Hope NUMMI will stay open
I know that I am one of many to see the relationship between General Motors and Toyota Motor Co. and NUMMI to come to an end. It was inevitable when GM pulled out of the production contract with NUMMI, that somewhere within Toyota, there was a folder that also had an exit strategy for Toyota to dissolve its production contract with NUMMI. There is no doubt in my mind and from the press release that Toyota has issued that the production contract that Toyota has with NUMMI will cease to exist after March 31, 2010. What I do find interesting in reading the press release, is they are very careful to say that Toyota will end its production contract with NUMMI on March 31, 2010. Later in the press release Toyota says "TMC intends to work collaboratively with Motors Liquidation Company and NUMMI to help NUMMI and all of its affected stakeholders in dealing with the impact of the decisions made by NUMMI's customers." NUMMI's customers are GM and Toyota.
Motors Liquidation Co. is the old GM. I would not be surprised to see Toyota acquire the Motors Liquidation Co.'s portion of NUMMI for a discounted price. This would give Toyota 100 percent ownership of the facility. At the end of the day, if this happens, it will not be a NUMMI facility. The importance of the plant not being a NUMMI plant: the UAW has no contract with Toyota.
NUMMI is a huge facility 5.3 million square feet of manufacturing facility on 380 acres. This
There are many California government leaders who are working to keep the plant in operation. A lot needs to go into these conversations now with Toyota. They need to show Toyota that the State of California can be a manufacturing friendly state. California wants Tesla to manufacture automobiles in the state, so much so that California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority approved a new program that exempts new zero emission vehicle manufacturers from paying sales and use tax on the purchase of manufacturing equipment to encourage ZEV manufacturing in California. For Tesla, these incentives will mean millions of dollars in savings when the company invests in building their new plant in California. Tesla will also be eligible for at least $1 million in Employment Training Panel Workforce Development Funds to train employees.
The state should be prepared to offer Toyota something similar, especially if Toyota were to manufacture Priuses at the Fremont facility. Toyota has indefinitely put on hold the final construction of their new plant in Blue Springs, Mo. that was planned to be a Prius plant. The Prius is built on a Corolla chassis, which the Fremont facility is already tooled to manufacture.
The city of Fremont and the county of Alameda will take a huge fiscal hit with the loss of approximately $1.9 million in property taxes. The financial impact of this facility closing will be felt throughout California, not just locally.
You hear loose talk of Tesla Motors or Solyndra moving into this facility. Neither of these two companies need or can use this entire facility. Then there is talk of the A's again. Much like the old Ford plant in Milpitas, if you are going to attempt to use the facility for something other than automobile manufacturing, there is a lot of clean up that will need to be done. The Ford facility in Milpitas was less than half the size (160 acres) of the current NUMMI facility in Fremont. There are some advantages of talk of the A's. There is a parcel of land at the southwest corner of the property that is most likely not contaminated. In theory, Lew Wolff could develop this corner parcel of land as high density residential to offset some of the costs that would be associated to developing. However not including parking, the new A's ballpark would only require approximately 13 acres. One thought; build a ballpark at the southwest corner of the property and use the existing employee and final car parking areas for fan parking.
I hope that all can and will be done to reopen the Fremont facility as a Toyota facility after March 31, 2010.
-Conrad Schapira, Milpitas
More than health care reform
After reading through another misguided and factually flawed rant about the danger of "socialized medicine" from a Post reader last week I actually took the gentleman's advice and read HR 3200. As an advocate of health care reform I was basically familiar with it but I took the time to study the entire document and guess what I still support it!
Opponents of the measure offer no viable alternative and without major change, the current U.S. health care system cannot sustain itself. Costs continue to skyrocket while quality falls behind that of other industrialized nations that have a national plan. More than 700,000 Americans are forced into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In countries like France, Britain, Germany and Japan that doesn't happen. Millions of uninsured doesn't happen in those countries either because they have guaranteed coverage.
When folks like Ed Riffle talk about "rationed" health care they ignore the fact that in the United States we have the worst kind of health care rationing based not on medical necessity or protocol but rather on whether you can afford the insurance premium or the cost to cover the procedure.
The right-wing talk show disciples who attend and try to disrupt health care town hall meetings don't care about the uninsured. They already have their coverage and in many cases it's government-provided coverage through Medicare or the Veterans Administration. Like mindless drones they take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck and others while FOX News portrays a loud but tiny minority as a groundswell of opposition to some imagined government takeover of our lives.
These are many of the same people who in recent days have railed against the broadcast to our schools of an education message from the president of the United States. For them, it's not just about health care. Still stunned by the landslide victory of a progressive Democrat, they are hell-bent on weakening the Obama administration by any means they can in an effort to stop the legislative and economic reform that our country so badly needs. Let's hope they don't succeed.
-Ron Lind, Yosemite Drive
Distortions and speculation
Two weeks ago the Post printed a letter to the editor under the heading "Health care proposal threatens grandma and our freedom." Filled with distortions, fearful speculation and outright lies, it would take this entire newspaper to rebut all the nonsense. So, let's just take the fundamental lie: "People tend to forget that our current health care system is by far the best in the world."
No, it is not. According to the World Health Organization, the United States ranks 37th in the world in health care performance, and 72nd in overall health, of the 191 nations surveyed. Or check what the Commonwealth Fund (commonwealthfund.org) says: "Despite having the most costly health system in the world, the United States consistently underperforms on most dimensions of performance, relative to other countries. ... Compared with five other nations Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom the U.S. health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives." (See http://snipurl.com/rkzdm.)
Healthy lives! Isn't that what we want? Well, not all of us. Some of us are more interested in being right or stopping the president's first legislative initiative than securing health care for all Americans not rationing it to those who can afford it.
In last week's Post under the heading "Obama care" (more nonsense given that Congress is actually writing the rules all five versions of them), a writer urged us to "please read HR 3200 and decide for yourself." Apparently he has more time and determination than I to have waded through all 1,017 pages of legalese. Instead, I seek out individuals and organizations that hold values aligned with the teachings of Jesus Christ. What they say about proposed new rules is filtered through my own experiences and beliefs before I make a conclusion.
Here's my latest conclusion: No matter what your issue energy efficiency, education, water, clean air, cute critters, technological evolution, spiritual evolution you will not get the change you seek if health care fails. The corporations will have won, consolidated more power, secured more control over legislative bodies from national to local and will stop any change you want.
That's why it is important for all of us to support real health care reform now. Although my expertise and interest lies in the areas of energy efficiency and transportation, I have spent many hours and dollars to ensure that we get health care comparable to other industrialized nations. It makes economic sense, supports the ideals of our founding fathers (and mothers), and is simply the moral thing to do. Please join together to push back the cynicism that says health care reform is doomed. If we win this one, all the other battles ahead (next is our nation's energy policy) will be easier. Join in whatever way fits for you, but join in!
-Rob Means, Yellowstone Avenue
Different look at PRTs
I see from the Sept. 3 Post on Page 23 the Milpitas City Council bought into the "On-Demand Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)" hype. At least they hope to use other people's money for funding. Or at least share the cost with all of the folks in Santa Clara County.
In going green there needs to be debate that expresses both sides of the question, "Is this good for Milpitas?"
I want to start the debate here and hope the whole idea ends here.
My first exposure to anything like the PRT was when Disneyland first opened in Anaheim. For many years I had hopes that the monorail system that traveled around the park would become the standard for intra-city transit systems around America. It didn't. One has to ask why it didn't. It was clean, quiet and for all observable features provided good transportation.
As time went on and other cities toyed with the idea it became apparent that cost was the big stumbling block.
The current manifestation, the PRT, is an effort to reintroduce the concept. It also brings to the table many of the same cost difficulties. In Milpitas there are other negatives that may be too big to overcome. Let's open the discussion in our community by pointing those out. I went first to the Internet and searched "opposition to PRT." I thought that would be a good place to start because the article pointed in the Post out all the good points and I don't believe in the good fairy (totally).
There is a lot of material on the PRT concept. There are cities in the United States that are actively working toward implementing some sort of a transit system based on PRTs. And all of the proposals extol the virtues of such a system. Either there are no negatives or those cities have decided to test the technology in an effort to get the ball rolling and to heck with the problems, which can be costly. This dialog will help bubble up those negatives.
In my research the overriding issue is cost. As with a new venture there are huge start-up costs. Right of way acquisitions, unusual construction methods, rolling stock and stations are some of those initial costs. After that there are operational and maintenance costs which are ongoing, year after year. As with the light rail, the VTA sold the program that ridership will pay those ongoing cost. As it turns out the fairbox revenues pay for less than 20 percent of those costs. The light rail has become a cash alligator rather than a cash cow. Raytheon Corp. ventured into the PRT business and exited the venture in 1999, taking a $6 million loss in the quarter after it and the Chicago Transit Authority spent $66 million. The PRT 2000 system that Raytheon was developing which they were hoping to sell for $30 million per mile ran up to $40 million per mile and they found the fairbox revenue would not support that cost.
If Milpitas ventured to build a PRT then they would be looking at $150 million to $200 million for a 5-mile transit route. It would be much more today.
City transit routes in Milpitas prohibit a system large enough to take advantage of economies of scale. Let's say that we jump the shark and go for the five-mile long route. That covers Milpitas from end to end. How many PRTs can be in operation along that route at one time? Will that number actively provide sensible cost effective use of the initial and long-term costs of such a transit system?
There are expressed concerns about the visual impact of above ground guideways, and PRT vehicles; also about the costs of upgrades as the technology develops. Although the promotional materials show sparkling clean PRT vehicles how will they look after suffering a round of graffiti vandals; and what of the ongoing clean-up costs?
One last consideration to get the discussion going: It's late December and dark at 6 p.m., your wife and daughter board a PRT at the GreatMall and muscling on are two guys dressed in dark clothes to share the ride. Would you be comfortable knowing that?
-Richard Ruth, Milpitas