Saturday Shorts: Riding a train to watch the 49ers play would be great

February 7, 2014 

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) takes the field before the beginning of the game against the Indianapolis Colts in a game at Candlestick Park on Sunday September 22, 2013 in San Francisco, Calif. 2013 Showcase


Here’s a thought. In about four years, Colin Kaepernick is going to be in his quarterbacking prime. He’s good now, but four years from now he’ll still have the wheels to run, that rocket-launcher right arm and he’ll be even better at reading defenses, finding receivers or finding routes into the end zone. And he’ll be playing in a new stadium.

The thought of being able to hop on train in Modesto then get off in front of the new stadium in Santa Clara is downright exciting. The thought that it might cost as little as $12 seems like an almost illegal bargain. Certainly too good to pass up.

But we might. The Altamont Commuter Express now has daily trains departing from Lathrop. It wants to extend service to Modesto by 2018, but that’s a $161 million project. Considering there’s only an estimated 350 Stanislaus County commuters using the train each day now, that works out to $460,000 per rider. Even spread over 20 years, that’s a big investment simply for commuters. But, how many people would take the train over on special weekends – and not just when the 49ers are playing – if given the opportunity? How many would ditch their cars and ride the train if it didn’t involve a commute from Lathrop?

One way to help raise the money to pay for such a project is to pass a countywide transportation sales tax. Perhaps you don’t think smoother, wider roads in places that facilitate business makes any sense. But maybe a chance to ride the train to see Kaepernick & Co. does.

We’re going to need a lot more rain, but it’s nice to see that we’re getting at least enough to make the grass grow.

We’re supposed to get up to 2 inches of rainfall over the weekend. That’s good news for ranchers, whose pastures had remained brown well into the winter. And it will help us bank a little in our reservoirs – though it’s not nearly enough to get us even half way to “normal.”

So we’re going to need to be creative in looking at ways to conserve. We’ve already recommended that home owners turn off your sprinklers and individuals take shorter showers, alter your flushing habits and let their cars go dirty.

We hope that local business owners will do their part, too. We’re not sure what to say to the owners of car washes, but perhaps they could offer discounts on future washes if you buy them now but don’t use them until we’ve got enough water. And speaking of cars, we know that everyone expects to see shiny cars for sale on the new car lots, but do they have to be washed so often? How about a “down and dirty discount” on cars that you drive off the lot dusty? If not that, then at least don’t wash them on days it’s supposed to rain.

We read with interest reporter Garth Stapley’s report Monday on how much it cost the new Modesto Irrigation District board members to get elected. Drawn from election filings, his report was thorough. The most expensive was Division 4, which had five candidates. While Stapley reported that Mortensen spent $33.82 for each vote cast for him, Jake Wenger appeared to have gotten a much better bargain at $10.90 each.

But there are always several ways to have fun with numbers. For instance, there were a total of 5,294 votes cast in Division 4 (meaning roughly 15,000 voters who live in the division which encompasses much of north Modesto, Salida and Wood Colony, didn’t bother to vote – but that’s another editorial). So Mortensen spent $6.71 per actual voter and Wenger spent $5.69. If you’re a candidate trying to figure out how much money you need to raise to win an election in Stanislaus County, these numbers might provide a good starting point. Of course, how you spend it is probably more important.

The words of Jamie Garner – the sixth-grade math teacher at Walnut School in Turlock – left a lasting impression this week. She is one of 51 teachers nationwide honored with the Presidential Award of Excellence.

“I don’t know how you do this if your kids don’t love being here,” she said.

First, we believe she’s stressing exactly the right thing – not math, though it’s important. She is stressing the “love” of being in that classroom and learning. Secondly, she said “your kids,” as in her kids. That denotes ownership; Garner is clearly invested in each student’s success; each student’s love of learning.

Along with former Modesto resident Julie Hammari (who now teaches in Utah), we’re certain that Garner is deserving of this award. Her students are lucky to have her.

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