Saturday, March 17, 2012

Who's actually doing something decisive about stopping the High-Speed Monster from devouring California

At any one time, there are several stories taking place about High-Speed Rail in California. Here is one of them.  

As you know, the Democrats, who constitute the majority in both the State Senate and the State Assembly, support this project.  It's a major plank in the Party platform since it will bring $3.3 billion federal dollars into the state to start construction in the Central Valley. You might say that this is the proverbial waterfall we have to swim up.

The Republicans, a small minority of the State Legislature, like most Republicans in the US, oppose this project.  Among the most vocal in their opposition, and by vocal I mean actually writing legislation, are Diane Harkey in the Assembly, and Doug LaMalfa in the Senate.  They have both done a huge amount of homework on this project and fully understand everything we have been trying to say on this blog.

Assemblywoman Harkey's legislation is being called the "Lemon Law" and is meant to repeal the vote taken in 2008 that put HSR on the state map. That project was a lemon from the start.  As we've been saying many times, the voters were lied to in that authorizing legislation.  

Furthermore, what is being proposed nowby the rail authority and the Governor, with early local investments and blended systems, has nothing to do with what the ballot measure promised and predicted.  Ms. Harkey's bill is AB1455.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority's own advisory panel recently echoed criticisms lodged by opponents and other government agencies about the project's many shortcomings. A California Field Poll showed voters would like to vote again on the project's bonds, and would defeat the measure this time, 2-1. State Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, wants to put the matter back on the ballot. Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, has introduced AB1455 to halt state debt funding for the project.
These steps are infinitely preferable to rushing ahead with the high-speed boondoggle.

Senator LaMalfa's bill is SB 22.  Here is his bill's summary:

Existing law, the California High-Speed Rail Act, creates the High-Speed Rail Authority to develop and implement a high-speed rail system in the state, with specified powers and duties. Existing law, pursuant to the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century, provides for the issuance of $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for high-speed rail and related purposes. Article XVI of the California Constitution authorizes the Legislature, at any time after the approval of a general obligation bond act by the people, to reduce the amount of the indebtedness authorized by the act to an amount not less than the amount contracted at the time of the reduction or to repeal the act if no debt has been contracted.

This bill would reduce the amount of general obligation debt authorized pursuant to the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century to the amount contracted as of January 1, 2012.
What's this all about?  These two legislators wish to terminate this project. I certainly can't ask for more than that! But, here are the harsh realities.  Their chances are not that good. After all, their legislation must go through the labyrinthian Legislative pipeline and their bills can be shot down at many steps along the way. Remember, the Democratic majority rules in both Houses, and they favor this project, regardless of how much of a scam it is.

So? Not bother?  Absolutely not.  Bother, please!  Protest, in whatever form it takes, is worth the effort. That's true of lawsuits as well, by they way.  Whether they succeed or not is not irrelevant, of course.  However, all these legally sanctioned options to prevent the government from doing something to the public that the public does not want, is worthwhile.  More is better.

The government likes to forget why it is there; that is, to represent us.  And when the public has at first been badly misled by that government, and then the government changes the game once they obtained public support based on lies,  the public has the right to change its mind and the government must respect that.

Here are two substantive opportunities -- both pieces of legislation must be supported -- for the public to say, stop this.  What is happening is not what we were told and what we believed we would get.  Stop this now.
Bill to kill high-speed rail gaining support
March 17, 2012, 05:00 AM 
By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

A bill that will cut off funding for the state’s high-speed rail project is gaining steam as the Orange City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to support Assembly Bill 1455, authored by Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point. AB 1455, the High-Speed Rail Lemon Law, was introduced by Harkey in January and several counties and cities across the state have already voted to support it.

When initially introduced, Peninsula officials also offered support for the legislation including Burlingame Mayor Jerry Deal and Belmont Mayor Dave Warden.

Harkey’s “Lemon Law” would repeal more than $9 billion in available state debt funding for the project. A vote on the legislation is expected in mid-April.

“In spite of the huge taxpayer funded marketing budget for this complex project, the people and their elected officials are searching for the facts and discovering that they were sold a lemon. Already cash strapped and weary of the wasteful financial decisions being made in Sacramento, local governments are now learning they will have to pay a share of the project — even if it never serves their constituents." 

"I encourage everyone to review the facts, not the spin, and send a message to Sacramento to halt this ill-conceived, costly and unnecessary project,” Harkey wrote in a statement Thursday.

On Tuesday, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, held a press conference in San Mateo to urge the California High-Speed Rail Authority to fund construction of the two bookends of the system in San Francisco and Los Angeles while starting construction on the project in the Central Valley concurrently. 

To fund electrification of Caltrain, the rail authority would need to pledge about $750 million that would have to be matched by local sales tax revenue.

Hill said previously that Harkey’s legislation was unnecessary since economic conditions could improve that would make the project easier to fund in the coming years.[Democratic Assemblyman Jerry Hill's high-speed rail and Caltrain positions are to be opposed and he must be so informed of that opposition.]

The Legislature can decide on its own whether to vote for or against Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to issue $2.6 billion in state bonds later this year to get the project under way in the Central Valley, Hill said.
[Mr. Hill is wrong about that.  The Democratic Legislature has been 'strong-armed' by Governor Brown to continue to support his project for the sake of those $3.3 billion free federal funds. Nobody in this Legislature makes "decisions on their own."]

State voters approved the project by passing Proposition 1A in 2008, which commits about $9.5 billion in bond proceeds to build a high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Already, the cities of Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, San Juan Capistrano, Orange and Orange, Kings and Shasta counties have voted to support the bill. AB 1455 will also be appearing on several more county and city council agendas over the next few weeks, according to Harkey’s office.

Harkey has been most critical of the escalating price tag for the project that is now estimated to cost more than $100 billion. When voters passed Proposition 1A, the estimated price tag was about $36 billion.

The state is already in debt, Harkey said, and cannot afford to fund the project. She also said voters were “deceived” by the ballot language in Proposition 1A that included questionable ridership and cost projections.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

No comments: