Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Governor out of touch with reality about high-speed rail

You know those cartoons where steam comes out of a character's ears, he's so angry?  Well, this article about our Governor, Jerry Brown, makes that happen to me.

I'll comment within the text of the article.
Brown will ask legislators to OK billions for bullet train
The governor says the state will have a broad need for the system in the long term and that high-speed rail is a cheaper alternative to more highway and commercial aviation investments. [This is a persistent, false claim made by the desperate HSR promoters. That's doubtless where the Governor got this notion from.  Highway and aviation infrastructure has been neglected in California.  It is in desperate need for repair and upgrades.  All the HSR in the world won't reduce demand on these transit modalities.  They will need to be expanded. Which is to say, this is an empty threat. "Don't want to fund HSR? Be afraid; be very afraid."  Hallow'een is over, Governor.]

Ralph Vartabedian and Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times

November 11, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that he will formally request that the Legislature approve billions of dollars to start construction of the California bullet train next year and will work hard to persuade skeptical lawmakers that the project is critical to the state's future. [I hope that by now, the Legislature has a mind of its own. If not the Governor, then the legislature should recognize the obvious fallability of this project, which should become a non-starter.]

In his first extended remarks on the $98.5-billion project since a controversial business plan was unveiled last week, Brown said that the state will have a broad need for the system in the long term and that it represents a significantly cheaper alternative to additional highway and commercial aviation investments.  [He couldn't be more wrong. High-Speed Rail is the most expensive per person per mile way to travel.]

"As an idea, if you think of California as growing and expanding, then it fits into it," Brown said at a meeting with The Times' editorial board. "It is based on an optimistic assessment of where California is going."  [Here too Brown is wrong. The state is shrinking. New, fancy inter-city transit is the least of our state's needs.]

The California High-Speed Rail Authority last week approved a new business plan that more than doubled the project's cost and a related financing plan that would ask for the first construction money, tapping $2.7 billion in state bonds and $3.3 billion in federal grants. [Doesn't the number $100 billion mean anything to Brown, especially when it's not available from any source?]

Rail officials hope the money can cover construction of a 140-mile Central Valley segment from Chowchilla to Bakersfield, though it would not pay for electrification, trains or other necessary parts of an operating system. To actually carry passengers will require more than $20 billion of additional investment in track and equipment, money that the state now does not have.  [Hello, Governor, are you aware of this simple fact?]

Still, the start of construction with the money in hand represents "a prudent next step," and the state could find future sources of funding in new types of federal bonds, in state taxes or even by securing more federal funding, Brown said. [There is nothing prudent about this project; NOTHING! Why don't you do some homework, Governor?  What state taxes? State taxes for HSR are not allowed, per legislation that authorizes HSR. The voters were told, no HSR taxes!  More federal funding?  Don't you read the papers, Governor?]

"I want to see the first segment completed in short order," Brown said, noting that under the current plan the full scale-system would not be finished until he was 95 years old. "You can't build something like this in one jump. We have the first step paid down."  [The new business plan says the construction time will extend to 2033. Is that "short order"?  There can be no "first segment" (does he mean section?) without far more funding than is now available. And they are only starting to build two sections, not a segment. I might add that, without additional available funding, building these sections is probably illegal.]

State Controller John Chiang's office reported Thursday that tax receipts are about $1.5 billion lower than state budget architects anticipated through the first four months of the fiscal year.  [Governor, are you happy to reduce our schools to the worst in the Nation in order to build this luxury train for the rich?]

"I think we're in for a rough ride for the next couple of years in terms of the budget, but we are going to promote investments in the state, because I think they're crucial," Brown said.  [Investments in the state? Governor Brown, do you know the status of our bonds? The state is losing businesses.  What, exactly, is there to invest in? Certainly not this train; that we know already!]

Even though the cost of the project has doubled, Brown said it is manageable over the 23-year construction period. [Please explain what you mean by "manageable," Governor.]

"Lincoln built the transcontinental railroad during the Civil War, and we built the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression," Brown said.  [Two very poor comparisons, Governor.  This is not the 19th century. We are no longer opening up the new Western frontier in the US. Two centuries ago, we had no other mode of transit for freight or people other than the horse.  And don't bring up bridges.  The New Eastern Bay Bridge was budgeted at $2 billion and is now $12 billion.  Is that what we can expect?  And the bridge will be used by the entire Bay Area transit population, which certainly isn't going to happen with this most-expensive-to-ride train.]

The governor downplayed widespread criticism that the rail construction would destroy businesses, damage farms and displace homes along the route. He recalled that during his time as Oakland mayor, opposition surfaced against every building project from people concerned about traffic and those complaining about structures that would block sunlight. [Please, Governor, this kind of rhetoric makes you appear like a fool. The Central Valley is California's cash cow. This is not about blocking sunlight. And, as former mayor of Oakland, why isn't your favorite rail project going to Oakland and on to Sacramento first?]

"It is part of the reason we can't get anything done in the state," Brown said about opponents of building projects. "You don't make an omelet unless you break the egg." [Another unfortunate analogy.  Are we opponents the eggs you are going to break?  Who are you, Saddam Hussein?  And, if you can't get anything done in the state, don't blame the opponents. You're in over your head. Just resign!]
Times staff writer Anthony York contributed to this report from Sacramento.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

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