Can you believe it? Our city is broke but on August 28, 2013, “officials from Santa Ana conducted a one-day site visit to learn more about the highly successful transit and streetcar system in Portland, Oregon.”
That’s right. We paid to send a bunch of Council Members and city staffers to Portland, Oregon, to look at their light rail system. Now why in the world would our city leaders do this? Well, they allege that “Out of the 15 systems currently operating and the 40 under design or construction throughout the country, Portland’s has been seen as a model that reflects the Transit Vision for Santa Ana’s proposed streetcar system.”
But is that true? Does Portland really have anything in common with Santa Ana?
Before we ponder that question, consider that the brain trust we sent to Portland included Santa Ana City Council Members David Benavides, Vince Sarmiento, and Roman Reyna, who were accompanied by Interim Santa Ana City Manager Kevin O’Rourke, and staff. That’s right. We sent a lawyer, a realtor and a a guy who has been setting up volleyball games at local parks for some twenty years to look at a light rail system. No, we didn’t send the one engineer on the Council – Mayor Miguel Pulido, who by the way has been representing our city on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Transportation Authority for a very long time.
But let’s get back to the point. Does Portland really have all that much in common with Santa Ana? Consider Portland’s demographics:
- 76.1% of Portland’s residents are white
- 9.4% of Portland’s residents are Latino
- Only 13.7% of Portland’s residents are foreign-born
- 19% of their population is uner the age of 18
- 89% of Portland’s residents have a High School diploma or higher education
- There are only 2.27 residents per household in Portland
- 3% of the businesses in Portland are owned by Hispanics
- 42% of Portland residents have a Bachelor’s Degree
- Per capita income in Portland is over $30K
Portland is an hour and a half from the beach and is centered next to a river. The entire area is heavily wooded and surrounded by forests. So how in the world does Portland at all compare to Santa Ana? Consider Santa Ana’s demographics:
- 78% of Santa Ana’s residents are Latinos
- Our unemployment rate is at 11%
- Per capita income is $16K
- There are over four people per household in Santa Ana
- Almost 20% of our residents live below the poverty level
- 31% of our businesses are Hispanic owned
- Over 30% of our population is under the age of 18
- Only 51% of our residents have a high school diploma
- Only 11% of our residents have a Bachelor’s degree
Our city is surrounded by other cities but on the positive side we live closer to the beach than the folks in Portland. So what did our Council Members learn on their expensive one-day field trip to Portland?
- Councilman Vince Sarmiento added, “Visiting Portland’s Streetcar project provided a valuable glimpse into the potential benefits a project such as this would bring to the Santa Ana and Orange County communities.”
- “The insight that was gained from the site visit further solidifies my decision to promote our own local Streetcar project,” stated Councilman David Benavides. “After personally experiencing Portland’s Streetcar and seeing its regional mobility and economic development benefits, I can say with conviction that I completely stand by my support to move the project forward.”
- “This project would be a great investment into the continued revitalization of our downtown. It not only helps our residents commute easier, it also places Santa Ana on the map as a great place to work and shop,” stated Councilman Roman Reyna.
Yep. That apparently is the totality of what our Council Members came away with after flying to Portland where they no doubt spent a small fortune on limo’s and gourmet meals. The worst part of all this is that these guys could have just clicked here to watch a bunch of videos of the Portland streetcars.
You want to know what is up with their streetcars? Here you go:
Did you learn anything? I bet you did – and watching that video was free. I learned that there is no way this is going to work in Santa Ana. Our streets in Downtown are very narrow and are already crowded. And the stupid thing about light rail is that it costs a fortune and then you are stuck with the tracks where they are. You cannot move them after the fact. And our proposed light rail system is going to stretch from Downtown Santa Ana, through a very bad part of the city, and then up to Downtown Garden Grove, where you can go hang out with Supervisor Janet Nguyen at her favorite restaurant, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, which this past July was shut down after getting busted for having a cockroach infestation. Maybe we should have just sent our Council Members to Azteca?
Click here to learn more about the silly Santa Ana light rail system options.