Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's been going on with High-Speed Rail? Everything!

Quick review of recent events.

1. John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, held hearings about California's high-speed rail project.  As expected, it was a massive indictment of shenanigans, lying, hanky-panky, and other naughty stuff committed by the rail authority Board and staff.

2. The Peer Review Committee, formed by the legislative authority of the laws which instituted the beginning of the rail authority's actions to create a HSR for California, consists of a group of high level expertise guys whose job is oversight and reporting to the Legislature.  They had previously issued a critical report.  They just issued another one blasting the rail authority and asking the Legislature to stop funding them.

3. The CHSRA and staff, now trapped like rats in the harsh light of exposure to the truth, lashed back with lengthy letters and a press release.  The tone of this ten page letter is stunningly insulting and a counter-attack on the peer review committee's credibility and professionalism.  A gross insult and singularly unprofessional.  In other words, just what we have come to expect from the rail authority.

4. The Governor, Jerry Brown, should have taken this peer review committee report seriously and studied it closely since the CHSRA reports directly to him.  Instead, his office staff lashed back, dismissing the report as incompetent, etc.  He apparently has instructed the Democrats in the Legislature to ignore this report.

5. The California caucus of House Republicans has requested an audit of the CHSRA books by the federal General Accounting Office.  I would think that such an audit will expose even more negative information about the rail authority's carryings on and it is federal, not only what the State Auditor might uncover.  It will be far more difficult to ignore.  However, it's unclear whether and when such a study will be conducted.

6. Interestingly, since the release and criticism of the peer review study, a group of Democrats, led by John Costa representing the Central Valley, has suddenly also come out with a request of the GAO to do an audit.  The Democrats of course included a lot of advice in their letter to the GAO office about who should be involved and what to look for, including how wonderful this project will be for California.

7. Because of the PRC report, there is a lot of political churning going on in both Sacramento and Washington.  Surely we  will be getting more information about the tactics and strategies in both Parties for dealing with this.

8. Oh, yes.  One more.  Apparently, FRA Administrator Joe Szabo lied in his testimony to the House Committee of John Mica about having communicated with the California Legislative Analysts' Office.  Article below.

To flesh out all these outline points, here are some articles covering this new battleground over HSR.  I'll only provide the URLs so that you can open and read them yourselves.

I strongly urge you to read them all. They, collectively, pretty much cover what's been going on.

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