High-speed Rail

Prison insanity


EDITORIAL The dumbest, most expensive, and least effective solution to crime is to build more prisons. We have about 20 years of empirical data to prove that, right in California. Yet the state legislature and the governor have agreed to spend $8 billion, mostly in new bond money, to expand the bloated state prison system.

California currently locks up 173,000 people. Texas, that great liberal bastion of criminal coddling, only has 152,000 inmates. It’s staggering — and the billions this state has spent on cell blocks have had no measurable impact on the crime rate.

In fact, California has the highest prison return rate in the nation: seven in 10 people released from state prisons wind up behind bars again. The state’s ridiculously tough parole laws allow offenders to be locked up again for minor, harmless infractions.

The entire state corrections system is in such bad shape that the federal courts have threatened to throw it into receivership if some of the more glaring problems aren’t addressed. That’s why this package was rushed through without adequate debate and why so many Democrats went along with it.

But the bill that the legislature passed does nothing to address those problems.

The centerpiece of the measure is an ambitious, very expensive plan to build 53,000 new prison beds over the next five years. The sad fact is that the construction boom won’t do much of anything to solve the overcrowding problem: like freeways, prisons fill up as fast as they are built. So in five years, the state will have another 50,000 inmates, and the prisons will still be overcrowded.

And of course, nowhere in the deal is there any proposal for how the state will find the extra money to pay the operating costs of all these new prison facilities. Instead, the prison budget will continue to crowd out social programs (and the bonds will make it harder to pass a high-speed rail bond this fall).

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and State Senate President Don Perata made statements highly critical of the plan, and Núñez demanded that the governor resolve a lot of the lingering problems before the construction begins. But they both voted for the bill. (One of the few who didn’t was Sen. Carole Migden, to her great credit.)

The Democrats in the legislature need to go back and start dismantling this bill before it’s too late — and need to take up serious sentencing reform. If they won’t, activists ought to look at a November ballot measure. We don’t want to see a federal takeover either — but anything would be better than this mess. *

Web Site of the Week



As regular Guardian readers know, it’s make-or-break time for building a high-speed rail system in California, which the state needs but which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been hindering. Get the facts and check out the latest developments on this site.

The promise of high-speed rail


EDITORIAL Imagine — there’s a project on the drawing board in Sacramento that would:

Get two million cars off California’s roads.

Eliminate any need for expensive and environmentally damaging new runways at the San Francisco International Airport.

Create tens of thousands of high-paying jobs for economically depressed Central Valley communities.

Generate untold billions of dollars in long-term economic development in the state.

Make the ugly trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles a simple and affordable pleasure.

Represent the single most important contribution California could make to cutting global warming.

Pay for itself in 10 years.

Why isn’t everyone in the state demanding that it go forward immediately?

That’s the strange question about high-speed rail. It makes perfect sense on every level. It’s the sort of project that ought to satisfy every interest group in the state. The environmentalists love it; so does the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Yet Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is prepared to effectively defund the agency that is planning the project, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and is moving to ensure that the first installment of the money the project needs won’t be in the next set of infrastructure bonds, on the 2008 ballot.

The governor’s position is baffling, and the only explanations his staffers have offered are so factually inaccurate that they’re laughable. The Democratic Party supports it — but this project needs more than just a few statements of support. It needs to become such a priority for the state that the legislature can force the governor to move forward on it.

A high-speed rail line would carry people from downtown San Francisco to downtown LA in a little more than two hours. At current estimates, the trip would cost about $40. The technology is proven; high-speed rail works all over the world. In terms of energy use, it’s about the most efficient and environmentally sound way of moving people around that exists. The demand is clearly there. The total price tag — about $40 billion for a full build-out from Sacramento to San Diego — isn’t cheap, but every estimate shows that the project will pay for itself a decade after the first trains start running. That’s a great deal, even a spectacular deal, for any public works project.

But time is of the essence. Every year of delay hikes the price of the project by $2 billion. The high-speed rail agency ought to be racing at full throttle to get a plan on the next possible ballot — but instead, the governor’s budget is giving the authority less than a tenth of what it needs to keep going.

The nonpartisan legislative analyst says in a recent report that if the governor won’t fund the high-speed rail authority this year, the legislature might as well shut it down.

This is utter insanity. High-speed rail is crucial to the state’s future and needs a lot more champions. Don Perata, the senate president, and Fabian Núñez, the assembly speaker, need to tell the governor in no uncertain terms that the high-speed rail agency must be funded, and the first installment of bonds must be on the November 2008 ballot.

Arnold’s high-speed spin


By Steven T. Jones
After being called out by the Guardian as the main obstacle to building a high-speed rail system in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote an op-ed in the Fresno Bee over the weekend claiming to enthusiastically support the project. That’s good news and a sign that project supporters are making progress. Unfortunately, the op-ed continues the governor’s deceptive approach to the issue as it omits inconvenient facts and makes false claims.

Support for high-speed rail


High-speed rail got a timely and significant vote of support from the California Democratic Party on April 29 when delegates at the state convention approved a resolution pushing the project. The measure was the top vote getter, tied at 24 with a resolution urging accountability for the errors and deception that led to the Iraq War.

Yet a last-minute move weakening part of the measure raises questions about whether the Democrats are truly willing to fight Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has called for an indefinite delay in next year’s high-speed rail bond measure and proposed a budget that guts the California High-Speed Rail Authority (see "The Silver Bullet Train," 4/18/07).

The resolution praises the project as "a significant weapon against air pollution and global warming as it uses much less energy per passenger than cars and airplanes – and HSR will be even more essential if, as expected, petroleum supplies diminish in the future."

But state party leaders deleted language from the version that was submitted by San Francisco delegate Jane Morrison asking "that all California elected officials support the requested $103 million for HSR in the current state budget – and retain and support the $10 billion bond issue now scheduled for High Speed Rail in the 2008 election." Assemblymember Fiona Ma has emerged as the main legislative champion for the embattled project and helped push the resolution to the top of the legislative priority list. But she faces a big test in trying to get the money the project now needs.

Morrison told us, "We have to work to convince the legislature that we can afford it. That’s the hard part, so we’re not done yet."

A recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office criticized Schwarzenegger’s holding pattern as wasteful and concluded that the legislature should fully fund the project or vote to kill it. The report was titled "Time to Bite the Bullet for the Bullet Train."

There’s more on high-speed rail – including a telling exchange between the Guardian and the Governor’s Office – on our Politics blog, at www.sfbg.com/blogs/politics.

High-speed rail drama


By Steven T. Jones
California’s proposed high-speed rail project is finally getting some much needed attention, which is the only thing that will overcome Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dishonest and secretive campaign to kill it.
The Democratic Party has made the project a top legislative priority (see my story on that in tomorrow’s paper), the LA Times is publicizing it, and the Fog City Journal got this quote on the subject from Mayor Gavin Newsom: “A bond has been delayed for too many years. It’s time to look forward to high-speed rail. In fact I’ll be doing a press conference with Senator Kopp on it very shortly. We’re blessed to have Senator Kopp to head this authority to really step it up because, definitely, it’s absolutely essential. You watch the rest of the world, they’ve been doing that kind of system for decades and here we are still flying on Southwest, Jet Blue and United. It makes no sense between northern and southern California and it’ll be a big part of solving a lot of the infrastructure and transportation challenges.”
He’s absolutely right. And now is the time to make sure Arnold and the more cowardly members of the Legislature don’t kill this important project.

Arnold’s dishonest rail stand


By Steven T. Jones
Why can’t Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or his proxies explain their opposition to high-speed rail? They try, as they must. After all, this is a green project lauded across the ideological spectrum and around the world for its potential to prevent global warming, dirty air, and clogged freeways and airports.
But all the answers Arnold’s people give are illogical, unresponsive, or contradicted by the experts. In the end, it appears the Schwarzenegger administration is simply unwilling to support high-speed rail or to level with the public about why. Legislators and other Democrats say they’re solidly behind the project, something that will be tested this weekend in San Diego when the state party convention considers a resolution of support authored by longtime party activist Jane Morrison of San Francisco.
“It’s very timely because the governor is trying to cut the budget [for the California High Speed Rail Authority] back to $1 million and delay the bond measure,” Morrison told the Guardian. “I think this is a terribly important project.”

The silver bullet train


› steve@sfbg.com

There aren’t many easy answers to the environmental crisis facing California, a state with a fossil fuel–dependent culture that’s cooking the planet, congesting the freeways and airports, and hastening a tumultuous end to the oil age. But there is one: build a high-speed rail system as soon as possible.

All the project studies indicate this should be a no-brainer. San Franciscans could travel to Los Angeles in just a couple hours, the same time it takes to fly, at a fraction of the cost. And the system — eventually stretching from Sacramento to San Diego — would generate twice as much money by 2030 as it costs to build. The trains use far less power than planes or cars and can be powered by renewable resources with no emissions. The system would get more than two million cars off the road and single-handedly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 12 million metric tons per year.

High-speed rail is a proven green technology that works well everywhere it’s been implemented, including most of Europe and Asia. In France the TGV line from Paris to Lyon connects the country’s two most culturally important cities in the same way that Los Angeles would be linked to San Francisco — from one downtown core to the other — allowing for easy day trips and ecofriendly weekend jaunts. Advocates for high-speed rail say it’s an essential component of California going green and the only realistic way to meet the ambitious climate change targets approved last year in Assembly Bill 32.

Yet for some strange reason, the idea of high-speed rail has barely clung to life since San Franciscan Quentin Kopp first proposed it more than a decade ago as a member of the State Senate and set the studies in motion, all of which have found the project feasible and beneficial. Today Kopp, a retired judge, chairs the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), which has fought mightily to move the project forward despite severe underfunding and sometimes faltering political support.

Growing awareness of climate change has increased support for high-speed rail among legislators and in public opinion polls (among Democrats and Republicans), leaving only one major impediment to getting energy-efficient trains traveling the state at 220 mph: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

While posing for the April 16 cover of Newsweek with the headline "Save the Planet — or Else" and touting himself around the world as an environmental leader, Schwarzenegger has quietly sought to kill — or at least delay beyond his term — high-speed rail.

The $10 billion bond issue to build the LA-to-SF section was originally slated for 2004, then pushed back to 2006, then pushed back to 2008 because Schwarzenegger worried it would hinder the $20 billion transportation bond, Proposition 1B, which was focused mostly on new freeway construction.

Part of the deal to delay the train bond involved giving the CHSRA the money it needed to start ramping up the project, which included $14.3 million last year, the most it has ever received. But rather than give the authority the $103 million that it needs this year to honor contracts, set the final Bay Area alignment, start buying rights-of-way, and complete the engineering work and financing plan, the governor’s budget proposed offering the agency just $1.3 million — only about enough to keep the lights on and not fire its 3 1/2 staffers.

And now Schwarzenegger is asking the legislature to once again delay the 2008 bond measure, which would take a two-thirds vote of both houses. "Investing in it now would prevent us from doing bonds for any other purposes," the governor’s spokesperson, Sabrina Lockhart, told us, citing prisons, schools, and roads as some other priorities for the governor. "It’s not cost-effective in the short term."

The stand baffles environmentalists and other high-speed rail supporters, who say the project is expensive but extremely cost-effective over the long term (although it gets less so the longer the state delays, with about $2 billion tacked on the price tag for every year of delay).

"If the governor would get up on his bully pulpit and talk about high-speed rail to the California people, we would be starting construction in 2009," Kopp told the Guardian. "What you have is political fear instead of political will."

Asked why Schwarzenegger doesn’t seem to understand the importance of this issue — or how it relates to his green claims — CHSRA executive director Mehdi Morshed can only guess. Some of it is the daunting price tag and long construction schedule, some of it is that the governor tends to defer to the Department of Transportation for his transportation priorities, "and they’re in the business of building more roads, so that’s what they say we need."

But mostly, it’s a failure to understand the kind of transportation gridlock that’s headed California’s way if we do nothing. "It’s an alternative to meeting the travel demand with more highways and airport expansions," Carli Paine, transportation program director with the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, told us. But as Morshed told us, "The governor doesn’t suffer much on the freeways, and he has his own plane."

The person doing Schwarzenegger’s dirty work on high-speed rail is David Crane, an attorney turned venture capitalist who, although he’s a Democrat from San Francisco, is one of the governor’s top economic advisers and his newest appointee to the CHSRA board. Despite thick stacks of detailed studies on the project, Crane seems to want to return the project to square one.

"There’s never been a comprehensive plan for how you’re going to finance this thing," Crane told us, noting that the LA-SF link is likely to cost far more than the bonds would generate. "The bond itself is a red herring. You could raise the $10 billion now and still not have a high-speed rail."

Yet supporters of high-speed see the Schwarzenegger-Crane gambit as mostly just a stall tactic. While Crane argues that the private sector funding — which could account for about half his estimated $40 billion in total project costs (other documents say around $26 billion) — needs to be nailed down first, supporters say California must firmly commit to the project if it’s going to happen.

"Private capital won’t be interested unless they know there is a public commitment," Kopp told us.

"You need to take a leap of leadership. When there is something that makes sense in so many ways, you need to have that initial public buy-in," said Bill Allayaud, legislative director for the Sierra Club California.

Support for that stance also seems to be strong in the legislature, where San Francisco’s newest representative, Assemblymember Fiona Ma, has emerged as the point person on the issue. She even went on a fact-finding mission in France, aboard the TGV train when it reached 357 mph to break the world rail speed record.

"We can’t do it until we have that public investment," Ma told us, noting that holding detailed financial debates right now is a diversion considering that "this project will pay for itself."

"My assembly caucus is extremely positive about high-speed rail. Right now it’s on the ballot for next year, and I think it’s going to stay there," Ma said. She isn’t sure that she can get the CHSRA the full $103 million it wants this year, "but whatever we can come up with is going to be better than $1 million."

"The governor needs to get on board. This is an important environmental issue," Ma told us. "For him not to be behind it doesn’t make sense."

Californians also seem to have a hard time fully understanding the project, probably because polls show that only about 10 percent of them have ever used high-speed rail in another country. Yet polls show climate change is a top public concern among Democrats and Republicans.

"Number one, the dollar figure is daunting," Kopp said. "Number two, we’re Americans, and we just haven’t experienced it."

Yet when the project and its benefits are explained, it doesn’t seem to have any opponents outside the Schwarzenegger administration. Morshed said not even Big Oil and Big Auto — two deep-pocketed entities with a history of fighting large-scale transit projects — have opposed high-speed rail. Once people get it, everyone seems to love it.

"The reaction you get almost every time is ‘Why aren’t we building it?’ That’s the thing that is universal, people saying, ‘Why don’t we have this? What’s wrong with us?’ " Morshed said.

For such a massive project — with construction spanning almost the entire state — it’s notable that none of the state’s major environmental groups have challenged the project’s environmental impact reports, which were certified in November 2005. That’s largely because the route uses existing transportation corridors and has stops only in urban areas, thus not encouraging sprawl.

"Environmental groups generally don’t like big projects, but they like this one," the Sierra Club’s Allayaud told us. "There aren’t a lot of negatives that we’re having to balance out, and there are a lot of positives."

Yet politics being what it is, other obstacles are likely to present themselves. The CHSRA is now setting the route into the Bay Area, either through the Altamont Pass or the Pacheco Pass, both of which have political and environmental concerns.

Morshed — an engineer who served as consultant to the Senate Transportation Committee for 20 years before heading the CHSRA — expressed confidence that the project will happen if the state’s leaders support it: "It’s moving ahead, and we have very good support in the legislature. The only soft spot is the governor, who wants to postpone it and seems to have other priorities." *

The green issue


› tredmond@sfbg.com

Climate change is a global problem. A lot of the solutions, at least in the United States, are going to be local.

And a lot of them are going to start and end with the way we use land.

That’s a critical theme for this year’s Earth Day: cities like San Francisco, which claims to be (and really ought to be) a world leader in environmental sustainability, have to rethink everything from housing and consumption to open space and energy use — and particularly transportation.

Cars — private-use automobiles, the center of so much of American life and public policy for the past 100 years — are also one of the greatest threats to the future of the planet. The byproducts of tens of millions of internal combustion engines on the roads every day are a major component of greenhouse gases (not to mention other environmental pollutants). And the oil that fuels them drives a foreign policy that leads, as we’ve seen, to tyranny, instability, and millions of deaths.

It’s not enough to raise gas taxes or promote hybrids or increase fuel-efficiency standards (although all of those should be on the national agenda). Cities and states have to profoundly change the way people get around and the way they use public and private space.

Some of this is just so simple you can’t believe it’s not already happening. As Steve Jones reports ("The Silver Bullet Train"), a high-speed rail connection from San Francisco to Los Angeles would get almost two millions cars off the road and cut down immensely on the use of airline fuel. It would also pay for itself in a few years. It’s a form of public transit that would work right away: nobody likes to drive to LA. If you could take a train, get there in less time than it takes to fly, and pay less than $50 for the trip, why would you travel any other way?

Some of it requires more political vision (and political guts). If San Francisco wants to fight sprawl and encourage less car use, it has to be willing to build housing for people who work here — and that means, by city estimates, ensuring that two-thirds of all new housing be affordable.

And if San Franciscans want to reconnect to urban land and encourage bikes and walking, we have to think seriously about open space — even if it means that roads and private developments have to be sacrificed. That’s what Deborah Giattina describes ("Open Water,").

Cities and states also have to think about energy policy, and that means reclaiming energy as a public good, not a private commodity. San Francisco’s private utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., is spending millions trying to tell us how green it is; as Amanda Witherell notes ("Green Isn’t PG&E,"), that’s a big lie.

On this Earth Day 2007, the time to mess around and debate has run out. Think globally, act locally — and push for a city and state environmental agenda that is more than hot air. *

Green city, part one: cut back cars


EDITORIAL San Francisco needs a real green city agenda — not something that comes out of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s corrupt propaganda operation or from the timid folks in the Mayor’s Office but a comprehensive environmental plan for the next 10 years that aims at making San Francisco the nation’s number one city for green policy.

There’s no point in thinking small: this is the year for dramatic talk about real environmental action. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelmed by global problems; there’s so much to be done right here at home.

We will be laying out a much longer, more detailed platform over the next few months, but here’s one way to start:

San Francisco ought to commit to cutting car use in the city by at least 50 percent in the next five years.

How do you do that? By making cars unnecessary and slightly more expensive.

The nation’s addiction to oil didn’t come by accident. As Thomas Friedman wrote in the April 15 New York Times, then-president Dwight Eisenhower responded to the cold war in part by building the Interstate Highway System, which allowed the military to move people and weapons quickly — but also set the nation on a path to the car-driven development and land use that are now poisoning the environment and global politics. Turning that around requires tremendous dedication and political leadership, but San Francisco shouldn’t have to wait for the rest of the country.

A citywide auto-reduction plan would involve sweeping land-use changes. Some streets, such as Market, should be closed to cars entirely. Much downtown parking should be eliminated. More bike lanes and transit-only roads, more pedestrian-friendly shopping areas, and other measures of that sort would not only help discourage car use but also make the city a more livable place.

But there’s more: a city that discourages car use has to build housing for local workers — that means affordable housing for the city’s service-industry and public-sector workforce. All new housing needs to be evaluated on that basis: will people who work in San Francisco be able to live here — and avoid long commutes? Most housing currently in the planning pipeline utterly fails that test.

To make cars irrelevant, public transportation has to be vastly improved. As Sups. Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin point out in the Opinion on page 7, that means better management. But more than anything, it means money — big money. Muni fares ought to be reduced dramatically (or eliminated altogether) — but in exchange, Muni needs a dedicated funding source. A special fee on downtown businesses makes sense. A citywide transit assessment on property owners might be necessary.

It’s not fair to place a burdensome tax on cars that makes it possible only for the rich to drive — but simply restoring in San Francisco the vehicle fee Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wiped out would cover Muni’s deficit. Assemblymember Mark Leno is working on this, and it should be a top civic priority. So should pushing high-speed rail (see page 19), which would eliminate tens of thousands of car trips between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

There are lots of ways to approach this goal; the supervisors and the mayor just need to set it and enforce it. *

Editor’s Notes


› tredmond@sfbg.com

It’s funny: the transcontinental railroad was born in San Francisco, and it transformed California. But the West Coast has pretty much lost the train thing. You want to go from here to Los Angeles, there are pretty much two choices: you can fly or you can drive. In theory, you can ride Amtrak, and I’ve done it, but it doesn’t run very often and takes about 12 hours. Fun, if you like that sort of thing, but not at all practical.

But on an early Sunday morning last week, I was traveling from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia, and between 8 a.m. and noon there were about half a dozen trains running on that route. The high-speed Acela got me to Philly in 90 minutes, downtown to downtown, way faster than I could drive. Another hour or so, and I could have been in Manhattan.

There are flights from Washington, DC, to New York, but these days it seems kind of silly to fly: by the time you arrive at the airport, get through security, go up, go down, deplane, and get from the airport to the city, you’re well beyond three hours. The train’s way cheaper too.

Yeah, I love trains (actual legroom, no seat belt signs, scenery, bar cars), so I’m biased, but it seems silly that California is spending billions of dollars on highway projects (including a new bore for the Caldecott Tunnel, a colossal waste if there ever were one), and we still aren’t talking seriously about high-speed rail to Los Angeles, which would probably bring more environmental and economic benefits than all of the other transportation projects in the state put together.

There are plenty of reasons to wring your hands over Assemblymember Mark Leno’s decision to challenge incumbent state senator Carole Migden in 2008. The race will almost certainly be bitter and ugly; both sides have an incentive to go negative. It could split the queer community, leave progressives wondering whom to support, and turn political allies into enemies.

Or maybe it won’t: I wonder if San Francisco’s progressive community is mature enough today to handle this without any bad long-term impacts. Some of the city’s left leaders will back Leno, and some will back Migden, but in the end, neither one of these candidates is the enemy, and if everyone keeps a sense of perspective (the way we were able to do in the District 5 race in 2004), it doesn’t have to be a bloodbath.

I realize that Leno is running in part because of term limits, which might not be the most noble of motivations. And I’m against term limits. But there’s actually a reason to be happy about this race: it’s a demonstration that old-style machine politics is dead in San Francisco.

Ten years ago this race would never have happened. Willie Brown was in charge — really in charge — and no local Democrat would have dared to defy his will. Brown didn’t like contested races between Democrats, and he would have told one of the two candidates to back off, and that would have been that.

We live in a different political world now. Mayor Gavin Newsom will probably support Leno, but he has way too much on his mind right now to be involved in any kind of backroom deal. Neither Migden nor Leno has the kind of clout to scare the other away, and nobody else in this town does either.

Democracy isn’t always pretty, but after living under the machine for a couple of decades, I find this almost refreshing. *

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I was in upstate New York last weekend, flying low over farmlands and old industrial cities in one of those bumpy little "commuter" planes, then driving through small towns in areas that, I’ll say politely, have seen better economic days. And yet, everywhere I went, a landmark stood out: From the air and from the ground, the public schools seemed universally spacious and well maintained. They had nice baseball and football fields, all-weather tracks, and new playground equipment. I didn’t go inside, but I can tell you nonetheless that the schools in most of New York are way better than the schools in most of California.

And there’s a good reason for that.

My brother owns a house in Putnam Valley, a small town about two hours north of New York City. He bought it 15 years ago, for about $105,000, and while it has increased in value, it’s still assessed at way less than half of what I paid for my house in San Francisco. And yet he pays more property taxes than I do.

He’s a contractor, a small-business person, subject to the volatile whims of the home-building industry, and he’s trying to support two kids and save money for their college fund. He pays $5,000 a year in school taxes alone, and it’s a real burden.

But for that money, he gets to send his kids to public schools that are better than most $25,000-a-year private schools. He considers it a bargain.

In New York they spend about twice as much per student as we do in California. That money has to come from somewhere, and a lot of it comes from property taxes. This isn’t rocket science even people educated in California should be able to figure it out: You want good schools, you have to pay for them.

Then I came back and met with Steve Westly, the state controller and the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor. Westly loves to talk about education but he’s not even willing to commit to seeking changes in Proposition 13 that would allow for higher property taxes on commercial buildings to pay for the schools.

It’s this air of unreality we have in California. For 28 years, since the "tax revolt" movement was born in this state, politicians have pandered to the selfish among the voters (and that’s most of them, it seems) by saying they can have it all for free. We’ve been promised a beautiful state with lots of parkland, top-rate public schools and colleges, massive spending on cops and prisons, stable union jobs for public employees, abundant water for thriving agriculture, extensive resources to meet urban problems … and low taxes for all.

Let’s party.

Westly’s Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, is at least honest: He promises the same sorts of things Westly does, but he admits that somebody will have to pay for them. He’s focusing on the wealthy, which is the right idea this is a rich state, and the millionaires have done quite well the past few years. But the rest of us will get hit a bit too, and I hate to say it, but we should.

Because the teachers don’t have to be underpaid, the roads don’t have to be crumbling, the parks don’t have to be overcrowded, the hospitals don’t need to be teetering on the edge of collapse. We can have high-speed rail to LA.

Taxes are a small sacrifice for the public good. My parents’ generation seemed to get that. California’s baby boomers apparently don’t. SFBG