, the RTC commissioners adopted their staff’s “preferred alternative,” a concept involving advanced electric passenger rail technology, not yet in the design phase but in the planning process.
Meanwhile, the plot thickened.
Since around 2014, led by a famed high-tech philanthroper, a group of very wealthy local investors, agricultural and commercial land owners, and their lackeys, have organized to carry out a hugely well-funded political campaign with intense propaganda designed to permanently prevent any use of the publicly owned railroad corridor for public transportation purposes. “Greenway” is their brand.
Why? What for? Their objective is as plain as it is bizarre. The Greenway gangsters say openly and shamelessly that they want to commandeer control of the public railroad corridor and repurpose it for private recreational use. They say they want to redevelop the entire 32 miles of real estate as a so-called “linear park,” repaving the entire width of the corridor with two lanes of divided expressway for bicyclists and a separate lane for pedestrians. And no public transit, ever.
The “Greenway” scheme these bozos are pushing would not be a public transportation asset at all — the corridor would most likely be owned by a parks agency, or a recreational organization — maybe even for profit, if they can somehow force the RTC to transfer the land into the private sector.
That’s a pretty ballsy objective, isn’t it? A gang of a dozen or so rich white guys, sniffing opportunity, teams up, in the guise of a public-spirited grassroots group, doing the old AstroTurf Shuffle, and proceeds to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least that much — who knows — it’s dark money) over a period of years, with no public accounting, and with the goal of privatizing the local public sector’s most valuable transportation asset.
Awesome, eh? What bold market disruption! What entrepreneurial initiative!
The Greenway gangsters, and their accomplices, have been incessantly meddling in local politics, contemptuous as they are of public authority, and the public interest, and the integrity of public institutions.
They don’t give diddly-squat about anyone but themselves and their class of elites.
In 2018 Greenway foisted a ludicrous ballot initiative (Measure L) on the itty bitty City of Capitola (population, 10,000) – a campaign they billed as “Save the Trestle,” but which ended up simply forbidding the town to direct pedestrian and bicycle traffic using the railroad corridor around the antiquated railroad trestle over Soquel Creek, and instead routing travelers a short distance along city streets. In other words, Capitola supposedly now has to force users of a pathway someday to be built in the RTC’s corridor to cross directly over the ancient rickety railroad trestle, where there is not enough width for both a pedestrian/cyclist path and a rail transit system — even though Capitola has no authority over the use of the corridor, or the trestle, even though the City of Capitola sued Greenway to stop the initiative, and even though the RTC’s near-term planning involves a redesigned new crossing for both rail transit and trail users. (Get it? No room for public transit on the old trestle now, so Trail Only — Forever!)
Who supports this? I know who the Greenway gangsters are, for the most part. I know where they live and what they own. They could be served as defendants tomorrow, if they made the wrong move and got caught. I could name them, but they have a propensity for threatening punitive lawsuits against anyone who criticizes them, and I don’t want to give them the opportunity. That’s what kind of people they are. They’re filthy rich, they’re merciless, and they have moneyed interests at stake.
The Greenway gang even bought themselves a County Supervisor last year. They funded a brash young upstart who was, by the way, their paid operative and their Greenway Executive Director, to run for election against the incumbent, who was an honorable, three-term Supervisor who happened to be one of the leading local advocates of public passenger rail transit as a member of the RTC. The Greenway gangsters hated him. They demeaned him. They demonized him. The then-incumbent is Jewish, and they targeted him with scurrilous anti-Semitic cartoon images. They were determined to knock him off in the election no matter how much money it took. They succeeded. Their golden boy had only one actual campaign issue — the “Trail Only” objective of Greenway. Other than that, their puppet candidate was pretty much all shuck and jive, with grinning billboards of his fresh face all over town — placements paid for by the usurpers.
Since then, the Greenway gang has managed to compromise six of the twelve RTC commissioners in support of their anti-public transit objective. Along with their bought Supervisor, they have, by a combination of promises and threats, influenced in their favor two Capitola City Council members serving on the RTC, one delegated paid staffer appointed to the RTC by another County Supervisor whose conflict of interest kept him off the RTC, followed by an outright member of the Greenway gang who was appointed as an RTC alternate by that Supervisor, and yet another member of the Board of Supervisors, who is elderly and facing re-election next year. The Greenway gang has thereby stalemated the RTC’s progress in planning for passenger rail transit. They brought progress by the professional RTC staff in the public interest to a dead stop by corrupting the RTC commissioners. Cumshaw rules the day. (See how they did that? Money equals clout. See why I call them a gang?)
Functionally, Greenway is nothing more than a privately-owned political propaganda mill, a dis-information machine designed to confuse public sentiments and to propagate a deptive narrative in community discourse. Their goal is to reify the false dictum that “we can’t afford public transit,” and to promulgate the idea that private recreational uses of the publicly owned railroad corridor are preferable. They also have donated big money to their favored candidate, and they promise to sponsor opposition candidates against incumbents who don’t play their game.
One irony of Greenway’s “Trail Only” campaign is that it posits a false dichotomy. For them, it’s all about “rail” versus “trail” — one thing or the other. But the RTC’s well developed plans include a protected, paved pathway for bikes and pedestrians, within and alongside the railroad corridor, adjacent to the tracks. And eventually, a public passenger rail transit system. The RTC plan is for “rail and trail,” and segments of the trail are already completed; others are under construction. It’s all planned, designed, and funded. But Greenway hates the RTC’s “rail trail” because it doesn’t preclude public transit, and that’s their main goal. Greenway wants something completely different. No public rail transit. Ever.
Now. Today, July 21, 2021, Greenway has publicly announced its intention to circulate an initiative petition they hope will accomplish the first step in their master plan to privatize the railroad corridor. This is their Measure L on steroids. In substance, their proffered countywide “YES GREENWAY” initiative would simply delete any and all references to possible future passenger rail service from the County General Plan. (Get it? Squelch. Slam! Case closed. No way.)
It sure looks like the Greenway gangsters are plotting to seize control of the public railroad corridor for themselves. Maybe they will permit the general public to walk or bike or scoot or buzz or zip along their Greenway highway by the California coast. But there will never be public transportation there if they have anything to say about it. Forget it.
These Greenway gangsters are enemies of the public interest. They hate public administration, except when it enriches them. I know these people. They’re privateers. They worship Money, and above all else, they look out for number one. Screw everybody else. Believe me, I couldn’t make this up.
If you live in Santa Cruz County and you happen upon some clueless shill hustling a “YES GREENWAY” petition for signatures, give them the cold shoulder. Tell them to get lost.
These clipboard meisters will be paid well in cash by Greenway for voters’ signatures. These hapless hustlers may be ordinary poor schmucks busting a living for ten bucks a pop getting signatures, and maybe you’ll feel sorry for them and want to help, but you must remember they’re being paid by a gang of rich anti-public interest schemers who deserve nothing but our opprobrium. Don’t sign!
The Greenway stooges will lie enthusiastically. They’ll say something like, “Do you want to have a nice trail along the coast for biking and walking?” They’ll say nothing about their paymasters’ real game: to kill any prospect of public transportation in the public
Do the right thing. Defend the public good and the public interest.
DO NOT SUPPORT THE GREENWAY FRAUD!
This blog highlights a variety of local voices engaged with transportation issues in Santa Cruz County.