Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A million jobs building high-speed rail? Well, not actually. Sort of.

This is a great read by Richard Rider.  It's about lying, fraud, scamming the voters and the entire State and Nation.  America has had many scandals in its history, the Tea Pot Dome Scandal being one of the more notable ones I remember from my American History class in high-school.  

Well, we're sitting on another one, perhaps as big or bigger than anything this country has yet seen.  So, here's what we are watching.  The disintegration of a poorly thought out project which began with numbers like ten or twenty billion dollars to build a HSR train from SF to LA. 

Now, strangely enough, the price is up to over one hundred billion.  When the voters were asked to say yes or no on this project, they were told that it would cost them, the state taxpayers, only the $10 billion in bonds. (That's actually $20 billion when it's all paid off.) Now what?

Then, they were told that it would carry 117 million annual riders.  That number is now down to 40 million and still dropping.

They were also told that a ticket would cost $55. one way.  The ticket costs, for a train not running for ten or more years to come, has prices floating from $200 to $85.  Oh, never mind. 

The entire exercise consisted of political promises and marketing inflation and exaggeration.  There was a vague concept, embellished with a fancy, expensive, fantasy, comic-book, animated video showing a blue and yellow train whizzing across the lovely California country-side, through mountains, over viaducts and along highways.  

The video, and this project, isn't a description of anything; it's nothing more than a travel poster advertising a summer vacation.  That's what was sold to the California voters.  Bad enough, you say?  Wait, there's more.  The organization doing this suffered from the most severe case of arrogance ever seen in medical history.  And, to make matters worse, their competence level has been just above the zero flat-line.

Mismanagement, lying, bumbling, back-tracking, concealing, distorting, double-dealing; the list goes on and it's long. That, dear friends, is what has brought this project in California to this shameful point.  The Rail Authority has been its own worst enemy; a crack-shot, hitting both feet with a single bullet.

The rail authority supporters love to attack the objectors to this project, blaming them for all the problems that have emerged.  Yes, blame the victim; a popular game.  

Those who wanted to save the project by taking it out of the rail authority's hands, like the legislation of State Senator Lowenthal, failed in that effort.  I opposed that legislation since I want to keep these clowns in their jobs performing their circus derring-do until the government is so embarrassed that they will shut this project down in the dead of night, shredding every single document ever produced. Let's just forget the whole thing and say it never happened.  

I can live with that.  

DECEMBER 25, 2011 4:14PM

CA HSR jobs only 2-6% of what was promised. Close enough!

In case you missed it -- the flacks for CA HSR lied.  About EVERYTHING.
If they mentioned any number with any benefit of building HSR, they lied. ANY FIGURE.  
The latest objective analysis concludes that rather than the "1,000,000 jobs" promised by the HSR folks, the real figure is optimistically between 20,000 and 60,000 jobs (including the "multiplier effect") -- that's 2% to 6% of what was promised.  The biggest of several bogus assumptions by the HSR fanatics -- a job that lasts 10 years is ten jobs!

The response by the pathological CA HSR Authority pukes?  Yeah, we "erred," but it's the PR guys' fault.  Uh huh.

Oh, and that brilliant political chess player Jerry Brown?  He still defended the lie even after the HSR people ADMITTED they lied.  Oops.

PR fiasco: Yet another black eye for the bullet-train authority
by Chris Reed on his superb CalWhine blog  -- an acquired taste

RIDER NOTE:  To see and visit the live URL links on this article, read it directly on his website.

Posted on December 20, 2011

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is such a multifaceted debacle that encyclopedias will someday have to be compiled to capture the breadth of its boondogglehood. But even by the standards of the rail authority, the fiasco that played out this spring and summer with its main spokesman and its high-powered PR firm was particularly odd. The same officials who gave their blessings to a 12-year disinformation scheme, to an illegal business plan and to building the first link of the project in a lightly populated area in the Central Valley decided there was no good reason the bullet train had a bad image — so it must be the flacks’ fault. Now a top figure in the PR industry has responded — publishing an enjoyable takedown of the rail bureaucrats who make the gang that couldn’t shoot straight look like champion marksmen.

This is just what California High-Speed Rail Authority leaders deserve for trying to blame their messengers. In-house spokesman Jeff Barker left in late spring. Barker was indefatigable in pushing the project and would try to spin all bad news with an even-tempered insistence. But what I heard was that he was partly blamed for what the rail authority perceived at its weak response to being called a disaster by respected independent evaluators.

Memo to the CHSRA: The greatest spinner in the world can’t spin away credible criticism that a state agency is poorly run, inept, incompetent and worse. There is no possible strong response to such a sweeping indictment; there just isn’t.

But the poobahs who made the decisions that Barker found impossible to defend saved their sharpest ire for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. In a March 23 memo, rail authority board member Quentin Kopp complained to CHSRA’s CEO, the elegantly named Roelof Von Ark, that the bullet train was unpopular, and he knew why:

Since Ogilvy’s engagement in February 2010, its inadequate performance can be measured, by, among other things, worsening legislative, media, academic, and popular comments in the public domain about our project.

What a load of crap. The month before Ogilvy was hired saw the turning point in the bullet-train debate. On Jan. 11, 2010, the LAO put out a terse, blunt eight-page report saying the rail authority had an illegal business plan that counted on forbidden taxpayer subsidies to attract the billions in private investment that the project had to get in order to be built.

It’s been all downhill ever since. The LAO had spoken.

Kopp is beyond belief if he blames Ogilvy for being unable to make the LAO’s findings disappear. He and the other rail authority board members are infinitely more responsible for the bullet-train woes than the PR people.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Ogilvy announced a while back that it wouldn’t seek a renewal of its $9 million contract — something never seen before in Sacramento, a PR firm dismissing its client before the client scapegoated the firm for the client’s manifest failures.

Now Rose Gordon, a senior editor with PRWeek, a national journal of the public-relations biz, has contemplated this ugly picture and responded with a warning to her profession.

After stories came out that the rail authority couldn’t find a PR film to take its millions and peddle its lies, Gordon offered this comment:

Agencies frequently grouse over the RFP process from unannounced cattle calls to the involvement of pencil-counting procurement trolls. They also have their favorite clients who allow them full involvement in the business, creating a true partnership, and others they wish they had never signed on that dotted NDA line. Sometimes firms’ accusations are spot on, other times not. The mess that is the California High-Speed Rail Authority PR account falls into the former.

PRWeek has chronicled this account over the last two years, through a mangled RFP that was blackened by hints of favoritism; two agencies, including one that fired the California agency itself; and back to another RFP, which was tossed out and restarted within months, only to have the organization say this week that it would like to keep the work in-house and maybe spend time building out its internal staff instead of adding externally. In short, an incredible, colossal waste of time and money – on both sides.

It’s difficult to know all the factors that played a role in the destruction of what is an important communications project. One factor, of course, is the rail proposal’s own controversial history and development in the state. The massive infrastructure project is scheduled to begin next year but disputes continue over its future and the money needed to complete the ambitious vision. …

If I were running an agency, I wouldn’t want to touch this account. Yes, it’s worth a lot, particularly given the potential for a continued drawn-out public affairs battle, but I wouldn’t want to risk the absolute agony it would be sure to inflict on my people, not to mention the loss of resources involved in preparing for a pitch. It’s clear that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is one of the worst offenders when it comes to being a bad client. I have to imagine it’s not going to be easy building out that internal staff either.

LOL. Here’s the takeaway: The people running the rail authority are such dolts that the bible of the PR industry says to PR pros, “Keep your distance — even getting millions of dollars isn’t worth the ‘absolute agony’ that comes with working on the bullet train account!”

Meanwhile, back to Quentin Kopp, the retired politician who played a key role for more than a decade in setting the stage for the bullet train debacle. Interstate 380 in San Mateo County is named the “Quentin L. Kopp Freeway.” What should be the threshold of money that is wasted on Kopp’s Krock before he loses this honor? I say $3 billion.

If the freeway’s not renamed, then at least let it fall into disrepair and chaos. Kopp deserves such an awful legacy after he’s gone.

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