Friday, April 29, 2011

High-Speed Rail: it's not about the train, it's about the money!

This just in: In California, one Democrat (Galgiani) from the State Assembly is angry at another Democrat (Simitian) from the State Senate because she thinks he's stealing a billion dollars from a project that includes his district, and that was going to dump this money into her district. Supposedly, he wants it for the local commuter rail instead of high-speed rail.  Whatever. 

Galgiani's district is in the Central Valley, the only place in California that is currently intended to have and spend construction dollars to build the now famous "Train to Nowhere."  Galgiani has been the legislative and political tool of the CHSRA and has constantly produced legislation and support to keep the rail authority in business.  The Central Valley is the "lucky" recipient of federal and state bond funds for this initial HSR construction.  And, that's what pork and boondoggles are all about.

To his credit, State Senator Simitian has been a persistent critic of the rail authority's mismanagement of the project; his patience is worn thin.  He recently made a case to have work suspended on the Bay Area Peninsula until further funding is assured and the needs of the numerous communities on the Peninsula are addressed. However, please note that Simitian is a high-speed rail supporter, just like Galgiani.

As we have pointed out over and over, the rail authority's management has been a text-book disaster. Even those passionate in their support of high-speed rail as a concept have been appalled by the flagrant abuses of this appointed and unregulated agency.

For those of us who so vehemently oppose this project in California, Democrat fighting Democrat, not over transportation issues, but over the earmarked pork dollars, confirms our contention that this project is a totally unnecessary waste of vast resources that should be far better spent on much more urgent needs.

Thanks, guys.  Keep up the fight.

Afternoon update
Friday, Apr. 29, 2011
Galgiani attacks Bay Area state senator's 'Great Train Robbery'

Sun-Star Staff
SACRAMENTO - Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, author of California's voter-approved $10 billion high speed rail bond, today strongly condemned efforts to redirect the bond funds to non-voter-approved projects.

She specifically criticized State Sen. Joe Simitian, who represents California's 11th Senate District in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties.

"This amounts to a bait-and-switch effort by certain interests to take money away from the high-speed rail system, and use it to cover shortfalls in funding the Caltrain commuter rail system on the San Francisco Peninsula." Galgiani said in a news release, "It is highly suspect that the same few wealthy communities on the San Francisco Peninsula who want to stop the High Speed Rail project, would cynically work to divert the money to meet their existing obligations to the Caltrain system.

California was the first state in the nation to pass a high-speed rail bond, which authorizes the state to sell $9 billion dollars in bond funds to build a system that connects the major metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Sacramento, through the Central Valley, into Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego. Unlike other states, California’s project is protected by the voter mandate of Proposition 1A, the news release said.

“Mr. Simitian is trying to syphon $1 billion of high-speed rail bond money for the Caltrain system in his district and proposes to make it legal under Proposition 1A by running one High Speed Train. This is the Great Train Robbery,” Galgiani said in the release. Californians voted for a high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco, not a piggy bank for legislators.”

The San Mateo Transit District last year cut their contribution to Caltrain by 70 percent. 

San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority also reduced their contributions to Caltrain last year, forcing it into bankruptcy and reorganization. The communities on the peninsula want to take California high speed rail bond money to subsidize their struggling system, according to the news release. A few of California's wealthiest communities would use funds, which are intended to benefit the entire state, for their own needs, the release added.

Yesterday, in a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 2 hearing on the bond allocation to match federal funds for the first segment of High Speed Rail, Simitian told the executive director of the High Speed Rail Authority, “I don’t want to see an EIR completed for a project that will never be built.”

“Senator Simitian has continually criticized the High-Speed Rail Authority while failing to recognize the shortcomings of the rail system in his own back yard. Simitian should fix his own system, not tell the HSRA how to build theirs,” Galgiani said in the news release.

When talking about the authority’s proposed phased system, Simitian, chair of the Subcommittee, also said, “We’re saying there is a (one) phase and then you’re done.” He added, “If we run one High Speed Train from San Jose to San Francisco, at any time of day, we will comply with Prop. 1A”

Galgiani responded in the news release, “Senator Simitian essentially put a gun to the Authority’s head and said, do it my way or no way. Well, I’ve got news for him. This is not Florida, this is California. Proposition 1A is a voter mandate, and if we have to, we’ll sue.”