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S.C.V. History
September 16
1872 - Mitchell adobe home in Soledad Canyon area first used as schoolhouse; genesis of 1879 Sulphur Springs School District [story]
Mitchell adobe

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Friday, Jun 6, 2014

mug_darrylmanzerSometime in the early 1980s when I was stationed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard up north in Vallejo, we came up with what we called a “buzz phrase generator.” It consisted of three columns of 10 words each. Each row of words was numbered 1 through 10.

The idea was that you could pick three numbers and come up with a phrase that sounded logical but didn’t really make any sense. Better yet, these generated buzz phrases were placed in various reports, and few, if any, who read the reports ever questioned what the phrases meant.

Some of the reports made it to Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., and I heard that some of the phrases are still in use today. Folks still don’t know what they mean, but they get used all the time.

Imagine reading: “The system as designed offers a revolutionary integrated management solution to provide incomparable logistical reliability in all phases of testing and operations.” You could be reporting on the function of a toilet or an entire submarine. Sure sounds good and looks impressive on paper, too. I don’t have a clue as to what it means, but the folks who read it don’t either, so the phrases remain in place.

Buzz words and phrases are all too common in our everyday society. Just what does the term “world class” mean anymore? Heck, they have been in our laws and regulations for a long time. Common core. Affordable care. Affordable housing. Military intelligence. High-speed rail. Have you heard or used any of these?

So last night I attended the Community Open House of the High-Speed Rail Authority at Hart Park in Newhall. There were about 70 local folks in attendance and maybe 10 folks from the rail authority.

And guess what? The first slide in the presentation was about how our new rail system was “transformative” and will be “world class,” with conductivity at intermodal stations and transportation centers.

highspeedrailI think what they meant to say is that the system will have computer control, and you can go to a station to get a car, plane, streetcar or another train or even a taxi.

I asked about the price to ride. “It will be competitive with all other modes of travel.” How about a preliminary dollar amount, folks? It was a highly transformative answer, I must admit.

The sales pitch included “facts” about how more than 1 million jobs will be created through the project.

Let me get this straight: In the 1860s, just after the Civil War, maybe 20,000 men built the transcontinental railroad using some primitive tools, blasting powder, horses, mules and wagons. What are those “one million” people going to do for the initial 300 miles of track? That works out to about 3,333 people for each mile. They could hold hands over the entire route. That would be way cool.

Then they talked about the route. Well, it could go here and it could go there; it could go about anywhere. You see, they developed the “ROW” requirements, and they conduct the survey, then they acquire land via “NOD” or “ROD.” This process is looking more like the military all the time. More acronyms sprinkled between the buzz phrases and words make the whole thing just a bit incomprehensible.

So why are we, the people of California, building and operating a railroad? Why haven’t the two remaining railroads built a high-speed system?

We voted to build the high-speed rail system, and now, according to recent polls, we really don’t want it. The devil is in the details. Little nagging details like construction costs, operational costs, projected ridership, ticket prices, speeds, safety, and many other details.

Do we want to run a railroad? Is that a function of our state? That is up for us to decide again. Those damn details. If it is going to cost $193 billion to improve our highways to accommodate the cars projected to be traveling our roads in the future, isn’t that just a little less than the current suspected cost of the railway?

Most of the people at the open house I talked with just plain don’t want the high-speed train. They would rather drive or take the plane – or even a bus.

I’m still holding back on my thoughts on this … just a little.

Because I like the color scheme shown on the handouts. If we have Blue Angels painted on the engine and cars, we could sell advertising to the Navy.

Can’t be all bad with those colors. Even in my backyard.


Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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  1. Bill Boyd says:

    To assure proper Kreedikrance, the fnortner rod on the reostat must be calibrated on a regular basis.

  2. Anonymous says:

    A million jobs, yeah right. 5,000 to do the work and the rest of the fat cats to sit back and collect pay checks and oh yes lets not forget pension checks and benefits long after they no longer even hold the job. How many more “buzz phrases” are politicians and corporations going to try and jam down our throats to get us to buy in? Sounds like another corporation I have had the life changing misfortune to be involved with. I have a story you may be shocked to hear.

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