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GUEST OPINION: SMART on pay, hiring of new GM

By VALERIE BROWN and JUDY ARNOLD

SMART recently completed a nationwide search for a general manager. Our needs were clear: We required a manager who will build a very complicated, dynamic project with dozens of contracts and engineers, planners, scientists, accountants and lawyers. We needed someone to lead a staff of fewer than 20 in transforming a regional transit system into one that seamlessly operates trains at 70 mph — while crossing public streets and private crossings — and manages a maintenance facility, an operation center, ticket machines and train attendants.

Valerie Brown

We needed a leader to set up an administration that is transparent and accountable to the public in spending public funds.

Once we conducted interviews with the three finalists, we determined that we also needed a manager who knows Marin County and Sonoma County issues and how the political and social transportation system works in the Bay Area — the permit and regulatory agencies and where to go for funding.

Finally, SMART needed a commander to prevent the few who lost over Measure Q from creating doubt, confusion and misinformation with one last attempt at stopping what 70 percent of the voters in both counties approved.

The threat of a SMART repeal effort drove up the cost of finding a new general manager. This risk factor caused the salary demand to escalate.

Judy Arnold

As the board grappled with finding the best candidate, we recognized a transition might be counterproductive in addressing a potential negative ballot measure. We also realized we already had such a person on board, Farhad Mansourian, the director of Marin County’s public works department, respected and beloved by the Marin County family and the Sonoma SMART board members. As SMART’s interim executive director, he had not applied for the position of permanent general manager.

We appealed to Mansourian’s sense of public service with a financial package that was comparable to executives with his qualifications and level of experience nationwide. There are executives of transportation agencies in states with a far lower cost of living than the Bay Area whose salaries are at this level or higher.

The bottom line was the SMART board unanimously agreed that we have the right person as our general manager.

Mansourian has proven over the last several months how highly qualified he is to lead this project and how he will minimize costs and maximize the public benefit of SMART, which is the most fiscally prudent thing we can do to protect the taxpayers’ interests.

Mansourian’s deep knowledge of Marin and Sonoma counties means he will not need a transition phase to understand the North Bay. His 31 years of experience here are infinitely valuable to steady SMART and make sure it gets on track — and stays there.

Building SMART is more than a rail project. It takes leadership, administrative, engineering and fiscal experience with a large dose of political savvy. Mansourian has shown he has the rare combination of all these skills, and it will take every bit of them to make SMART happen in the midst of the worst recession since the Depression, which the SMART opponents are using to create doubt over the voters’ mandate.

In a half-billion dollar project, Mansourian’s overall compensation is a very small economic consideration for a position that will make a huge impact on the success or failure of the project.

After a thoughtful and deliberative process of reviewing all of our options the SMART board is sure we have the winning team to give the voters what they asked for, a green alternative to gridlock. We’re ready.

Valerie Brown is a Sonoma County supervisor and chair- woman of SMART. Judy Arnold is a Marin County supervisor and vice chairwoman of SMART.





45 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: SMART on pay, hiring of new GM”

  1. Toni Shroyer says:

    Sign the petition to RepealSMART! SMART has done a BAIT and SWITCH on the voters! What we voted for and what were are getting are two different things. Get it back on the ballot!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Phil Maher says:

    Eric-
    You sound even more radicalized and desperate than normal. Are your wits fraying along with the fabric of the Marxist agenda? This one warrants the debate of facts, not ideology. You seem to be the only one here who wants to make it a partisan issue.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  3. Anderson says:

    @John

    Guess you didn’t see the LOL after the first paragraph – I WAS JOKING.

    All of us did crazy things in our younger days, and obviously the SMART board members never grew out of doing embarrassing and plain self-serving, dumb things.

    But BOXER – I mean, come on. LOL LOL LOL

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  4. Zorro says:

    @ Jim who wrote:

    “The sun cannot power the world we live in. Electric cars are a farce, given the morons in government product the majority of electricity via COAL PLANTS.”

    Sorry Jim, majority of electricity is not generated by coal power plants. Check you facts!

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. GAJ says:

    Lord, the attempts to marginalize people by labeling them as something they are not is laughable knee jerk tactic used by the simple minded.

    If Repeal SMART was supported only by rabid Tea Party activists it wouldn’t stand a chance.

    But it’s not so it will succeed.

    In a world of limited financial resources we have to be much “smarter” in how we allocate them for the good of the majority.

    We live in a world where there is serious talk about abandoning maintenance on the majority of County roads for crying out loud.

    Personally I think gas taxes should be raised nationally to support infrastructure improvements…but I’m in the minority on that issue.

    There is no free lunch.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  6. Clay says:

    Andersen-

    I, on the other hand, haven’t ever supported any of those folks, and come from a very different political background. And that’s okay- now you know a little about John’s- what I know about John is that he runs a small business, has a young family, has integrity and common sense. And while we don’t see eye to eye on some political issues and candidates, and almost assuredly have very different outlooks on social issues, we are absolutely united in our agreement over the need for two things:

    1. Fiscal prudence and responsibility with taxpayer dollars

    2. The need for politicians at all levels to be held accountable by their constituents, and not just special interest advocacy groups.

    This is where we meet- insisting that those in positions of power take responsibility for delivering effective solutions to our problems, and in a way that is not wasteful or inefficient.

    Both of us voted FOR Measure Q (I rather reluctantly, being a limited government type and John I imagine more enthusiastically)… If the “vision” that was presented to us hadn’t been such a farce, neither of us would be taking time out of our lives to insist on more transparency, stronger accountability and better solutions.

    What has become clear to both of us is this- the system, as presently constituted, does not substantially accomplish it’s stated goals of reducing congestion and emissions. It’s cost per user is enormous- both on the capital/construction side, and the operations side. The true cost for the entire system will be far more than originally presented- and this in a down economy (when labor, real estate and commodity costs are down and interest rates are incredibly low… All factors that should HELP the bottom line). As these facts become apparent, it begs the question- is this the right approach? Is this truly a solution? If we’re going to commit the better part of a billion local tax dollars to a transit project, does this measure up, or should we expect to get a greater public benefit?

    Honestly- is a daily ridership of 1500 people worth $400MM? Is a 2% max reduction in cars on the highway worth the expense? And if not, do we need to rethink the approach, and find a more effective way to move people (and potentially preserve/restore the right of way for passenger use, if it makes sense)?

    These are the questions that the SMART Board refuses to ask… They have placed their bets on an ineffective and costly system, and don’t seem willing to ask the hard questions. I know, Ms. Arnold states that she already asked the hard questions for several years- I’m just not sure she asked the right questions.

    When we started asking the tough questions, we were ignored and marginalized. We were not engaged, or brought into the process as stakeholders. As such, we are left with no choice but to compel SMART to take another look, and re-evaluate their plan. I’m pretty disappointed that none of the elected officials that comprise the SMART Board have shown a willingness or ability to provide any sort of statesmanship. Their response to our reasonable and relevant concerns has from the beginning been combative, dismissive and at times, downright condescending.

    Given this behavior, combined with the ever-changing story on decisions being made and why, and the clear demonstrations that the political class is out of touch with the realities of life for ordinary citizens, and now the latest- an unwillingness to take responsibility for the consequences of decisions (evidenced by trying to blame the repeal effort for poor salary negotiating)- these are the reasons that former supporters of this project are questioning whether this group of people are willing and able to deliver effective and efficient transportation solutions.

    Farhad says there are 13 of us- Eric thinks we’re all Tea Partiers, and Val Brown doesn’t worry about 30% of her constituents- They will all be surprised at the reality of the support for efforts to clean up the mess this project has become.

    And we’re doing it for free…cause they have unwittingly “appealed to our sense of public service” and we are happy to serve our community- without exhorbitant salaries.

    While Eric is completely wrong about the breadth and political make up of our coalition, his words are very telling- those without fact based arguments often resort to ad hominem attacks on their opponents. Talk about misinformation… I should introduce Val and Judy to Mr. Newman!

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  7. John Parnell says:

    This is not a Democrat or Republican thing. Repeal SMART is not about partisan politics. It is about accountability to the taxpayer. This project is nothing near what we approved, and we should have the opportunity to vote on it again.

    @ Anderson – I’m sorry to disappoint you now, but hope you’ll still sign the petition. When I was a kid in Greenbrae in the early ’70′s, my Dad was President & Barbara Boxer was VP of the Greenbrae Property Owner’s Assoc (equivalent to Town Council, since it is unincorporated). My sister was in the same class & the Brownies with her daughter, Nicole. So sue me – I was like 14 or 15, and it was the first time I got involved in politics. My support at the time may have been based more on the personal rather than political, but I guess it goes to that quote by Tip O’Neil – “all politics is local”.

    You can be mad that I’m a Democrat. Eric can be mad & think that we’re a Tea Party front. I guess I could become decline-to-state to make the point that this is non-partisan, and then some people wouldn’t like that & would accuse us of all being agnostics. Repeal SMART is neither. And SMART keeps saying we’re sore losers, even though we keep telling them that most of us voted for Measure Q. With all due respect, if you think it has anything to do with political party, or how any of us voted on Measure Q, then you’re missing the forest for the trees.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  8. Eric Newman says:

    “Repeal SMART: we’re not fooled, your roots are showing”

    Now we’re getting the anticipated counter-move by the Repeal SMART backers. They’ve hauled out their token Democrat to try to disguise the fact the political impetus behind the Repeal SMART campaign is coming from the Tea Party anti-government faction that has seized on the financial difficulties of the SMART roll-out to try to kill the baby in the bathtub. Part of the propaganda technique is to draw attention away from the right-wing mob that is driving the effort and have us focus on the few reasonable voices who are expressing their ‘concern’ about the financial challenges of the project. Go back and read through the comments on this topic. Ten to one, they are from the most fanatic Tea Party types who have made it their hobby to dominate this message board. We see who is behind the repeal effort and we know what their agenda is.

    Don’t sign the petition, and don’t listen to the self-appointed spokesman who speaks fluent PR. This is the “Tea Party Repeal Campaign”, straight up. Don’t sign your future away. SMART will be the backbone of the transit system in the North Bay in the 21st century, if we can save it from the wrecking crew.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 21

  9. Anderson says:

    Gee, John, just when I was ready to support RepealSmart with a gung-ho attitude, you pull all those ugly skeletons out of your closet to convince one mindless entity of your bona fides. LOL

    Actually, even your past association with Boxhead and Pull-the-Wool-over-our-eyes will not persuade me from staunchly supporting the repeal effort.

    Boxer? Really?

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  10. John Parnell says:

    @Eric – Tea Party…huh?!? Say again? Repeal SMART is completely non-partisan, so where did you come up with that baseless accusation?

    For the record, I founded Repeal SMART & I am a Democrat. I probably have less in common with the tea party than you, and likewise, my Democratic credentials are probably more solid than yours. I walked precincts for Boxer’s first Congressional re-election in 1984. My Dad was the Democratic candidate for the Assembly in Marin & Sonoma in 1987. I was a precinct captain for the Democratic Party when Clinton won in 1992, and was responsible for 2 precincts in San Anselmo. I am friendly with Joe Nation (who established SMART), Lynn Woolsey & way more Dems than Republicans. I do admit to a brief crush on McCain version 1.0 in 2000, but voted for Gore in the general.

    Repeal SMART is comprised of people from every political belief: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Vegetarians, and yes, even perhaps Tea Party members.

    The only requirement to join is that you must possess common sense. It really just comes down to having prudence & pragmatism. Like me, you may have voted for Measure Q, you may love trains & biking, and you may be a Democrat. But if you still support SMART after all these shenanigans, then I question your thought process.

    We have people from both Democratic & Republican Central Committees from both counties on our Executive Committee, as well as a member of the local Board of the Sierra Club. However, Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachman & the Koch Bros. are not members.

    The next time you sling mud a Repeal SMART, please try to at least make a rational allegation.

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2

  11. Steveguy says:

    @ eric

    I am no Tea Party person. I just see the numbers, and they don’t add up.

    Can’t even the most progressive see this as a money pit yet ?

    This scheme is going to bleed Sonoma County Transit buses dry. And I actually take the bus at times. This morning, as a matter of fact.

    The Golden Gate Express buses are very efficient and in place, no need to spend 1/2 a BILLION for 1/2 a train.

    Golden Gate Transit does a fine job, heavily subsidized but gets me to Sausalito or SF without the parking hassle, and I can bring my bike.

    $500 Million ? And a yearly liability to the tune of Millions ?

    But there is no money for roads, let them crumble.

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 4

  12. Eric Newman says:

    “Don’t Sign Your Future Away:
    Just Say to Tea Party SMART Repeal”

    Now that the word is getting out, it is clear that the real reason for the rabid opposition to SMART is that it is a piece of government small enough that the Grover Norquist Tea Party gang think that they can drown it in the bathtub.

    They don’t really care about the many challenges that a new major public infra-structure project has in getting off the ground in a deeply recessionary economy. Read the comments here and the motive is revealed: they hate government (since they have to share power with others) and they will seek to destroy any center of power that is not in private hands.

    Folks, don’t sign this petition. The Repeal SMART is a front for a Tea Party attack on the common good for the North Bay. If you like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, etc. go ahead and sign it. You won’t have many supporters here in Northern California.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 34

  13. Commonsense says:

    Wow, the high salary and benefits package is now the fault of those who generally voted for but are dissatisfied with the SMART mess??? I still can’t believe a public offical has made that comment and no one grilled her on for some fact to back it up.
    I can’t sign that repeal petition fast enough. And I still haven’t been able to get a straight answer on whether he’ll get double pay, either as an active county employee (while he’s technically both for a period) or as a retired county employee? Last I knew, if one is a retired county or public employee, you were limited in doing county/public work or employment in terms of hours and wages/benefits, is that still the case, because I’m guessing the “work hours and wages/benefits” he’s getting would exceed that limit. I have a real problem with someone double dipping to this extent and ending up with two separate retirements that are generous to say the least.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 3

  14. Jim says:

    I would assume Valerie Brown also supports CARB and their initiatives to enforce the diesel emission changes.

    Do some research on CARB and Mary Nichols.
    Look up the brilliant scientist Hein Tran, whose report was the basis for the diesel emissions laws.

    Before you jump on the bandwagon of climate change, the media’s lies and Al Gore’s pipe dreams about geothermal energy he recently said the a few kilometers into the Earth’s crust is “several million degrees”), do some research. Learn who the people are spouting the “facts”.

    Mr. Gore…the center of the SUN (!!) is 10 million degrees. Nowhere on Earth is the temperature several million degrees.

    The level of knowledge of those people held at high regard is hilarious. But the voters are easily manipulated.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 8

  15. Jim says:

    From that climate link…
    “Here are a few of Sonoma County’s successful climate and energy actions, which both reduce GHG emissions and energy use, while strengthening the local economy…”

    Someone explain how these moves strengthened the local economy?

    “Mitigating climate change”? My goodness, really?

    So the government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on solar companies and they go bankrupt. The sun cannot power the world we live in. Electric cars are a farce, given the morons in government product the majority of electricity via COAL PLANTS.

    Knowing Brown is a “climate” wacko makes her opinion on SMART and the overpaid, unqualified new manager even more of a joke.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  16. Jim says:

    Where do they find these people? I’m getting dizzy with all this spin.

    I love how this clown claims the repeal effort increased the cost of finding a new general manager. It has to be someone else’s fault for wasting the people’s money. Here’s a news flash for you…if it isn’t repealed, the cost to the taxpayer will be hundreds of billions of dollars. This train is a disaster and a black hole for taxpayer money.

    Thumb up 38 Thumb down 6

  17. John Parnell says:

    Train experience was the #1 criteria in looking for a new GM, and now it isn’t even mentioned. Typical SMART obfuscation. Also, how dare they say that our repeal effort is the reason they gave Mansourian such an obnoxious salary! We, along with the rest of the world, are not that stupid. Don’t blame us for your SMART sense of graft & collusion. Lastly, for the thousandth time, most of us voted for SMART. We voted for Measure Q, so we didn’t lose – SMART lost us with their incompetence. It is pretty ironic that they would say they needed someone to fight our “creating doubt, confusion and misinformation” – isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

    Thumb up 42 Thumb down 6

  18. John T says:

    Valerie Brown has announced that she will not run for re-election.

    Chris Coursey used his column in the Press Democrat as a bully pulpit to support SMART and got himself hired as SMART’s PR guy.

    Will anyone be surprised if Valerie Brown will end up with a nice expensive “consulting” contract when her term on the Board of Sups is up?

    Thumb up 42 Thumb down 5

  19. Steveguy says:

    In the first paragraph ” Our needs were clear: We required a manager who will build a very complicated, dynamic project with dozens of contracts and engineers, planners, scientists, accountants and lawyers.”

    Planners, accountants. lawyers. Scientists for a train ?

    The engineer part should be self explanatory, but they are referring to social engineers, not the guy or gal that drives a train.

    Foot in Mouth much ?

    No train, but lots of lawyers and accountants that can’t add numbers. Doesn’t sound SMART to me.

    Thumb up 37 Thumb down 5

  20. Kay Tokerud says:

    I’m proud to say I voted NO on the smart train. I knew that the train was being used to justify more redevelopment and smart growth because I was part of the group Santa Rosa Area Business Association that sued to stop the giant Gateways Redevelopment Project. Our organization published articles in our newsletters against the Smart train in the run up to the election. We distributed our newsletters on foot to most of the business owners in the redevelopment area but it wasn’t enough to really get the message out. When taxpayer money is used to sell something to the voters, it’s difficult to compete with them. We paid out of our own pockets for everything we did.

    We called out the fact that the line would be shared with freight. This information was largely withheld from the voters. Smart proponents knew they couldn’t build the sleek lightweight European style trains like they said because of the rules regarding sharing the tracks with freight. This information was also withheld. I don’t think they will be delivering most of what they promised in the campaign. Proponents think that if any kind of train ever gets going of any length at any cost, then they have delivered. When do we call this fraud? I’m wondering now if the entire one-quarter cent sales tax will be spent on administrative costs and none of it for the actual project.

    They are transferring funds from other transportation funds that are not supposed to be used for this train. Shortfalls will occur for other transportation projects. We must stop this because if we don’t there will be no end to what they can get away with.

    Thumb up 40 Thumb down 7

  21. GAJ says:

    This boondoggle will be eating up County resources in perpetuity.

    Had people known at the time this fiasco was voted in that the County planned to abandon maintenance on the majority of Sonoma County roads due to funding issues do you really think it would have passed?

    Not a chance.

    Thumb up 39 Thumb down 5

  22. Steveguy says:

    Like I have said, there is too much here.

    70 MPH ? Where ? Between Cloverdale and Healdsburg ?

    Maybe between Petaluma and Novato, after they line the pockets of the ‘environmental studies’ portion of their scheme. Like pigs to a trough, millions to be made before the inevitable collapse.

    This is important, it is Government run amok. There is rational basis for the money that SMART costs. None.

    Once the right time comes, it will take an effort and some cash to get the petition numbers.

    I would hope that a court can stop this, like they stop quarries or asphalt plants.

    Thumb up 36 Thumb down 5

  23. Steveguy says:

    On one hand SMART says a 2 year delay due to ‘environmental’ factors. Then they want to rush head-long into this liability to the citizens by racing after $200 Million in Bonds.

    I have tried to find the projected yearly operating deficit that we will have to pay, or have reduced real transit monies stolen. My guess would be $11 million a year. Gone into the subsidies.

    They are now paying tens of millions on ‘services and supplies’. That is the ‘consultant’ category. I would like a list of the ‘consultants’ and compare it to the list of the SMART campaign contributors. I have no doubt that it will be a matching set.

    Did the real rail General Managers refuse the job due to it’s fallacy ? Did these applicants want nothing to do with this boondoggle ?

    Can someone contact one of those interviewed and ask them their opinion ? It was a nationwide search and they ended up without a taker. Hmmmmmmm

    If I remember right, they interviewed at the fancy hotel instead of in their office. Even that perk couldn’t entice a real General Manager of a transit system to get involved with this folly.

    And how much will this delay really cost ? Who pays Fish and Wildlife, Dept of Fish and Game, the EPA, and on and on. How many millions are spent outside the bounds of SMART’s actual budget ? Are the environmental ‘requirements’ to redo an existing track so onerous as to delay for 2 years ? Remember that back in the day, the train was the way people went to the Russian River from San Francisco. I would think that the tracks would be grandfathered in a century ago.

    Thumb up 39 Thumb down 5

  24. Greg Dunlap says:

    It’s becoming more and more apparent that SMART is just another scam to fill the pockets of the politician by allowing them to be compensated for “serving on another board.”

    It’s showing very little progress, except for “we have to have another meeting” or “that’s an issue we’ll have to deal with.”

    Repeal SMART before they start asking for another tax increase so they can hire a few more “cronies” to “another needed position.”

    Thumb up 46 Thumb down 5

  25. John T says:

    I hope Valerie Brown continues to share her “wisdom” with us. She continues to provide more reasons why this boondoggle needs to be stopped now.

    Watch for an attempt to do a quick bond sale. Someone needs to advise the New York bond folks to make certain they disclose the repeal SMART effort. Or perhaps, once the 15,000 signatures are gathered, go to court and get an injunction to stop the bond sale.

    Unfortunately, it appears that even is the repeal effort is successful, Farhad will walk away with over $300,000 in severance pay. That’s $300,000 of your money folks!

    Thumb up 48 Thumb down 5

  26. Graeme Wellington says:

    Here’s a freebie for the recall effort:

    Bumper Sticker:

    “Build it right or not at all – No on ___”

    And fill in whatever the eventual name of the ballot measure is to repeal the SMART funding.

    Again, how many more red flags can there possibly be on this thing? We’ve ripped holes into every single Press Democrat story on the subject. This goes beyond lunacy.

    No politician who still supports spending this money should be re-elected. Supporting spending all this money is proof positive you are completely out of touch with the voters.

    The guy who brought up the light rail in Edinburgh has hit on a true apples to apples comparison. That system is literally identical to our proposal and has suffered identical roadblocks and the people there reduced the size just like they want to here and they’ve spent all the money and sure enough, it’s a boondoggle of the highest order.

    Why can’t we learn from the mistakes of dozens of other communities? Why? The politicians can save their bacon by just pulling their heads out of their ___ and then pull the plug on SMART.

    This project is absolutely nuts.

    Thumb up 48 Thumb down 5

  27. Dogs Rule says:

    SMART is a money train for Valerie Brown and the rest of their cronies and it’s obvious to me there is no train. Well, other than the gravy train. The costs of this can buy everyone in the Bay Area a house nevermind transportation options.

    Thumb up 44 Thumb down 5

  28. Brown and Arnold seem to be blaming this outrageous salary on the very people who are calling into question the financial sustainability of this project. Really, they’re just making our doubts seem even more reasonable.

    Thumb up 51 Thumb down 4

  29. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Jerry – “Great comments by Supervisors Brown and Arnold.”

    Funny how two people can read the same words and have completely different views of ‘what’ and ‘why’ something was said.

    While Jerry feels that these are ‘Great comments by Supervisors Brown and Arnold’, my view is they are self-serving and coming primarily from a defensive mode. I wonder why that is…

    It still amazes me that anyone from SMART ever talks to the media; in my opinion, they lose more and more credibility every time they try to defend/justify their decisions and positions.

    Once again: Fail.

    Thumb up 46 Thumb down 4

  30. Levi says:

    Can she be impeached for misinformation and incompetence? She’s the Sonoma County version of Richard Nixon

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 4

  31. Dave Madigan says:

    Using Valerie Brown’s logic, Repeal Smart must also be responsible for:

    Global Warming,

    Earthquakes,

    Floods,

    The Green Stuff Growing Between Her Toes!

    It is outrageous for a County Supervisor to blatently lie to the public.

    Repeal Smart does not need to work very hard to run a recall vote. The Smart? board members are running themselves into the ground!

    Thumb up 60 Thumb down 5

  32. On a Train to Nowhere says:

    Who writes this propaganda for two of the 12 elfs? SMART did not receive 70% of the vote in Marin County for starters.

    Mansourian has no rail experience, period. There are several people with 12 years or more of political experience in Sonoma or Marin County, but they are not qualified to manage a rail system or to build a rail system.

    So far he has stated he wants to hire a 1000 consultants and engineers by the end of the year. How does he know he needs a 1000 of anything? Will they be employed in China designing the system? Remember SMART went all the way to Japan to buy diesel locomotives. Several Board members took a field trip to Japan to ride on a train for what purpose, who knows?

    There are a lot of swamps to cross before the little train to nowhere is fired up to leave the station. Build out date extended for years. Environmental impact reports delay start dates; bridges not built to standards; stations, equipment, tracks, engineering all costing much more than in the budget.

    Mansourian better have a sharp pencil to figure this one out. So far Mansourian has flunked communications 101, public relations 110, and the class in persuasian he slept through.

    The 12 elfs never did have a grasp of these subjects and only thought it would look nice on the political resume to have build a small railroad sort of like Cornelius Vanderbilt did with real trains. SMART’s problem is the small train has turned into a financial disaster of cost overruns, project downsizing and mismanagement.

    Bottom line, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time.

    End the money pit, end the train wreak, repeal SMART!

    Thumb up 64 Thumb down 5

  33. Jerry says:

    Great comments by Supervisors Brown and Arnold –some clear reasoning instead of the emotional rants their opponants. This same angry group further debases their position by asking for traffic projections, costs, and other facts that are and have been available in many locations, often for years. If they had principled arguements against SMART, you’d think they would at least have a few important numbers at hand. And if you have some examples of Rail Transit you want to use,can’t you at least get some from the same continent?
    Its time to turn down the volume and turn up the facts.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 70

  34. Billy C says:

    This Op-Ed piece my be the worst blow to “SMART” yet. They are talking to to us like
    children and whining about a voter challenge that might confuse people with the facts.
    They also defend their actions of bribing Mr Farhad with a overly generous pay because they love him and he is part of the family.
    WOW.
    Just who do they think they can sell this drivel to? It’s insulting.
    Now that we all know the train will be a BILLION dollars , will not be light weight and fuel efficient. It won’t materially impact traffic load on 101
    and it is more about Transit Oriented Development than an actual working train.
    Throw in the fact that VALERIE BROWN is a board member of ICLEI.

    A RE-VOTE on this issue is warranted.

    Thumb up 66 Thumb down 5

  35. Kim says:

    I think it is safe to assume that most (if not all) of these liberal minded officials supporting SMART were for allowing “the people” vote on Governor Jerry Brown’s deire to raise taxes and complained that it was the Republicans fault (probably would have failed anyway)…yet are trying to prevent “the people” from vote on the repeal of SMART. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

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  36. Greg Karraker says:

    So Commander Fah-RAUD will prevent me from “creating doubt, confusion and misinformation…”

    That function is redundant. Just look at the SMART home page and you’ll find enough confusion and misinformation to keep you chuckling all day.

    “We appealed to Mansourian’s sense of public service with a financial package that was comparable to executives with his qualifications…”

    What sense of public service is he rising to by accepting 40% more compensation than his predecessor?

    “There are executives of transportation agencies in states with a far lower cost of living than the Bay Area whose salaries are at this level or higher.”

    In the spirit of transparency, I demand that SMART immediately disclose the names of three transportation executives they interviewed whose compensation packages are $312,788 or higher.

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  37. Steveguy says:

    ” A green alternative to gridlock”.

    At what cost ? Are we going to pay $20 in transit monies to subsidize a $6 ticket ?

    This boondoggle will throw Sonoma County Transit under the bus.

    The ‘green’ that they are speaking of must be our wasted taxpayer dollars. Makes no sense.

    Edinburgh in the UK has wasted £440 million, and are thinking of walking away from their 1/2 train to nowhere boondoggle. The Edinburgh Tram will lose £11 million yearly even if 1/2 the train will be completed. Weird thing is, I know more numbers from the Edinburgh fiasco than I can glean from my own local boondoggle.

    Specifically, I would like someone to dig up SMART’s original numbers including ridership projections.

    To play their game, can we sue for the use of creosote so near our beloved, treasured, and adored precious wetlands ?

    Save the swamps, sue SMART !

    The Edinburgh Tram fiasco video, there is a lot of print material by clicking the links. That may be our future when even the die-hards give up.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13423438

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  38. Jason Valez says:

    Are the Repeal Smart petition books available yet? Make sure you post it here so we can get all the required signatures to stop that money train. The idiocracy can’t seem to get the message that we don’t want half a train at twice the cost.

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  39. Kirstin says:

    Unfortunately, Chair Brown and Vice Chair Arnold fail to understand that situations change. They are still back in 2008 when Measure Q passed based on a given, too optimistic plan set out by SMART. They falsely assume that voter views have remained static since then, despite the foundational changes that have rocked our economy and financial state.

    And the actions of the SMART board itself in our new circumstances have further undermined any confidence voters have: repeated dissemination of misinformation, repeated refusal to address the concerns of residents regarding a myriad of SMART issues, repeated decisions that prove a lack of financial responsibility — such as the outrageous salary the board handed to Mr. Mansourian. Trying to fob off blame for that howler on Repeal SMART is nonsense. Repeal SMART is not the reason SMART might have trouble attracting more qualified general manager candidates. No, the reason is that SMART is unsustainable as it is currently envisioned by its board and other supporters. Repeal SMART exists because of that inherent unsustainability; we are not the cause of that unsustainability.

    It is time the SMART board adjusted itself to reality and handled matters accordingly. Voters are savvy to the fact that the original plans that were approved in 2008 can no longer be implemented and that if there is ever to be a 70-mile line, the cost will probably be at least twice what was specified in 2008. That means the original conditions of passing Measure Q are no longer in force. So, who knows how many of the 70% who passed that measure are still on board? Valerie Brown and Judy Arnold certainly don’t. Let’s find out! Let’s vote again, based on the new reality, and see what the voters think. That’s only fair, and the SMART board should be readily agreeable to such a vote.

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  40. Phil Maher says:

    And then there’s this little bit of truth that Valerie and Judy failed to mention-

    http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_18816327

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  41. Steveguy says:

    There is just so much here.

    ” In a half-billion dollar project, Mansourian’s overall compensation is a very small economic consideration for a position that will make a huge impact on the success or failure of the project. ”

    The ‘project’is doomed to failure, as we don’t have the money for 1/2 a train, yet alone the operational monies that will bleed other transit options dry.

    What are the ridership projections compared to operating costs ?

    If built, how much money per year will it run on a deficit ?

    If someone could crunch their original numbers, against what they are faced with it would be a big help to get these numbers in the daylight,a as the SMART Board’s response is ‘ trust us’ or ‘There are no numbers ‘.

    70% didn’t vote for this mess.

    I have a feeling that when the nationwide search turned up NOBODY that wanted involvement in this fiasco, they had to lure the local ‘good old boy’.

    Truly sickening.

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  42. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Valerie Brown; our top agent of oppression here in Sonoma Co..
    As a ‘public servant’.
    An employee of the people…
    what part of NO don’t you understand?
    The Constitution is our ‘mandate’.
    What’s yours?

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  43. Dan Delgado says:

    So now we’re paying the guy more because he has the skill to thwart a citizens’ group exercising it’s constitutional right to speak out and challenge government. All the more reason this whole debacle should be scuttled.

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  44. Phil Maher says:

    “The threat of a SMART repeal effort drove up the cost of finding a new general manager. This risk factor caused the salary demand to escalate.”

    “We appealed to Farhad’s sense of public service with a financial package that was comparable to executives with his qualifications and level of experience nationwide.”

    When viewed side by side, these two contentions seem more than a little contradictory. Are repeals really that common nationwide? You two can’t even get out of your own ways in the same op-ed. Throw Farhad’s nonsense into the mix and it’s probably better if you just say nothing at all.

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