Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yes, it is a zero-sum game: high-speed rail or schools?

Governor Jerry Brown is taking a stronger hand in promoting high-speed rail under its current incompetent management. Brown was involved in the early HSR planning several decades ago.  It's part of his grandiose "legacy" social engineering agenda. Massive infrastructure projects that dominate the national landscape are highly attractive. This one has a huge amount of superficial flash, like a conversation piece on the coffee table. 

The details of the project, how it's mis-managed, where it is built and over whose properties, is less relevant. Anything this large is bound to kill civilians as collateral damage, just like in our current wars.  The rail authority approach is to take no prisoners.  We all have only one alternative, just pay with our taxes and get out of the way.  

When the budget gets tight, there is a scrambling for the lifeboats.  Forget that women-and-children-first stuff. It's every project for itself.  And HSR has lots of elbows and clout.  The schools aren't going to flush $100 billion down the state toilet like high-speed rail will.  So, which is more important to politicians?

You do understand that one in five kids drops out of school in California. (That's a good reason to cut their budget even more! Fewer kids, they need less money.) The fact is that a major portion of the prison population consists of school drop outs.  Coincidence?  Who cares? This luxury train for the affluent comes first. 

Actually, it's not so much the train as it is the land speculators, the contractors and consultants, the supporting politicians and their agendas that are at stake here. 

The Tea Party emerged due to the perception that the government has taken complete control over our lives.  As a progressive Democrat, I wonder if that perception is entirely incorrect. Judging from this project alone, perhaps not. Certainly this HSR project is being shoved down our unwilling throats.  

What amazes me is how sheepish and docile we are as the very wealthy pay proportionately fewer taxes (ask Warren Buffett about this) and put the cost burden for paying for this boondoggle onto the rest of us.  What is wrong with this picture?

We are being taken for a train ride and we are thanking them for it, even as we, and our children, and their children, are the losers.

Local Guest Commentary: What’s more important? 
Students or trains?

By Leonard G. Dias  
Posted: Saturday, August 20, 2011 10:00 am 

This month our school district was told to start worrying, because it looks like the “trigger” is going to be pulled on California’s school districts. Six weeks ago Sacramento “balanced” the state budget with projections of future incomes. It has told the schools that there would be no additional cuts unless certain projections don’t come about, then they would have to pull the “trigger” with more cuts.

I don’t think the state could have used a more appropriate term, they have been holding schools at gun point for quite a while! These cuts of course will be sometime in January of 2012. Our budgets of course had to be done in July of 2011; but hey, it’s just the kids we will be hurting when we do mid-year cuts.

We are told that everyone has to make concessions during these hard economic times. We all have to tighten our belts…. Unless of course you are the high-speed rail authority. We hear almost daily how the cost of this boondoggle keeps going up beyond the projected estimates. Yet we are told that this has to go on.

The LAO, industry experts and every peer group review of the HSR have all said that this project is mismanaged and way too expensive. Our state cannot afford the billions that it is going to take to build this project. ( I should say the billions beyond what the Prop 1A bonds are going to give, if we can even sell those bonds and the billions that the federal government is giving.)

If the “trigger” is pulled, California schools will be looking at $1.9 billion in additional cuts, $1.5 billion by reducing the school year by seven days (this can’t just be done for this has to be negotiated with the local unions), $72 million in community college apportionments, and $248 million in home-to-school transportation, which will devastate rural school districts who transport the majority of their kids to and from school every day like our district does. (Figures provided by the June 29 ACSA governmental relations report by Adonai Mack, legislative advocate.)

California is matching the federal government money of almost $4 billion to put towards the high-speed rail. Where is this money coming from? Well, we know at least $2 billion will be coming from California schools.

It is time for our government leaders to decide what’s a better investment for the few tax dollars we do have: a rushed, mismanaged money pit that will have to be subsidized by us the taxpayers, or in the true future of California — our students.

Dias is a member of the board of trustees of the Kit Carson Unified School District.

Copyright 2011 Hanford Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

No comments: