HAS JOHNSON CHANGED HIS CAMPAIGN POSITION ON PORT RAILYARD EXPANSION?By Greater Long Beach
Eleven months after a campaign declaration that he did not support a proposal to expand the Union Pacific ICTS and BNSF railway yards, Seventh District City Council member James Johnson is now merely urging that a “zero emissions option” be included for consideration in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the expansion proposal. LBReport.com notes the distinction in a story it has broken today.
Johnson revealed his current position in a letter—co-signed by Long Beach Harbor Commissioners Mario Cordero and Thomas Fields—sent to the ICTF joint powers authority on Jan. 18. [LBReport.com provides a copy of the letter in full by clicking here.]
But that differs from the position Johnson staked out on Feb. 28, 2010, during a campaign appearance at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the West Long Beach Association, which opposes the expansion/modernization proposals because of concerns about adverse health affects.
“I don’t support either of those projects,” Johnson declared to West Long Beach Association constituents that evening. “This community has already borne an enormous burden from goods movement. While there are benefits regionally, I think we need to look at how we’re going to improve the neighborhoods rather than add to that burden at this point. I think we need to examine the paradigm of expanding some of these container facilities.
“We have an Alameda Corridor that’s not used to its maximum extent—I think it’s 25 to 30 percent right now. We had huge public subsidies to build that facility. Hundreds of millions of dollars that went in of our taxpayer dollars. Why aren’t we maximizing that? What do we need to do to get that running full time so we can relieve pressure on some of these other facilities? What can we do with on-dock rail so we don’t need to do all these transfers? I’d like to look at some of those questions first before just doing what we’ve done before—and more of it.”
Johnson was the second of four candidates at the forum (the others were incumbent Tonia Reyes Uranga, Jack Smith and Jill Hill) to respond to the question about the railyard expansion proposal. Reyes Uranga, who was first to respond, had told constituents, “I don’t think it [the railyard] should be expanded unless it’s done green.”
LBReport.com provided video coverage of the West Long Beach Association candidate forum at the time. To hear candidates’ responses to the question about railyard expansion, click here.
Although Johnson’s answer at the forum articulated a clear and significant difference between himself and Reyes Uranga, his recent letter requesting a zero-emissions option in the EIR for the railyard expansion proposal seems to shape up as a weaker version of her position.
In a Jan. 22 release describing the letter, Johnson states, “The success of the Port is important to Long Beach and the region. We must find a way to allow the Port to grow but to grow green and not sacrifice the health of the citizens. By developing a ‘win-win’ method to move goods to the train facilities without polluting our communities, we can do that.”