Friday, December 16, 2011

When will the CHSRA authority start arresting objectors to this project?

I'm on travel with my laptop. There's a lot of news (and anger) in today's blog entry. 

The more contemptible the information that emerges from the high-speed rail authority, the more Californians express their objections and opposition to the project.   

And, therefore, the more rigid and adamant the rail authority becomes.   What I begin to imagine are those MIddle Eastern countries, like Syria, where 5000 have been killed in response to their opposition to their dictatorial leadership.

Yesterday's Congressional House Hearing, led by Congressman Mica, put this polarization on national display. Here are some web-sites, from Rita Wespi:

Live webcast (click on upper right LIVE WEBCASTS link): <>

Hearing information, panelists, links to written testimony:

Congressman Nunes' testimony:

The more discrediting the information, the more HSR supporters choose to ignore it.  The more fallacious, the most they insist on its truth.  Is this 1984 by George Orwell? 

All the information in hand is well past the realm of merely contradictory opinion.  There are facts and there is arithmetic clearly demonstrating that this project in California is a nightmare in the making.  This blog, and other many sources, have delineated the rail authority's falsehoods for a very long time.

We predicted this authoritarian behavior of the rail authority; their inflexibility, arrogance, rigidity, and self-serving indifference to peoples' concerns.  They would "over-ride" us, predicted Rod Diridon two years ago.  He was obviously correct.  

We said years ago, in our emails, postings, and discussions at many meetings, that our interactions with the rail authority were well past the point of politeness and this would be an adversarial, confrontational struggle.  Our position was sneered at, but we now can see it as a reality in the clear light of day.

The Washington Democrats and Administration leaders have voiced their dismissal and contempt for us. Their determination and desperation to commence with this "unfunded mandate" knows no limits. 

What we are hearing from Washington and Sacramento is that we have $3.3 billion from the FRA (total of $3.9 billion) and we will spend it. Call it high-speed rail or not, finish it or not, California must spend this money on Central Valley construction. 

Despite many years of protesting, there has never been a public choice.  Yes, the voters spoke in 2008, oblivious that they were voting for a pack of lies.  To the rail authority and their supporters, it doesn't matter. Nothing matters to the ruling powers in Sacramento and in Washington.  We are going to get this monstrous project shoved down our collective throats.

I wonder, does Roelof Van Ark have the National Guard phone number of speed-dial?

If there was ever a time for the people of California to become angry enough to take to the streets, we are coming very close to that point.

The article, directly below, is from the Central Valley.  Below that is a major piece from the Wall Street Journal, which has made its position on high-rail crystal clear.

And, below that, the LA Times article follows the one from the NYT. It's a good general summary of yesterday's hearing.

(Remember: three articles)

We really didn't expect anything dramatic from the Washington hearing other than a re-drawing of the same lines in the sand.

Unless they are actively stopped by enough Californians who have had enough of the deceit, mis-management, and smell of corruption, we are going to see the bulldozers start knocking down homes, schools, churches and businesses in the Central Valley, tearing up farms and ranches. . . . . . . all for nothing.

Rail authority blasts Bakersfield's opposition vote
BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer | Thursday, Dec 15 2011 05:37 PM
Last Updated Thursday, Dec 15 2011 05:39 PM

According to the group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, the following jurisdictions have adopted resolutions, taken legal action or expressed "no confidence" in the high-speed rail project but haven't taken a formal vote:

City of Orange
Menlo Park
Palo Alto
Pico Rivera
Kings County Board of Supervisors
LeGrand-Athlone Water District

Rachel Wall, a spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said the organization has received support from the following:

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu wrote a letter of support

The mayors of San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Fresno and Los Angeles co-authored an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee supporting the project.

Officials from the following cities have expressed support for the project with stations in their cities:
El Monte
San Fernando

Note: The Californian has not verified either list.

"A slap in the face" is what a spokesman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority called the Bakersfield City Council's Wednesday night decision to formally oppose its rail project.

City Council members voted 6-1 to adopt a resolution opposing the project in its current form. Council members faulted the project's financing plans and potential impact on Bakersfield properties and the authority's responsiveness to local concerns.

After the vote, Lance Simmens, deputy director of communications for the authority, issued a statement calling it "a slap in the face to the tens of thousands of Central Valley residents who would benefit from the jobs the project will provide over the next decade. 

It also represents a rejection of the economic and environmental benefits to the citizens of Bakersfield and California that will accompany the transformative statewide system...
"The Authority will continue to plan and implement this important project with local communities to make this project a reality. Our kids and our grandkids will thank us for such foresight and vision."
[Edit.The irony of this should not go unnoticed. Untold generations are going to be in hock for this infrastructure black hole.

With the vote, Bakersfield joined other jurisdictions in formally opposing the project.

Kings County has filed a lawsuit against the High-Speed Rail Authority over how the first phase is being funded. Last year, the city council of Orange, near Anaheim, unanimously passed a resolution opposing the project. And next week, Palo Alto's city council is set to vote on two proposals that call for an end to the project.

In an interview Thursday, Simmens focused on communication and moving forward with the project, regardless of moves like Bakersfield's.

"The important thing here is not whether communities take advisory votes or votes on resolutions which have no substantive bearing other than to express their position," Simmens said. "The important thing is we continue the dialogue with local communities and local community leaders. We have a lot of support for this."

Wednesday night, Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle called for Bakersfield to join his board in opposing the project. But City Manager Alan Tandy said Thursday the city has no plans to pursue a lawsuit.

"We philosophically agree that the High-Speed Rail Authority isn't in compliance with some of the requirements of law," Tandy said. "But we have not been contemplating, to date, initiating litigation."

Tandy added that city staff "have gone through the ramifications of what if they proceed with a revised (environmental impact report) and do not deal with the issues we have raised. ...That could go badly depending on what their ultimate response is."

That reaction isn't strong enough, said local attorney and 4th District Kern County supervisorial candidate Harley Pinson Thursday morning.

"Last night after months of citizen protest, the council finally expressed some opposition to the High Speed Rail," Pinson wrote in a statement. "However, the council failed to take any concrete steps to actually stop that devastation that High Speed Rail poses to our community."

He urged the City Council, on which his 4th District opponent David Couch serves, to file a lawsuit to block the rail project.

Pinson said the press release wasn't a political shot at Couch.

"My press release was not aimed at any particular council member," Pinson said.

He said he's been speaking to civic groups and radio talk show hosts about the issue for months.

"The resolution itself is not going to stop the high-speed rail project. The council needs to take strong action," Pinson said.

The city council's resolution opposing the project is only "advisory," and it alone can't force the Authority to make changes, according to city staff.

-- Staff writer James Burger contributed to this report.

Wall Street Journal
DECEMBER 16, 2011

High-Speed Railroad Job

California voters turn against the train to nowhere.

If politicians are good for anything, it ought to be reading polls. Yet there was Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week telling Congress that California's high-speed railroad is "not a cheap project" but "the people in California want this."

What people would that be? According to the latest Field poll, two-thirds of Californians want a new referendum on the project. And by a two-to-one margin, they say they'd vote to kill it.

In 2008 voters approved a $10 billion bond to fund the 500-mile bullet train, but cost estimates have since exploded to $100 billion from $33 billion and the mirage of federal government and private funding has disappeared. The high-speed rail authority has reduced its ridership estimates to 37 million from 90 million. Oh, and the train won't connect San Francisco with Anaheim for another 30 years, if ever.

Mr. LaHood is nonetheless demanding that the state use $3.9 billion in federal money to build the first 130-mile segment in the Central Valley, where there's supposedly less local resistance. However, no one is sure when the first segment running from Merced to Fresno would be operable since the state lacks the money to build and electrify the tracks. The authority's back-up plan is to run Amtrak trains on the track, but the state's watchdog Legislative Analyst's Office questions their claim that the tracks would improve Amtrak service.

Another unanswered question: how the authority plans to raise the $90 billion or so to finance the rest of the train. The state has no money, Republicans in Congress have refused to appropriate funds, and private investors want a revenue guarantee, which the 2008 ballot measure prohibits. "As a result," the watchdog agency writes, "it is highly uncertain if funding to complete the high-speed rail system will ever materialize."

California Governor Jerry Brown is fond of putting questions to the voters these days, at least to raise taxes, so how about putting this railroad job to a new vote too?


U.S. stands by California bullet train project despite critics

'We are not going to flinch' on support, an official says at a House committee meeting. The opposition alleges political corruption in the granting of federal funds for the Central Valley segment.

By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

December 16, 2011

The Obama administration vowed Thursday at a House committee meeting in Washington that it would not back down from its support of California's bullet train project despite attacks from critics who alleged it is tainted by political corruption.

"We are not going to flinch on that support," said Joseph Szabo, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Szabo said that his agency had committed itself to provide $3.3 billion for a construction start next year in the Central Valley and that federal law prohibits any change of mind about where to begin building the first segment of the state's high-speed rail system.

"The worst thing we could do is make obligations to folks and start to renege on our word," Szabo told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Szabo was grilled repeatedly about why the project was starting in the least populated region the route traverses, an area one East Coast politician asserted had "more cows and crops than people." Szabo said it was the state's application that determined where the money would be spent.

But that characterization of the decision-making process was sharply disputed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), whose district would be served by the rail line. Nunes led a charge of Republican criticism of the effort and claims that it would create tens of thousands of jobs.

"It is clear that high-speed rail is not about jobs," Nunes said. "It is about corruption, public deception and bureaucratic experimentation."

Nunes said the federal rail agency made a $700-million grant for the Central Valley construction segment on the eve of the 2010 election to benefit a local congressman, whom he did not name. The comment appeared to be aimed at Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno). Costa has pushed the project since his days in the California Legislature and then later when he was elected to Congress. A spokesman for Costa did not respond to a request for comment.

Nunes said the California High-Speed Rail Authority has spent $800 million over the last 15 years on studies, salaries and consultants without laying "a single inch of track." He noted that the authority pays its chief executive $375,000 annually, more than Amtrak pays its top executive.

"The high-speed rail authority has bankrolled a vast array of political consultants to curry favor with elected officials," Nunes said. "If the high-speed rail were widely supported, a multimillion-dollar PR campaign would not be necessary."

Roelof van Ark, the rail authority's chief executive, defended the decision to start in the Central Valley, saying high-speed rail systems around the world conventionally start construction in the center of their lines rather than at the end points. He cited the need to have a long section of rail to test the equipment before trains could run. "There is no where else in the country you could do this," he said.

Szabo's insistence that the federal government will not back down from its funding plan for the project was also a target of lawmakers.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater) repeatedly questioned whether the federal rail agency would allow California to spend the $3.3 billion in grants if the state's own funding under its $9.9-billion bond measure stopped. Denham is among a group of House Republicans trying to put a freeze on any federal spending and even to claw back existing grants.

At the same time, legal questions are growing about whether the rail project conforms to the requirements of the 2008 voter-approved bond measure.

In a separate action, the Bakersfield City Council adopted a resolution Wednesday night opposing the entire high-speed rail project. The city joins a growing number of municipalities and agencies across the state that have expressed opposition or concerns about the project.

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