The Insight Terminal Solutions Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) may seem to have its mainstream media detractors, but those who have made the decision to finance it know better. One of those people is John Barna.
Mr. John Barna was the California Transportation Commission Executive Director from 2009 to 2013. Barna, a career transportation consultant, formerly sat on the California High Speed Rail Authority board and was Deputy Decretary for Transportation at The California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.
During his time as executive director of the CTC, Barna financed the California Capital Investment Group / Phil Tagami and Insight Terminal Solutions developed Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal with a $242 million grant. Recently, Mr. Barna took up time to defend the OBOT, wrongly called an Oakland coal terminal, in the Oakland Post. Here’s the most notable entries from his column called “The City is Needlessly Exposing Taxpayers to a $240M Liability”:
The Oakland City Council accepted over $240 million state taxpayer dollars to support what it promised would be a transformative, generational project creating jobs, expediting commerce, and significantly improving environmental conditions.
Oakland has spent the money, but it has not delivered the project. Instead it is taking every political and legal tactic to ensure the promised project will never be built.
A federal court in San Francisco already held the City’s actions to prevent the building of a multicommodity terminal on the Army Base violates the law, and the State of California is considering forcing the City to give back the hundreds of millions of spent grant dollars.
In 2009, the City embarked on an ambitious plan to transform the decommissioned Oakland Army Base into an international-scale logistics hub. Central to the plan was a new intermodal facility with immediate access to existing rail and a deep-water port.
The ability to move cargo by rail to sea would significantly reduce truck traffic through West Oakland, improving air quality in the surrounding neighborhoods—and the entire East Bay. The project also promised thousands of new construction and logistics jobs that were required to be offered first to West Oaklanders.
This vision and its remarkable benefits rightly persuaded the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to award the City the grant. An unprecedented coalition of Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley transportation agencies declared the project the number one priority for all of Northern California.
Barna then takes time to remind the reader that the City of Oakland knew that such commodities, like coal, were “that such commodities were over 50 percent of the active shipping market.” Barna continues:
Ten years on, the infrastructure is in place, but the vision is a distant memory. Citing political opposition to the export of fossil fuels– though it was always known by the City and State that such commodities were over 50% of the active shipping market – the City continues to intentionally block the project. The City’s refusal to honor its legal commitments not only exposes Oakland taxpayers to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential liability, it likely ensures that such visionary and ambitious proposals will no longer receive state support.
By all accounts, for over a decade the developer has honored the agreements and performed. This includes taking delivery of a new $2.3 million clean air locomotive funded in part with a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Reviews of its hiring practices confirm unprecedented retention percentages of West Oaklanders, previously incarcerated persons, and a myriad of new apprenticeship entrants into the building trades.
What Barna would have added, had he known, was that in 2011, the City of Oakland’s Pat Cashman actually hired a firm called The Tioga Group to find the most profitable commodity to haul. The Tioga Group pointed to coal and was also asked to determine if Phil Tagami could deliver the OBOT. In effect, the City of Oakland arguably was trying to build a case for someone else to develop the OBOT, but Phil outmaneuvered the City of Oakland, and eventually found ITS and John Siegel as development partners, after firing Kinder Morgan.
Tagami released Kinder Morgan because it refused to use available covered hopper cars to haul coal and dramatically reduce emisions in the process; by contrast, Insight Terminal Solutions agreed to do just that. But, later, the City of Oakland would tell the court in the Oakland Coal Ban lawsuit that it knew nothing of coal as part of OBOT until 2015. That’s a clear falsehood the mainstream media ignored, and one main reason why Zennie62Media was hired by ITS: to get out the real story amid a flood-tide of fake news.
And in that sprit, Barna calls for the City of Oakland to restart the OBOT development process:
Oakland promised the CTC, the residents of Oakland, and the entire Northern California economy that they would deliver a world-class logistics hub that would benefit the environment, create jobs and economic opportunity, and be a model to the world. The developer, apparently, remains ready to so deliver. The City needs to get back on track and agree to adhere to the terms of the grant.
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