Best wishes from the Antiplanner to all my faithful friends and loyal opponents. I hope you had a good year this year and that 2011 turns out to be even better.
I know I’ve featured my late friend, Chip, here three times already this year, but I’m going to indulge myself and do so just one more time. I’ve put together some of my favorite photos and a few little stories about him, which you can read here or, if you have a slow connection, here. He was a good friend and I still miss him every day.
A recent decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upended years of forest planning that were based on a Supreme Court decision made back in 1998. The Supreme Court had ruled that forest plans didn’t really make decisions, so even though the Forest Service spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year writing these plans, no one had the standing to challenge them in court.
Forest Service photo showing a lake in the Huron-Manistee national forests.
The Forest Service continues to spend money revising plans that supposedly make no decisions, but an attorney named Kurt Meister, representing himself, challenged the plan for Michigan’s Huron-Manistee forests. Meister lost at the district court level, but he persuaded the Sixth Circuit Court that forest plans made decisions after all, and that decisions made in the Huron-Manistee plan were arbitrary, so the court ordered the Forest Service to redo the plan.
The somewhat tongue-in-cheek movie review earlier this week reminds me of one of my favorite movies. Not many people realize that North by Northwest was actually based on a true story, though of course Hitchcock changed many of the details to make his action/adventure movie.
As cinemaphiles will remember, Cary Grant plays Roger O Thornhill, a man who makes prominent use of the fact that his initials are ROT. In the course of fighting evil government agents, ROT takes a ride on the Twentieth Century Limited, the famous train from New York to Chicago. There he hooks up with Eve Kendall, a blonde woman played by Eva Marie Saint, with whom he has numerous adventures in Chicago, Mt. Rushmore National Monument, and elsewhere. Tension is increased by ROT’s uncertainty about who is really evil and who is good, especially when it appears that Kendall already has a boyfriend. In the end, however, the evil government agents get their just desserts, ROT gets the girl, and (as shown by the closing credits) they end up on a train in California.
Martin Engel is a typical northern Californian who says he is “not a Libertarian or absolute free market idealist.” But he has become skeptical of high-speed rail, and through his email list has kept people up-to-date on the various shenanigans at the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Now he has started a blog, High-Speed Train Talk, which he claims is the “only blog that totally opposes high-speed rail in California.” While some might take exception to that, his may be the only blog that is solely dedicated to stopping high-speed rail in California.
But he also covers other regions, including Britain and China, all with reference, of course, to California. Engel’s new blog is the antidote for the fawning California High-Speed Rail Blog, and the Antiplanner looks forward to Engel’s future newsgathering and essays.
The Antiplanner doesn’t ordinarily review movies, but then, not many movies cover the dark side of urban renewal. Someone once called Road House, featuring the late Patrick Swayze, the “cheesiest movie ever made,” but they must not have been aware of the political subtext.
In the movie, Brad Wesley (played by Ben Gazzara) is the evil executive director of the urban-renewal district for a small town named Jasper, Missouri (which he calls an “improvement district”). The district taxes all of the businesses in the town and uses the money to make investments that attract new businesses. Like most advocates of tax-subsidized economic development, Wesley takes credit for all the good things that happen in town. “J.C. Penney is coming here because of me,” he brags, as if J.C. Penney didn’t ordinarily locate in small towns like Jasper.
The Antiplanner is taking tomorrow off for the holiday. So today I wish a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, fabulous Festivus, or whatever is your holiday of choice to all my faithful allies and loyal opponents.
We have a lot of snow here this year and I took this photo at nearby Lake Creek last Sunday. It is actually eight photos stitched together in Photoshop, and each of those eight photos in turn is three different exposures merged together in Photomatix. (Click on the photo for a larger view.) The full-sized photo is 7400×4800 pixels, but it is also 24 megabytes so I won’t try to post it here.
On December 11, the Antiplanner gave a presentation to the Elbert County Conservative Breakfast Association, a Tea-Party-like group in Colorado, and one of the members of the audience posted it on line. The introduction is by Tom Peterson, who also happens to be the director of the Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association, to which the Antiplanner spoke on December 10. You can see a higher-resolution version of the presentation on Youtube. You can also download a PDF version of the slides (47 MB).
When the light-rail line in Norfolk, Virginia, went nearly 50 percent over its projected cost, the general manager of Hampton Roads Transit resigned in disgrace–but they gave him $300,000 in severance pay. Now documents have come to light that agency officials knew the line was going to cost more than their published projections but kept the true cost secret from the public and the Federal Transit Administration when they were seeking funding for the project.
Norfolk light rail under construction. Flickr photo by DearEdward.
On top of that, the state has found that the transit agency broke contracting and bidding laws when it gave contracts to favored consultants and “preferred individuals”–no doubt ones who would low-ball the cost estimates and not reveal the true costs until construction was well underway. The transit agency’s current CEO is talking about bringing criminal charges against the now-departed officials who were in charge when the line was being planned.
Portland — the place where people are content to be unambitious; an alternative universe, Gore won, the Bush administration never happened; where you can put a bird on something and call it art! No wonder the media love Portland.
This is apparently the teaser for Portlandia, a series to begin on IFC in January. Jack Bogdanski predicts it will be “hysterically funny, unless you live here, in which case it’s reality.” Too bad the Antiplanner doesn’t get that channel.
Last week, the House decisively postponed reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, something it has already done 16 times since reauthorization was scheduled to take place in 2007. At stake is the future of America’s airline network, which is beholden to the federal government to maintain and update an antiquated air traffic control system.
Air traffic control is fully funded by airline ticket fees and other aircraft users. But the system is run by the federal government, which for more than 20 years has promised to update it with a Next Generation system. In contrast, Canada’sprivatized air traffic control recently won an award from the International Air Transport Association for being the world’s best system. ATC agencies in Iceland and the Netherlands also won awards; these have been “corporatized,” turned into independent, government-owned entities that are not dependent on their governments for funding or reauthorizations.