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Mendocino County Today: March 18, 2012

by AVA News Service, March 17, 2012

JOHN HOTCHKISS WRITES: In the Mexican-American War (1846-48), 1000 Irish conscripts in General Taylor’s army in Texas began to desert (because of gross discrimination),  and crossed the Rio Grand to join the Mexicans, who treated them nicely as fellow Catholics. They joined Santa Ana’s army as a field artilliary battalion— the Legion of St. Patricios. As Santa Ana retreated in 1847, St. Patricios were instrumental in slowing the advance at the battle of Buena Vista (near Monterrey). Later, as General Winfield Scott’s army, invading from Vera Cruz, approached Mexico City, the St. Patricios defended the Convent Churubusco, resulting in many American casualties which severely weakened Scott’s forces. The St. Patricios ran out of ammunition and surrendered. On the way into Mexico City, 20 Patricios were summarily hanged as deserters in San Angel. In the final American assault on Chapultepec, the leader of the deserters since the beginning at the Rio Grande, Captain Riley, along with 14 deserters, were tortured, branded with a “D” on their faces, and hanged. Today, Mexico celebrates the Patricio martyrs at plaques in San Angel and Churusbusco. Friends, with your green ties, etc, join me in spiritual memory of the St. Patricios, who tried to defend Mexico from the US Army which won the war and resulted in the US stealing almost half of Mexican territory for Imperium Amerikana.

THE WILLITS BY-PASS. Is it really a go? (Version 2-An Update) As we wrote a couple of days ago, Phil Dow, the local highway and biway guy, noted recently that the project will no longer be seeking funding from CMIA (corridor mobility improvement account) money, which is bond money. Dow told his bosses at MCOG (Mendocino Council of Governments, among whose duties is the disbursement of transportation funds), that “the rules are changing.” Really? Skeptics think it sounds more like CTC staffers and other insiders who thought they could go after CMIA funds because the Willits bypass project did not make the January 31 deadline for the Feb. 8 STIP hearing belatedly realized they couldn’t get away with it. Prop. 1B bond money was supposed to go toward the most congested areas in the state. Bay Area transportation bureaucrats complained back in 2007 about using CMIA money for the Willits Bypass, and they’re undoubtedly still complaining in 2012. As of March 8, it’s back to funding the bypass with STIP [State Transportation Improvement Program] money.

BUT THE STIP funding recommendations released by California Transportation Commission on March 8 show the Willits bypass as funded with “prior year” STIP money. Hmmm, that prior year money was pulled. It hasn’t been sitting there. And if there are extra funds from prior year programming that haven’t been spent, it shouldn’t be CTC staffers deciding where to re-direct it.

ANYWAY, the CTC staff’s recommendation document, and other documents from the CTC regarding the 2012 STIP monies are all full of language about because there are more projects than there is money, projects can expect delays in funding, and how even previously “programmed” (i.e., funded) STIP projects will be “unprogrammed.” And how important it is that projects be “cost-effective.”

SOME THINK the federal transportation bill currently gridlocked in the US House of Representatives will mean plenty of immediate extra money for state transportation budgets, but the latest news is that the best that might be expected before mid-April is a short-term bill maintaining current funding. It’s hard to believe all the other local transportation agencies in the state will put up with this Willits boondoggle this time around, either.

ADD TO THAT, the recent Caltrans announcement that the costs have gone up yet again — an extra $14 million just to build phase one. The extra costs are $6 million more for “mitigations” and $8 million more for structures. Caltrans says they’ll put up $11.9 million of the $14 million and MCOG will put up another $2.1 million in future local transportation dollars, further depriving Mendocino County of other long-overdue local road improvements for years into the future.

CALTRANS has already spent somewhere between $70 million and $130 million (it’s hard to get good numbers out of Caltrans) on the Bypass project (planning, design, development, environmental documents, rights of way, permits, major mitigations, etc.) and not one shovelful of dirt has moved. CalTrans and Mendocino County are committed to the project in lots of ways, chief among them the possible loss of the millions of dollars already spent if the Bypass isn’t built — for technical, financial or bureaucratic reasons. The current estimate for the construction of bypass is between $140 million and $150 million. But escalating costs are just one of several possible reasons that could stall the project in mid-construction, leaving Willits without a bypass and the taxpayers without hundreds of millions of dollars.

AFTER decades and miles of red tape

The Willits Bypass is starting to take shape

But the many pitfalls

could create lots of stalls

ultimately leaving an unbypassed landscape.

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