Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One way to stop the California HSR project is in the ballot box

What's important in this article is that I didn't write it; someone else did.  There have been discussions for some time about a referendum, recalling the Proposition 1A ballot which authorized the high-speed rail project to commence in California.

The CHSRA Board had been formed earlier (1996/2002) but it took the ballot bond measure, finally passed in 2008, to provide initial state funding in order to launch the project.  More and more people are now having second thoughts.

On a voter turnout of 80%, 52.6% voted for, and 47.4% against Proposition 1A in 2008; a five point spread.  That's not a landslide.  The support was for the $9.95 billion bond measure which was to have been used as 1:1 matching dollars from other sources, such as federal, local and/or private. (We can see how that's working out!)

The track record of the rail authority has been a disgrace and a huge embarrassment to the entire State.  We've been providing evidence of their mis-behavior on this blog since last October.

So, the question now on the table is the possibility of a rescission of Proposition 1A in the form of a voter referendum.  Did the voters make a mistake?  One immediate response is that the voters were totally misled with a large amount of false information or denied information, including project costs, ridership projections, revenue expectations and possible adverse impacts along the routes.

In January of 2011 the State Third Court of Appeals used the Proposition 1A language as prima facie evidence that the Legislature had violated the law by "writing summaries of its measures on the ballot and in the voter pamphlet."  In short, the ballot had been rigged by the Legislature.  That responsibility had legally been assigned to the Office of the Attorney General since 1974.  The purpose was to "promote impartiality and eliminate conflicts of interest."  The Prop. 1A language reeks of both "partiality and conflict of interest."

The court didn't overturn that already voted on ballot measure, but the voters can, and should.

Voters Should Reconsider High Speed Rail

By Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Tue, July 26th, 2011

California's high speed rail program was in danger before the debt ceiling debate in Washington. Given the desire to cut trillions of dollars from federal spending that both sides of the debate advocate, seeing a $20 billion payment to California's questionable high speed rail system is doubtful.

If the federal money fails to appear, private investors are unlikely to kick in with their expected share of the project. That leaves Californians on the hook. Voters authorized $10-billion dollars in bond revenue for the project when they passed Proposition1A in 2008 (Disclosure: I was a member of the No campaign.)

Since that time, reviews and studies on the proposed rail system have criticized the project.  Projected ridership numbers that were attacked during the campaign have been continually challenged many times since the measure passed. The lack of a business plan has been cited.  Costs estimates have grown -- no surprise there.

Proponents of the plan say, "Don't worry," money is not always lined up immediately for big infrastructure projects that have become a reality. The plan is needed, they say, because California's projected population growth will demand alternative transportation systems.

In the meantime, the treasurer will have to decide if the project is worthy enough to float the bonds and decide if anyone out there is a buyer?

But, if the money is not there to build the system, how does it get built? If only pieces of the system are put in place, how does it continually get funded if the original cost projections are low and the ridership projections are high?

Maybe the real question to ask is: Would the voters reconsider their decision on authorizing the bond sale?

Frankly, it probably doesn't take a vote of the people to rescind the authorization. It might be possible that legislative action could stop funding. But, it would be wise for the people to weigh in. If voters initially approved the bond for the rail system, it would be their place to undo that action.

How's this sound: Resolved, being made aware with new information from current studies and projections that the high speed rail plan is unsustainable, we rescind the bond authorization.

Given the situation with the state budget, the dollars designated for the bond could be used elsewhere. Something like the above resolution is worth considering.

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