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OFFICIAL SPORT OF OC

Seeing young skateboarders targeted as consumers by large corporations is of less concern than the fact that they're targeted as consumers by local politicians ("OC's Radical Culture Czars" by Steve Lowery, Aug. 20). While skating has indeed found its way into the mainstream, this has unfortunately led many city councils to build skateboard parks at the expense of those who don't skate (the vast majority of the public, believe it or not, doesn't know Tony Alva from Tony Hawk and really doesn't care). Garden Grove, for example, has budgeted $150,000 for a skateboard park. Sure, that park will pale in comparison to the privately owned and world-class Van's skateboard park next door at the Block, but hey, Garden Grove will be keeping up with Cypress!

Cheers to young people who go underground when skating attracts too many corporate flies. But when it comes to finding a market niche, it's the political buzzards that should concern all of us, young skateboarders or not.

—Paul Marsden, Executive Committee Representative, Libertarian Party of Orange County

I was wondering how old the person on the front of the Aug. 20 issue is. His face makes him look about 13 or 14 years old. But the amount of armpit hair the subject has is making my friends and me wonder. If you could please let us know, we would greatly appreciate it.

—Kayte Turner, via e-mail A biochemist in theOC Weekly DataLab replies: We're glad to clear up this compelling mystery. For a story that examined the complex interplay between ostensibly "radical" subcultures and the marketing tactics of multinational corporations, we chose man-child Andy Hernandez, a 13-year-old skater from Irvine. We attribute the armpit fur to prodigious amounts of hormones in the nation's beef and poultry supplies.RAIL FOR AND AGAINST THE MACHINE

It doesn't surprise me to find a social conservative like Paul Weyrich defending rail mass transit; rail reflects the orderly, highly regulated, obedient society he yearns for ("Why Weyrich?" by Will Swaim, Aug. 20). But Weyrich is right: the automobile would not be where it is today without massive government subsidy and promotion. Ironically, those anti-rail people, who view subways and trolleys as "Rooseveltian Socialism," neglect the fact that New Deal-era construction programs were far friendlier to highways than to rail transit. Railroads and street railways were owned by and run for the benefit of the Republican plutocracy. By contrast, the automobile was seen as the liberator of working people from crowded, noisy transit modes.

The real disadvantages of the automobile-dominated transportation system are better appreciated today than 50 years ago, when the era of Autopia began in Southern California. But there is no consensus on remedies. Among the advocacy groups for transit, two stand out: the pro-rail crowd (who believe that our transportation policies have been in a sort of Babylonian exile, the effects of which must be corrected by rebuilding the Red Car system) and the busway boosters (who believe any transportation improvements must be compatible with the scattered urban form created by freeways and boulevards; their recipes include infrastructure improvements, such as busways, and could even involve limited underground bus operation, as in Seattle and Pittsburgh).

It appears the pro-rail crowd holds an edge in Orange County, as they have played politics better than the busway boosters. The former have put together a good coalition of conservancy groups, environmentalists, contractors, consultants, and, now, a Christian conservative in the person of Paul Weyrich to push rail as the only mass transportation that can attract auto owners and improve the urban ambiance. Rail comes across as both environmentally friendly and upscale: that's a hard combination to beat. For all of their more common-sensical and cost-engineered arguments, the bus advocates have not produced a plausible, convincing image of an advanced bus system that enhances the quality of urban development and serves the transit dependent and which can, in some markets, lure people out of their Hondas and Tauruses.

—Robert P. Sechler, Cypress

Wayne King of Drivers for Highway Safety said, "If we build a rail line, and nobody uses it, we are stuck with it." I say the same thing is true with freeways, so maybe we should stop building them, too. The proposed rail line has several distinct advantages: it would serve Disneyland, the Mall of Orange, the John Wayne Airport and the Irvine Metrolink. Right now, buses serving those places carry lots of people. A light-rail line would allow people to get there more quickly, would offer a smoother ride, and would have more comfortable seating. So it seems likely that the rail line would carry all the existing bus riders, and it would attract a significant number of people who presently drive. Also, the number of passengers the line would attract would be small compared to traffic volumes on nearby freeways, but it would attract most riders during rush hour, and at those times, a reduction of traffic of only a few percent would be very significant. The Metrolink trains going to LA carry only 28,000 people per day, but they reduce the length of rush hour on freeways going through downtown LA by about an hour. A light-rail line in Orange County could have a similar effect.

—Chris Flescher, via e-mail
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