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Photograph by Sarah Phelan

Trolley Trouble: District 2 Supervisor Ellen Pirie seems neutral on the coastal trolley issue, but the plan may have some powerful opponents.


Turn for the Wurst

Much of what the world knows about sausage is owed to our Teutonic cousins," writes Bruce Aidell in his Complete Sausage Book, a tome Nüz hastily consulted following news that no fewer than three types of sausage--bockwurst, bratwurst and weisswurst-- were being served in Sacramento to celebrate Arnie's swearing in.

As it happens, Aidell's book focuses on bangers, chorizo and salami more than it does wurst, and it took us perusing Kay Shaw Nelson's All Along the Rhine to learn that the humble würstel, as sausage is called in Arnie's Austrian homeland, should be served hot, juicy--and smoked.

Which may explain why here in sausage-phobic Santa Cruz, the local Lefties for Arnie celebrated not by chomping on bockwurst or scarfing down headcheese ("Clean the teeth of the calf heads before boiling them with veggies," states the recipe) but with a smoky screening of Pumping Iron, in which Arnie famously puffs on a doob.

Local hemp activist Tim Rinker, who actually voted for Peter Camejo in the recall election, said now that Arnie's in, we should appeal to his interests.

"And Arnold should appreciate the strength of hemp, which is the strongest fiber on the earth and could form the basis of a strong ecology and economy," said Rinker, who, although concerned about education, offshore drilling and energy deregulation, added that "if he legalizes hemp, I might vote for him in the next election."

Meanwhile, medical marijuana advocate William Malphrus hopes Arnie doesn't pull a George Bush on the crazy lettuce now that he's guv.

"Arnie doesn't seem two-faced," Malphrus mused. "People don't perceive him as a liar but as someone with a pot-smoking, hippie sex-and-love background that is too far in the past for anyone to give a rip."

Indeed. Asked what she thought of the gropenator allegations, fantasy wrestler and Arnie supporter Gabriella Nicander, who wrestled--and beat, 6 to 3-- Democratic men "for fun and humiliation" on Pacific Avenue last week, bent over and stuck out her butt.

"If Arnold was groping, I'd be, like, 'Come here!' I wouldn't mind if he groped my ass," said the 200-pound, rock-hard Nicander, noting that Arnie is the first candidate to ever get her interested enough to vote.

"Up until now, I've not put enough thought into politics, so I'll be interested to see what will happen and whether education will backslide any further," Nicander said.

No kidding. At the risk of being accused of sour grapes or, in this case, sauerkraut, we can't help noting that before he got elected, Arnie asked us all to be part of a movement to put "the people" back in charge of Sacramento. So how come only "the beautiful people"--like Rob Lowe and Vanessa Williams--got invited to his actual swearing in? The upside is visualizing Lowe et al. having to chow down all that bratwurst, which is made of pork butt, before doing the obligatory 500 sit-ups.

Giving the Trolley The Beautz?

Seems like the coastal trolley is threatening to become a pivotal issue in the District 2 supe's race, in which not only challengers Doug Deitch and Peter Truman but also incumbent Ellen Pirie are all already openly pro-widening of Highway 1.

Readers may be aware that the county's Regional Transportation Commission has set $10 million aside for the purchase of the rail right-of-way, while the state has set aside an additional $11 million.

However, the only way the county can qualify for the state's $11 million is by having a train running, which is where the proposed trolley project comes in, since it qualifies the county for Prop. 116 Rail Bond Funds and so enables the completion of the much-vaunted rail trail from Davenport to Watsonville.

But judging from a recent letter that RTC chair and District 1 Supe Jan Beautz wrote to the California Transportation Commish, Beautz, who lives close to the tracks, is already opposed to the plan.

In said letter, Beautz asked (rather pessimistically, Nüz thought) whether the RTC would be liable to return Prop. 116 funds to the state if the plan eventually fails--and if the rail operation must be sustained, then for how long?

But though CTC assistant deputy director Kathie Jacobs replied that there are a couple of "very viable options available to the SCCRTC that could preclude repayment of funds" and that the commish requires such a project to be kept operating for "the useful life of its capital equipment," which could be "40-50 years," rail advocates fear that Pirie, who had so far maintained a neutral-to-supportive attitude toward the project, may use the CTC's reply as an excuse to pull out.

Pirie's position shift seems likely in light of a recent meeting in which more people appeared opposed to the idea than for it--a situation that rail supporters called a "misleading setup" in which a small group of "ill-informed folks" were getting hysterical and threatening to scratch a major alternative transportation project.

As Paul Elerick, chair of the Campaign for Sensible Transportation, observes, "The RTC sent out 12,000 notices and got replies from 400 people, which is 4 percent. Of those 400 people, 50 percent showed at the meeting, which is only 2 percent--and of that, one-third were in favor of a train, but it's been reported as if everyone is against the coastal trolley."

Meanwhile, Friends of the Rail Trail president Dave Wright claims that "people were speaking against the trolley largely based on incorrect information, including the notion that the trolley would be diesel-powered and therefore noisy and polluting. Probably it will be powered by natural gas, but no one will guarantee that until the EIR is done."

Asked about the future of the project, all Pirie is saying is, "Clearly, there's a lot of concern about what it would mean for people living near the rail ride."

But she did drop mention of the financing of the purchase of the rail line in an eerie echo of the Beautz letter.

"Currently, the trolley plan isn't publicly financed--a private company is involved--so there's no way of knowing, until it's done, if it'll be a success. What if it goes under after a couple of years? The state's letter led county staff to believe that we have to continue to have a rail service on that line, which might make us avoid taking transportation money. I don't think the RTC will sign up for something that could be a money-losing venture."

Pirie also floated out a way for the county to raise the remaining $11 million needed to buy the rail right-of-way without running a train.

"One possibility would be if we wrapped it into the proposed half-cent sales tax for the highway that won't go on ballot until next November," said Pirie, noting that, as incumbent supe, "one of the most important things for me is to protect neighborhoods and keep them safe and comfortable. This train threatens that. It's understandable why people are upset. And it depends what we're talking about. We really need to know the facts."

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the November 19-26, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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