Chinese Workers Museum has nothing on Joseph Leone’s dream | NevadaAppeal.com

Chinese Workers Museum has nothing on Joseph Leone’s dream

Barry Ginter
Editor of the Appeal

If you are one of those people who think those planning a $50 million Chinese Workers Museum in Carson City are dreamers, I ask you to consider Joseph Leone.

All he wants to do is build a $20 billion high-speed train from the Bay area to Northern Nevada.

I was intrigued when I read about his proposal in the Lahontan Valley News. Who is this man, I wondered, and how did he make his fortune?

So I called Leone, president of the Cal-Nevada Super Speed Train Project, which is registered with the state as a non-profit corporation.

He talked enthusiastically about the project and how it is needed to reduce traffic congestion and cut pollution. The “Maglev” is an elevated train that uses a magnetic field. It can travel more than 300 mph and doesn’t pollute. It would be built down the center of the I-80 corridor and the stations would be built over the top of the freeway, complete with parking garages and shopping malls. The trip from the Bay area to Reno would take 52 minutes, he said. He envisions a branch line from Reno to Carson City.

“It will be the first Maglev system west of the Mississippi. Every city wants one,” he told a reporter.

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That all sounds wonderful. But here’s the part that will be difficult to overcome. Leone, 69, is indeed a transportation expert, but primarily as a train operator. He’s retired now to Fernley, and admits that his neighbors good naturedly doubt his prospects for success.

“I don’t care,” he said. “That’s their opinion.”

But make no mistake, he’s serious. In fact, he’s met with executives of banks who listened to him intently. They would fund the project, they told him, if he came up with part of the money up front. Just $5 billion.

Next, in his search for financial backers, he plans to meet with casino owners.

But what about the age-old problem that all public transportation planners, from Las Vegas to both coasts, deal with constantly – Americans love their cars far more than public transportation.

“They’re probably not going to love them when gasoline gets to $20 per gallon,” he said.

Leone proposed the project once before, in 1984. “The money always seems to be the stumbling block,” he said. He estimates that he personally knows one millionaire, and that is not himself.

And so skeptics are going to have their fun with Leone until he’s able to prove them wrong, but he will not relent.

“Do you ever get a burning desire in you and it never goes away?” he said. He pointed out that Bill Gates and Henry Ford started in their garages.

“So it’s possible … anything’s possible.”

There was a question he needed to ask before we ended our conversation.

“Do you know any billionaires?”

•••

Tony Klein called the Appeal some time ago asking about the small advertisement that appears often in the Appeal. It is one word, “Peace,” along with the peace symbol.

The paid ad is anonymous. A year ago, I called the person who placed it and asked for an explanation, after I’d gotten a few inquiries from readers. The advertiser explained that it is not an ad directed specifically at the Iraq War, nor is it intended to be political.

It’s merely a plea and a wish for the general psyche of the world, to end violence and suffering on all levels.

Klein doesn’t object to the peace ad (as it relates to the war, he says his preferred wording would be “peace through strength.”) But he noticed the attention it has been drawing.

Klein asked me if he could place an ad of his own, of the same size, that says “Win in Iraq.” Of course, I told him, but when he asked the question, it got me thinking of the fallout that any paper rejecting that ad would receive. It would have been a sure way to get under the hot lights of the Bill O’Reilly’s show. Maybe even Ann Coulter would take notice.

The Appeal reserves the right to reject advertising that may be inappropriate or offensive. The word “peace” fell far short of that mark, and so does Klein’s message. His ad will run over the next few weeks.

Klein, a military veteran, says his ad is a reminder to support the troops. The first step to peace, he maintains, is for us to win in Iraq. He said he wants people to remember that we are in Iraq because we were attacked, and as such it is not just Bush’s war.

If we lose there, he said, our foes will realize we can be beaten elsewhere. And he bases his assessment that it is a winnable war on a grandson fighting there, who has told him that they are having success.

So there you have it. Two ads that seem to carry far different messages. Take your pick … you can believe whichever you choose. Maybe even both of them.

• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at bginter@nevadaappeal.com