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August 2, 2005 > Editorial: Gone with the Wind

Editorial: Gone with the Wind

The Fremont City Council adjourned for its summer recess on the same dysfunctional path that it has followed for months. After finally coming to grips with the reality of Measure T and reaching a conclusion that, although unfavorable for Dr. Sandhu, at least gives him a clear understanding of hillside provisions, the council was asked to address and form a consensus on the historic (Highway 84) corridor. This was too much to ask for.

The debate again illuminated the political gambits that permeate this group. Councilmember Wieckowski belatedly lobbied for use of the entire historic corridor. His premise had merit, but the arguments were, at times nonsensical and bordered on residence in the Twilight Zone. The reason that the land has been abandoned for decades is clear when listening to discussions of the potential roadway. There appears to be blind obedience to the NIMBY principle by some and the GWTW principle by others.

NIMBYism (not in my back yard) has been around for years and will always rear its head when someone living in the area believes they may be adversely affected by a project. A few in this camp know the facts and may have legitimate concerns while others respond with selfish passion relying on slogans without substance such as "It's a bad idea." A small group of north Fremont residents have campaigned tirelessly to oppose any road that serves as a new east/west connector in their area. Congratulations to this group who will now reap the rewards of their efforts - for better or for worse. I believe those living along Isherwood will rue the day this council decided that small residential streets will serve traffic needs more efficiently than a dedicated, limited access road.

GWTW (Gone with the Wind) is the "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" principle. Here a different agenda enters and simply blinds the argument since there is an overriding concern elsewhere. Earnest demeanor is used to create an impression of thoughtful consideration, but the real issue is how to divert money to another pet project. In the case of the historic corridor, diverting money to the Mission/I880 project is the goal, not finding a solution to the traffic problems of north Fremont.

It is obvious when watching the time spent on devising ways to divert money from this north Fremont project that Councilmember Dutra has only one thing on his mind - how much and how fast can Fremont get money for the I880/Mission 1B project.

When considering $30 million of Measure B funds which under a non-consensus scenario will be open to all three Tri-Cities, Fremont has opted for the "oink, oink" plan which essentially says "we want it all." ACTA's board deemed that in the now likely event that Fremont cannot play nicely with its neighbor, these monies would be available to Fremont, Union City...and Newark. Maybe the other two cities will quietly back away from the table and let Fremont have what it wants since they have been so reasonable up to this point. Not a chance!

Let's take a look at the proposed use of funds to mitigate north Fremont traffic if Mayor Wasserman and Councilmembers Dutra and Natarajan have their way. Councilmember Cho asked about the plans Fremont has for traffic mitigation when they quash the historic parkway. Assistant City Engineer, Jim Pierson answered that they are "a lot of the same things you have seen." The ideas include signal interconnects along Decoto Road, widening a portion of Paseo Padre Parkway from Isherwood to Decoto and widening Fremont's section of Decoto Blvd. This is fine and will help traffic flow, but how does Fremont propose to move traffic from Alvarado-Niles Road to Paseo Padre? Already, Decoto is overcrowded and those caught in increasing traffic will simply look for side streets or secondary paths. Watch out Isherwood!

Pierson acknowleged that there are only three east/west roadways in the area: existing Route 84 (Peralta Boulevard), Isherwood and Decoto. Just as Mayor Wasserman asked Councilmember Wieckowski for his divine wisdom about the situation, I wonder if the three councilmembers so willing to remove the historic corridor from consideration would favor us with their divine wisdom about how north Fremont traffic will be eased by their decision? When Councilmember Natarajan asked about the cost of improvements, Mr. Pierson replied that without option 2, traffic mitigation costs would be much less than previously quoted. He noted that "if you were going to move all that traffic as you were under option 2, then the costs would go up." Where does he expect "all that traffic" to go without option 2? Councilmember Natarajan simply abandoned her usual overly meticulous examination of council matters when given this reply. Why?

A considerable amount of discussion began to focus on details and a "consensus," declared by Councilmember Dutra at the previous work session, began to unravel. As his carefully constructed house of cards began to collapse, Dutra reminded the council that they had reached consensus at the last meeting and there should be no further open discussion of the matter. Discussion continued, however, and doubts began to build. As it turned out, there was never in any real danger of losing the majority vote.

Councilmember Dutra summed it up nicely when he said, "We have a priority project; it's called I800/Mission." The uncertain split of $30 million of Measure B funds is relegated to north Fremont which, if you recall, is supposed to be the focus of all these funds. He goes on to say, "As the mayor has noted, we live in a political world. You do the very best you can. We do not live in an ideal world where everyone thinks rationally, certainly not in the political world." Councilmember Natarajan added "Let's play the political game the way it needs to be played and from our end push for the $30 million as much as we can."

When the council finally voted, Councilmember Natarajan fell right in line with the mayor who has consistently opposed any road in the historic corridor and Councilmember Dutra. As traffic steadily grows in north Fremont, the last chance for an additional east/west corridor is apparently gone.

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