That's how State Senator Rob Wonderling described last night's high profile passenger rail summit at Hotel Bethlehem. And it sure was a diverse combination of business interests, pols and transportation advocates.
This odd assortment of at least 170 foo-foos nibbled in anticipation at expensive cheeses and sipped different wines, "networking" away and passing out business cards while a piano played ever so quietly. All the hotshots were there. No wonder. This event was loudly trumpeted by both The Morning Call and Express Times. Reporters and cameras were in abundance. Senator Wonderling and facilitator Joyce Marin concluded the high turnout was indicative of some kind of "grass roots movement," but that's horseshit. This was manufactured news, bippy. There's obviously big money behind last night's astroturf event.
The event sponsor, RenewLV, describes itself as "a diverse coalition of business, agriculture, environmentalists, urban, suburban and rural government officials, education and other civic leaders." Its members include PPL's Bert Daday, Brown Daub's L. Anderson Daub and LVEDC's Raymond F. Suhocki. Many members are also part of the advisory committee behind the plan to widen Route 22.
The evening's featured speaker, The Brookings Institution's Robert Puentes, presented an excellent overview of potential benefits and pitfalls of some form of rail. It's worthy of a separate post. But he strangely had no recommendations for the Lehigh Valley. He cautioned "rail is not a silver bullet." And he warned that no rail program will stop congestion.
In a rambling presentation, Senator Wonderling told us a Quakertown rail line could be a reality by 2010 ... or 2011 ... or 2012.
I support light rail. I support alternative transportation. But I don't support contrived "grass roots" movements. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if I knew who picked up the tab for last night's slick extravaganza. Instead, I left feeling very suspicious about a hidden agenda.
Some of Those Attending Last Night's Ball:
Chris "Blue Collar" Casey, who left when the piano music stopped for some reason;
Greta "Queen of the Greens" Browne, looking very regal with a laptop;
Blogger Damien "I love Allentown" Brown;
Blogger Vanessa Williams, not to be confused with Vanessa Williams;
Route 22 cheerleader Bruce Davis, complete with pom poms;
Ron "Does anyone want to interview me?" Angle;
Julian "Mr. Republican" Stolz;
Rev. Mike "God loves business" Dowd;
Joe "I'm chaining myself to the piano and am not leaving until I read this list of the 20,000 war wounded" DeRaymond;
Roger "I love south side Bethlehem, casinos and butterflies" Hudak;
John "thank God this isn't county council" Stoffa;
Jason "anybody see my bike?" Slipp;
Mary "I'm there for you" Ensslin;
Peter "I send 1,000,000 emails per day containing articles from the local papers" Crownfield;
Pratima "couldn't anyone leave me one slice of cheese?" Agrawal;
Alan "prince of poverty" Jennings; and, last but least,
Bernie "can't we all just get along?" O'Hare.