Night of the Living Pombo
Do you remember those old zombie movies? Well, I think Richard Pombo has been channeling his inner zombie. It’s pretty easy to conjure up the image of him walking out of a field, eyes glazed over, coming to gnaw on the flesh of the Endangered Species Act. Relentless and single-minded in his purpose — nothing else matters. Just grab the Endangered Species Act and rip it apart with his teeth.
Meanwhile, the residents of CA-11 face REAL problems. According to Vision 2030, the Draft Regional Transportation Plan for San Joaquin County, the population of northern San Joaquin County is predicted to rise from 630,000 in 2005 to 1.1 million by 2030. Concomitantly, the plan predicts that the number of jobs in the County will rise from 207,000 in 2005 to 289,000 by 2030.
So okay, let’s do the math. 500,000 additional people in the next 25 years — 80,000 additional jobs. Not promising.
The solution envisioned by the Vision 2030 team assembled by the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) is transportation, and lots of it. Utilizing additional buses, rail, road expansion, and even bike paths, SJCOG’s plan foresees sending hundreds of thousands more people out of the region to find work. To accommodate this growing army of commuters, Vision 2030 estimates the price tag for needed transportation projects in San Joaquin County will top out at $8 billion over the next 25 years.
So it’s good to know that in last month’s federal transportation bill, Richard Pombo was able to bring a whopping $2.5 million to the San Joaquin County portion of CA-11 for Fiscal Year ’07. Gee, only $7.997 billion left to go.
Herein lies the problem: Richard Pombo is not doing his job. As a matter of fact, he has taken a leave of absence. You see, it’s all a matter of priorities. Richard Pombo doesn’t care about traffic — unless he can route it through his family’s property and drive up their land values; otherwise, it leaves him cold. Here’s an excerpt from a SF Chronicle interview which Pombo has proudly posted on his House Resources Committee website:
Rep. Richard Pombo, sitting in a sunny conference room at his district office in San Ramon, listens to Danville officials plead their case for more federal money for transportation projects and a new veterans memorial.All that talk about transportation projects and infrastructure and funding is just soooo boring when there are environmental laws to be struck down. In fact, that nasty transportation stuff can really get in your way when all you really want to do is devote your full energies to gutting the Endangered Species Act, selling off vast tracts of National Park and National Forest lands at fire sale prices, and drilling for oil both in Alaska and off America’s coastlines.
Pombo, a Republican from Tracy who's served in the House since 1993, hears dozens of similar requests every time he's back in his district. He is polite and says he'll lean on his GOP allies to help Danville, but can't guarantee every request will be met.
But when Danville mayor Newell Arnerich complains that his city and other Bay Area communities could face millions of dollars in costs to meet stringent federal environmental rules for storm water runoff, Pombo springs into action.
"If it needs a change in federal law," he said during the meeting earlier this year, "we'll have to take a look at how we can make that happen."
But what, exactly, are CA-11’s residents concerned about in their everyday lives? Well, an article in last fall’s Pleasanton Weekly had this to say:
"Transportation is the No. 1 issue wherever he goes in his extensive district," said Nicole Taylor Philbin, Pombo's press secretary.So what is Richard Pombo doing about it?
Pombo is currently on leave from the Transportation Committee, Philbin said, while serving as the chairman of the House Resources Committee […]So Pombo, who is actually a member of the powerful House Transportation Committee and thus uniquely positioned to bring vital federal transportation dollars to his district, has taken a leave of absence so that he can focus all his energies on his work at the House Resources Committee. Of course, the fact that he just happens to be raking in ungodly amounts of money from mining, timber and big oil for his campaign is just a side benefit to his passion for eviscerating environmental laws.
Philbin said a priority for Pombo as chairman of the Resources Committee is to protect property owners by revamping the Endangered Species Act.
And as to his constituents’ traffic woes? Sorry. Pombo is focused on his main priority — how to best devour the ESA.
”Zombies, man. They creep me out.”