By Andy Hoder, candidate for Redlands City Council
Who loves a train? Raise your hands. Ah, I see everyone in the room has their hand up!
When I was a kid, the perennial item on my Christmas wish list was a Lionel Train Set. My family didn’t have much money but eventually they found a way to afford a box of snap-together tracks, a miniature locomotive, a couple of freight cars and a caboose. Looking back on those Norman Rockwell days, I realize one reason I was able to enjoy that model train so much was that I didn’t have to pay for it!
Well, recently I had the good fortune to enjoy another train experience. I was invited to be part of a focus group, called together by SanBAG (San Bernardino Associated Governments), which is the governing entity for what is often referred to as the “Rail to Redlands” project.
I’m not strongly in favor of this particular train (unlike my childhood toys), but I wanted to learn more before I completely made up my mind.
This mini-seminar consisted of about eight of us, local citizens chosen at random from Redlands and the surrounding communities. The program went on for two hours, as we were surveyed for opinions about developing an image for the rail project.
But it was made clear that we were not there to debate whether the train would ever leave the station, as that was assumed to be a given. Instead, we were being asked to make suggestions on how to make the project more appealing to...
Well, that was one of my first questions. If this project is so popular, then why do we need to worry about image? It appears that this is merely going to be an extension of the existing Metrolink service that currently terminates in San Berdoo. So don’t we already have an image? All aboard!
My comments were not received with an abundance of enthusiasm. Judging by the glaring eyes that were focused in my direction, it must have sounded like I was suggesting we stop celebrating the Fourth of July! After all, what loyal American... what true patriot... what loving father would ever OPPOSE the Rail to Redlands?
So have you ever heard the expression “living on the wrong side of the tracks?” It’s a stereotypical, old fashioned perception that small towns in America are divided by railroad tracks, as God intended, with the good people on one side, and the bad people... i.e. poor people on the other side.
And Redlands is not so different from that.
Residential real estate is generally cheaper on the north side of our tracks, compared to the wealthier neighborhoods south of the old Santa Fe Depot.
So maybe that’s how a focus group is supposed to work: People on one side of the tracks (the good side) focus on the people on the other side, until those “bad people” recognize the error of their ways.
Subsequently, I humbled myself as much as I could and refrained from making any more stupid comments.
It is, as it should be, more important to me to garner the love of my fellow Redlanders than to raise any objections to what may well be a billion dollar boondoggle—a string of luxury rail cars, filled with well-paid employees from Esri.
I should remember that my parents paid for my first train, and likewise, someone else is going to pay for this one. So why complain? What could be better than a free train? And don’t say “tax dollars well spent.”
But when I hear the phrase Rail-to-Redlands, I often wonder why the project hasn’t been called “Rail to San Bernardino"?
Or is the name of the project cleverly chosen because, well, who would want to ride a train to scruffy old San Bernardino? Yuk. Talk about the wrong side of the tracks!
No, if you want to build public support, you have to have an attractive image. And what could be more attractive than the name Redlands?
But by the use of our name are we being exploited... or duped? I’m not sure.
While you’re pondering that question, let me make it clear that I am one of those people who DID raise his hand at the beginning of this article. Yes, I LOVE trains! Really. Seriously. ...even more so if I don’t have to pay for them.
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