LAT’s Vartabedian, Skelton leave LAT editorial board looking silly

LAT’s Vartabedian, Skelton leave LAT editorial board looking silly

train_wreckWhen it comes to the bullet train, The Los Angeles Times’ editorial page has been left to look foolish — by its own reporter and columnist.

Nexis shows no L.A. Times’ editorials on the topic for more than two years. The last one was the instantly infamous editorial from November 2011 — infamous for its juvenile take on a big issue:

 “It’s a gamble, and not one to be taken lightly. But gasoline isn’t going to get any cheaper in the future and the freeways aren’t going to get less clogged. We think California can find a way to get the train built. We think it can. We think it can….”

Yes, this is not made up. As I have noted in amazement here before, the L.A. Times editorial page editor actually invoked “The Little Engine That Could” to defend the bullet-train lunacy.

But since then, it’s been crickets from the LAT editorial board on the issue. Maybe it’s because the edit board still loves the idea and doesn’t want to piss off the governor — but members know in their heart of hearts that they can’t reasonably support it.

Why?

The Times’ own reporting and, of late, commentating.

Times reporting > Times cheerleading

Pulitzer-finalist reporter Ralph Vartabedian depicted the immense engineering obstacles that never get talked about but that only make the project 1,000 percent more likely to have vast cost overruns.

Vartabedian wrote a piece that’s nominally about longtime-project-supporters-turned-ardent-critics that might as well be an essay on the broken promises made to get a $9.95 billion project past state voters in 2008. It gets to a key reason the bullet train has lost so much momentum: The people who launched the push for this a generation ago were true believers and idealists. The people who are pushing it now are anything but. It shows.

And here’s Vartabedian two weeks ago quietly annihilating the rail authority’s spin about Judge Michael Kenny’s momentous rulings being no big deal.

Now the dean of Sacramento news-section columnists George Skelton has bailed out. The first sign was three weeks ago. Another potshot came over the weekend.

“Here are two resolutions for both the governor and the Democratic-dominated Legislature:

“•Find some financial angels for your bullet train obsession before it breaks the state.

“Yes, high-speed rail is cool. No, it isn’t a freebie. It’s very costly — $68 billion at last estimate. Only $13 billion has been lined up. But construction is about to start.”

Unless they think Vartabedian and Skelton are knaves, the editorial board at the LA Times is stuck. It can’t come out again in full-throated defense of the bullet train.

Even if they wish they could get the train built. They wish they could. They wish they could.

Dead train walking … but don’t tell the Bee

Skelton’s defection, the Bay Area Newspaper Group’s tough editorials and a lot more suggest that the state’s journalistic establishment is pretty much off the bullet-train bandwagon, so to speak.

The outlier, oddly enough, is the Sacramento Bee. Dan Morain’s elevation to editorial-page editor has so far produced an enjoyably tart look at Kamala Harris. So maybe he can “grow,” as David Gergen would say, and finally figure out the bullet train is a joke.



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