Radio Interview with Attorney Protecting Rights of the People from California High-Speed Rail Authority

Californians across the political spectrum want to see public accountability for California High-Speed Rail. Go to a California High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting, and you’ll see people from all walks of life with a wide variety of concerns about this $68 billion project.

Today (Wednesday, August 12, 2015) at 3:00 p.m., attorney Mike Brady will be interviewed on the “Stir It Up” radio show hosted by Richard Gomez on KFCF Free Speech Radio, 88.1 FM in Fresno, California. Mr. Brady represents people in Kings County objecting to the conduct of the California High-Speed Rail Authority as it pushes forward with its vision of a bullet train through the farmland of the Central Valley.

Also scheduled to be interviewed is Cherylyn Smith, a Fresno teacher and environmental activist.

You can also listen to the show at KFCF 88.1FM – Free Speech Radio. The audio will also be available for two weeks following the show.

Air Resources Board Needs to Make California High-Speed Rail Authority Publicly Accountable for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Claims

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) is urging the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop funding guidelines for Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds that force the California High-Speed Rail Authority to explain its plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. ARB is in a public comment period in the development of final guidelines for this massive spending program.

“The High-Speed Rail Authority has made many unsubstantiated claims about reducing greenhouse gas emissions so it could get $650 million or more in Cap-and-Trade funds,” said Aaron Fukuda, chairman of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA). “Based on what we’ve seen from the Authority, we don’t believe them.”

CCHSRA has now submitted eleven recommendations to the Air Resources Board for guidelines that will allow the public to get specifics about how the bullet train will reduce emissions that cause global climate change.

Fukuda believes the High-Speed Rail Authority is making up promises about greenhouse gas reductions to get desperately needed money. “The Cap-and-Trade program is a convenient source of money for a project that has strayed badly from what was presented to voters as Proposition 1A in 2008,” he says.

“If the project stops after the completion of the last planned construction contract, leaving a rail line without electrification between Madera and Shafter, would $650 million spent from Cap-and-Trade money be justified?” Fukuda asks. “Of course not.”

Here is a link to the letter submitted by Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) to the California Air Resources Board:

July 7, 2015 Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) Comment Letter to Air Resources Board on Cap-and-Trade

Future Segment of California High-Speed Rail Not Exempt from California Environmental Law

Today (July 2, 2015) the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected a request from the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board meant to exempt the proposed Caltrain Electrification project from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Caltrain governing board wanted the Surface Transportation Board to declare that the proposed Caltrain Electrification project is a matter of interstate commerce and therefore covered under federal and NOT state environmental review.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has a vision that one day its high-speed trains will share track with Caltrain between San Francisco and San Jose. This is the northern “bookend” in the current California High-Speed Rail Authority Business Plan.

Electrification of Caltrain is a step toward achieving that vision. It is even receiving funding from Proposition 1A.

On May 19, 2015, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board petitioned the Surface Transportation Board to do what the California High-Speed Rail Authority has successfully done twice: get an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) so that it doesn’t have to deal with litigation challenging the adequacy of the approved Final Environmental Impact Report.

The Surface Transportation Board didn’t buy the argument that Caltrain commuters were engaging in interstate commerce.

In February 2015, the Town of Atherton, the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail (CC-HSR)  and the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF), known as the “Atherton Parties,” filed a lawsuit contending the environmental review under CEQA for Caltrain electrification was insufficient. This lawsuit will continue now that the Surface Transportation Board has denied the Caltrain petition.

Joining the Atherton Parties to argue against CEQA exemption was the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT), which alleged that agencies such as the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain seek special CEQA exemptions after those agencies commit to a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions for construction.

Here is a link to today’s decision from the Surface Transportation Board:

U.S. House of Representatives Unanimously Passes Amendment Proposed by Congressman Jeff Denham to Nullify California High-Speed Rail Grant Agreement

Congressman Jeff Denham's District

Congressman Jeff Denham’s District

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) received a press release this morning (June 10, 2015) from the office of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham, who represents many residents of the Central Valley concerned about the financial waste, ill-conceived route alignment, and relentless property takings of California High-Speed Rail.

You may thank Congressman Denham via email by going to this website:

https://denham.house.gov/contact-me/email-me

Be especially sure to contact Congressman Denham if you live in his district. See the district map.


In a vote Tuesday evening (June 10, 2015), the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed Congressman Jeff Denham’s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill nullifying the current grant agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

“This amendment will finally hold California High-Speed Rail accountable for its finances,” said Rep. Denham. “The project is several decades behind schedule, nearly $70 billion over budget, and will not meet the speeds, travel times, or ridership levels promised to voters. No longer will they be able to accept a hamburger today for payment on Tuesday.”

Specifically, the amendment prohibits any appropriated federal funds from being used for high-speed rail in the state of California or for administering a grant agreement that includes a “tapered” match (described below).

When the Federal Railroad Administration initially awarded the Authority with nearly $3 billion in federal grant dollars under the federal stimulus package, it entered into a standard grant agreement with the Authority requiring a dollar-for-dollar match. This agreement stipulated that for every federal tax dollar spent, the Authority must spend a dollar from a non-federal source. California never came up with the money and subsequently missed payment deadline after payment deadline.

In order to avoid violating the Federal Deficiency Act, the Federal Railroad Administration quietly amended its grant agreement in December 2012 to allow for a tapered match – allowing federal dollars to be spent in advance of any matching dollars – despite having no assurances from the California High-Speed Rail Authority that the matching dollars would ever exist. The FRA’s Inspector General has subsequently criticized FRA for jeopardizing federal taxpayer dollars with this scheme. This amendment guarantees that the FRA must enter into an agreement that requires the Authority to match, dollar-for-dollar, federal tax dollars in current fiscal years.

See Text of Denham Amendment to Nullify the California High-Speed Rail Grant Agreement

Congressman Denham has repeatedly introduced legislation to stop the California High-Speed Rail Authority from continuing to waste billions in taxpayer dollars. In June 2012 and June 2014, he offered an amendment suspending federal funding for California High-Speed Rail. It passed each year. He also successfully added an amendment to the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7) in February 2012 ensuring that money in highway bills could not be spent on California High-Speed Rail. In January 2014, Rep. Denham introduced the Responsible Rail and Deterring Deficiency Act, which would suspend all federal funding to California High-Speed Rail.

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“Dam Train” Billboard Campaign on Highway 99 Highlights California High-Speed Rail Project as Mistaken Priority; Sparks New Debate

Those traveling north or south along Highway 99 in Fresno County will see two billboards (with more to come) questioning the current priority of California’s government to build a $68 billion high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles while San Joaquin Valley agriculture staggers from the effects of a multi-year drought.

Put up in May 2015, the billboards suggest that a “Dam” for water storage might be a more important priority for the state at this time than the government’s current priority of a “Train.”

The campaign is called “DamTrain” and describes itself as “a project by Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau and the Taxpayers Association of Central California.” The project’s message: “Our water is more valuable than that train, and DamTrain exists to get this message to our leaders.”

Website for DamTrain is http://www.damtrain.com

The website for DamTrain is http://www.damtrain.com

Many ordinary Californians who added their names to the DamTrain website in support of water infrastructure versus transportation infrastructure have added their views to the debate of what our state government should prioritize. No word yet if Governor Jerry Brown has read these comments, but if he ever stumbles across the “DamTrain” website, he’ll see these:

Comments on the DamTrain.com Website

▪   We need water, we already have transportation.
   Get your priorities straight!! Spend our tax dollars on a dam, not a damn train!!!
   Who will benefit from increased water storage? All Californians. Who will benefit from the unnecessary bullet train? A small fraction of our population. Governor Brown – you do the math.
   Thank you for investing your time and funds into this very important topic for ALL of California.
   We can build a train any time. We need water NOW! Please build a dam.
   I really hope this helps change some minds.  #ILoveToEat  #WeNeedWater
   Yo hell w train we need water.
   We can live without a train. WE CAN”T LIVE WITHOUT WATER.
   We don’t need a Choo-Choo!! We need water storage / new dams!!
   Conservation is band-aid on a gunshot wound. It has only resulted in a power grab by the State Water Board and others in Sacramento. We blame our neighbors when we should be blaming Sacramento politicians. Increased storage is the only way Califonia will survive and prosper.
   Governor Brown’s priorities are in the wrong place. We do not need high speed rail!! Our valley needs water storage solutions.
   Water is a necessity of life and we are running out of it and patience. High speed rail has been a useless money pit since it began. Very simply water is more important and at this rate probably anything will be cheaper for the taxpayers than high speed rail.
   We need leaders that can look out for the people. Let’s get this done NOW!!!
   Humans need water to drink, to bathe. Farmers can’t grow foodstuffs without water. A “train to nowhere” over the protests of California’s citizenry is unacceptable. We need water to live! We don’t need or want a massive pork project at the expense of our very lives and livelihoods.
   WASTE OF MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WILL NOT BE USED…WILL TAKE SO LONG TO BUILD THE MONEY SPENT WILL KILL CALIFORNIA…WHICH IS ALREADY THE WORST STATE. THIS IS WHY MORE & MORE PEOPLE WANT TO MOVE OUT OF CALIFORNIA.
   IT WILL TOTALLY RUIN OUR FARM LAND AND ONE WILL USE IT…ANOTHER PLAN MADE BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE. MONEY DOWN THE TUBES…
   If we can build pipelines to move oil, why not WATER and not a faster train which will kill how many when it derails.
   This has been a problem since the 70s as far as I can remember. Get your priorities straight before you completely kill this state.
   We need water not another government subsidized toy!
   I live in a farm community and own a farm. We need water more than we need high speed rail. Putting our tax dollars into getting water to the farming communities would be money well spent.
   WATER for HUMANS first…NO to the high speed sludge fund. If a high speed train is needed, it should be PRIVATELY funded. THIS is NOT a good use or correct use of TAXPAYER money.
   The water crisis should be the priority! We NEED water, we don’t need this train. Please help!!
   We can live without a train to nowhere. We cannot live without water.
   Stuff your ^@#$ for your Union bedmates with your train…go buy one on ebay or amazon, and GIVE US BACK OUR, REPEAT OUR, WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   We need water more than we need the high speed rail!
   Water is much more of a priority over that of a speed train to nowhere. Time to listen to the people of California Gov. Brown and stop brown nosing the big business lobbyists. Water is necessary for life and food.
   The train is a waste of money California doesn’t have. It also steals property from families! California needs water not a damn train!
   We all need water, not a High Speed Rail to support and subsidize like Amtrak. People first.
   The majority of people living in Calif. WILL NOT use the train. BUT all people need the water and the money being wasted on this train can be more than enough to help with building dams and etc. needed for storage of water. What is the matter with our elected officials that they can’t use their god given common sense?
   Save California and the crops it produces for the country!!
   Reroute funding for the unnecessary bullet train and put it where it’ll actually matter.
   This nightmare train to nowhere is officially the biggest debacle I ever seen. Gov. Brown is pushing an unnecessary legacy that no one wants. You lied about its destinations, its speed, its price and have said nothing about its subsidies. It will never be profitable.
   That we have not started to build more dams amazes me. That we are emptying dams amazes me even more.
   No one will ride it. It will only be a useless burden on the taxpayer. There are over 14,000 Desalination Plants in the world. We need at least 3 dozen in California and we need to stop letting precious rain water run out to sea every year.
   It is time to focus on the paramount issues in California – the “bullet train” is not one of those. This is simply a liberal boondoggle to unions and waste of taxpayers’ money. Focus on the issues that really affect our ability to provide growth and sutainable jobs – water. Without adequate water for our population there will be no growth – period.
   We can’t wait for the water board to start thinking about this in 2017 – the crisis is NOW!
   What happened to saving land and people and doing the RIGHT THING Governor Brown? We don’t need the train, WE NEED WATER!
   If we want food on our table, water is what will do that, not that train.
   Thank you Steve Brandau for stepping up for Californians to do the right thing…stop the train by putting water ahead of Mr. Jerry Brown’s personal agenda!
   This train is a boondoggle and needs to be cancelled. Build water storage instead!!!  DUH!!
   Please put the money toward water distribution solutions to the California citizens!
   Need water, not damn train, waste of money.
   A train that will cost money over a source we really need in the valley…Shaking my head at you Brown! We need WATER!!!
   California is broke and we need water storage. NO TRAIN before water…
   Water projects help all Californians, HSR will not solve any problems and will only benefit a small part of our population and require permanent subsidy. Please fix our water problems first.
   LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE STOP THE DAMN TRAIN.
   Water storage should be your number one priority. Water rationing now will not solve this problem. Failure to build adequate water storage immediately sentences the citizens of this state to increasing misery and destruction of our incredible agriculture system.
   We are the bread basket of this nation. Farming is a vital part of our state. It’s time to realize this train benefits no one except Los Angeles and San Francisco. When are we going to stop hand holding these cities? They get our water, they contribute the majority of our pollution, their liberal ideas govern the rest of us and now we want to waste billions to make sure they aren’t inconvenienced travelling. Wake up California, it’s time to take our state back and stop driving everyone out. make California the place you want to live not the place you can’t wait to leave.
   Cannot build the train with money they have! But would go a long way to helping the water situation for all, not the few train riders.
   Stop the train. Solve the water issue.
   We need Dams and Reservoirs, not a High Speed Rail System!
   Total waste of money when the real critical need is in water storage for the state. Would like to have seen the money that has already been spent on the train on repairing our water ways and building new dams for water storage.
   We don’t need a high speed rail, water is and the ability to store it is the single most important item we should be dealing with.
   Do your job, use common sense, without water we will not have a State for that crazy train to travel.
   Quit lining your pockets from special interests and do what is right for California and the American people.
   It’s time for common sense to return to California government. It can be your legacy, not the bullet train.
   What good is a train if everyone moves away from lack of water?
   Stop that train…I can’t believe it has gotten as far as it has. What are Californians thinking?!?!?
   Simple…We can live without the train…We cannot live without Water…
   Dams aren’t sexy like bullet trains. A dam makes it hard to politically reward your supporters, supporters that are concentrated in voter block metropolises and believe their green lawns are a miracle of the faucet.
   More Water…if the Train is economically feasible let it be built with private capital…please give more consideration and leadership to the need for more water in California…and thanks for your public service to our Great State.
   We need to build Dams not bullet trains.
   We need water not a train that nobody will use.
   Water is our livelihood in California. Without it people and business will move!
   I don’t have much faith that Brown will actually listen because he’s proven already he doesn’t really care what the people of California want but it would be nice to have some accountability for his lack of leadership or ability / desire to save this state before it dries up, goes Bankrupt and blows away.
   This water issue may wake up California sleeping majority! God bless you Steve Brandau, God save California!!!
   Governor, stop the train! In case you’ve forgotten you work for the people and we are tired of you serving your special interest cronies and disregarding the rest of us! We don’t want your train, it’s a waste of my money!
   Cancel the train and get the Dam built.
   It’s not about water, it’s about power and money.
   The state needs more water infrastructure rather than a train to no where, that no one will ride!!! Spend our tax dollars on infrastructure that will insure our future, not destroy it!!! The money spent on the San Joaquin River restoration is a joke!!! Take that money and help build Temperance Flat Dam, that will help all of the San Joaquin Valley economy!!!!
   We are in desperate need of water and yet you continue to waste money on a train that no one but you wants. The enormous fortune you are spending on this train could do so much for not only our valley but for all of the people in California. Without water where is our food, our jobs going to come from? How many people will move out of California because of its lack of water for farms, orchards, groves? Farmers are tearing out tree after tree and getting rid of cow after cow, people’s wells are going dry because of the water situtation, how long do you think we can go on?
   It’s time the people of California realize the only benefit of the “bullet train” is to line the pockets of politicians and other favored groups. Elected officials are supposed to lead and it’s a damn shame none of them have realized the need for infrastructure of our water system in this desert area with no water projects since 1970.
   ^@#$ the train we can’t ride it if we have to spend all our money for foreign veggies…we can’t ride if we die of thirst.
   Our water well went dry last July / we have to drill but we don’t know if there’s any water to drill for us…
   We do not “need” a high speed rail system anywhere in California. We do need long term solutions to the current and future drought(s).
   Desalination is the answer! Leave the crazy train to Ozzy!
   Dear Governor Brown, Please stop wasting money on wants, and start spending money on needs.
   California’s High Speed Rail was presented to the voters of California in 2008 as a train that was to run down the I-5 or Highway 99 corridor. I for one voted for this alignment on voting day but now we are told it is to veer off of the alignment into farmland and housing in the Madera area which will impact my home now. This means that I have voted to have my house demolished for an overpass for this train. This is not what my vote was intended for, much like a lot of others in the Valley. Issues like these are items that need to be addressed. I personally would like my vote back along with the happiness that was in my heart before hearing of my home’s demise. Please do not allow the train to nowhere.
   We don’t need to spent money on a train that go nowhere, while we are in need of dam to store water so we can live.
   We need the train like we need another year of drought…
   No train is also a water issue. If the train brings more here then we will need much more storage great job Steve Brandau.
   We need the water! Not the train that will just be a money pit! California leadership is failing the valley and Californians!
   We need water not a train!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   Good governance requires sufficient flexibility to take action and to protect society in times of crisis.
   Build DAMS not trains to nowhere.
   WATER SHOULD BE THE PRIORITY!  WTF ARE YOU THINKING?
   I also hope that as you move forward to repair our levy system and repair and/or build new dams, please abandon your plans for the high speed rail. If you want people to remember you in a positive way, help us – don’t hurt us with a train that nobody wants – except for you. If you think we need a rail system, get BART to expand!! They do a great job with their service in the Bay Area.
   We don’t need a freaking train…People don’t use the train we have!!! This state needs WATER, look how the population of CA has grown and I can’t think ANY NEW major water storage/ lakes/ dams that have been built…it takes WATER for PEOPLE to LIVE…NOT A TRAIN!!!
   We have a train that is losing money. Why do we need another train to lose more money? Only a politician could see this as wise use of taxpayers money. Most California citizens say NO!
   WE NEED WATER TO LIVE, WE CAN LIVE WITHOUT HIGH SPEED RAIL.
   Stop the train. We don’t need it, we need water!
   People can’t live long without food or water. It has been nearly 40 years since a dam was built in this state. Meanwhile our population continues to grow, as do the markets for our produce. We need more water storage, not high speed trains that will be a drain on the State budget in perpetuity.
   We need water more then we need a train…
   Stop the train to nowhere! Create real jobs that last…give us water storage!
   It amazes me the lack of common sense we have in the state capital, also doing the right thing for the people, and not for lining the pockets of state and government officials with the rail project, should be your priority.
   Everyone needs water. Not everyone will ride the train.
   Stop the crazy train and build more water storage and desalination plants! Fast track more water for California.
   Water is a current and dire future problem. As much as I wish we had convenient, affordable rail travel, I would rather see the more serious issue of our ongoing water problem dealt with.
   We need water storage, not a worthless train! With no water there is no one to ride the train anyways!
   We already have Amtrak, that’s good enough for me. What we so DESPERATELY NEED is water. Won’t you please help us?
   The entire valley will benefit from water. It will help keep the farmers in business! It’s not like the farmers are going to get hired to build the high speed rail. How can the high speed rail be more beneficial when it’s NOT a necessity!!!! It’s a luxury. WE NEED WATER NOT A TRAIN!
   I would rather eat than ride a train…Build the DAM.
   Water is more important than a train.
   Right now water is the biggest concern for most Californians, not public transportation.
   NO train…water please.
   We don’t need the train, we need water!!
   We need damns that will benefit the entire population of CA not a DAM train that will only benefit 1% of CA population!!!! DAMS not DAMN trains!!
   Everyone I know is moving out of California and I’m not far behind with the way things are going.
   This is such a no-brainer that we shouldn’t even need a petition. Just a Governor with a sense of what’s best for the PEOPLE that he is supposed to represent, not his own personal agenda.
   The very urgent need of water here in the Central California region should be a first priority for the Governor. I am not saying don’t build the “High Speed Rail,” what I am saying is that “Our Water Needs” should be priority number one. Halt the “High Speed Rail Project” and concentrate on the more important issue…
   Knowing what we know now about the so-called “high speed rail,” it would have never have been approved by the taxpayers. We need to place OUR money where we desperately need it. Build water storage now and innovate water solutions.
   Way, way too expensive to be built now!! California has many other issues to be dealt with…especially water. Good grief what kind of person doesn’t see the need for water in this State!
   LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE & STOP SADDLING THE TAXPAYERS WITH THIS RIDICULOUS TRAIN THAT HASN’T MET 1 SINGLE BOND MEASURE REQUIREMENT & IS 5 TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE THAN PROPOSED. WE NEED WATER TO MAKE OUR STATE PROSPEROUS & TO SUPPLY THE WORLD WITH FOOD.
   This state is in desperate need of water, without it there isn’t a state period.
   Societies rise and fall by the way they manage their water supplies. California’s economic juggernaut exists because our forefathers built the best infrastructure in the world! Let’s get this dam built!
   Dam that Train! Leave our farms, families, communities and jobs, invest in water storage and build our economy, not a train to nowhere!
   Governor Brown, Make your legacy that you solved the water crisis in California, created jobs, kept the Central Valley green and productive, fed the rest of the Country and the world and put all this ahead of a train that will cost the California taxpayer billions maybe trillions for decades.
   Building the dam should be number 1 priority, the train can wait. Without water pretty soon there will be no California. We need water to survive and for the farmers to continue with their jobs. Water is needed for many things. It’s not something you can just keep pushing back on hold.
▪   
We won’t need a train when we have no water…there will be nobody to ride it. Total waste of taxpayers’ money. Build a Dam and save California…it’s farmers and people.

Help Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability in Its Fight for Accountability to the People of California

Who:  Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA)

What: Fundraiser.

Where: Hanford Fraternal Hall PAVILION • 1015 North 10th Avenue • Hanford, CA 932230

When: Friday, April 17, 2015 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Why: Members have been working tirelessly to help defend everyone in the path of the California High-Speed Rail through the legal process since 2011. We would like you to support our continued efforts through this fundraiser and thank you in advance.

How: CCHSRA are hosting a “Linguica and Bean Take-Out Dinner” on Friday, April 17, 2015 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Linguica, Portuguese Beans, salad, roll and dessert will be served. Tickets are $25.00.

Please make checks payable to: CCHSRA. Thank you in advance for your support.

You may purchase tickets from members of CCHSRA. There will also be a limited number of tickets at the door.

Or, tickets are available at the Kings County Farm Bureau:
870 Greenfield Ave, #B
Hanford, CA 93230
(559) 584-3557

For more information, please contact Mary Jane Fagundes at (559) 707-7286.

Legacy Issues: The Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability 2014 Business Plan for California High-Speed Rail

People interested in California High-Speed Rail issues frequently ask our organization – Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) – for an accurate report about the status of California High-Speed Rail. In April 2014, CCHSRA produced its own 110-page version of a business plan that tries to fulfill the requirements outlined in state law for a business plan of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Central Valley Citizens’ Group Says Voter Dissatisfaction with California High-Speed Rail Was Reflected in Noteworthy Election Results

Central Valley Citizens’ Group Says Voter Dissatisfaction with California High-Speed Rail Was Reflected in Noteworthy Election Results

Leadership of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) asserts that the clear, unequivocal positions of several candidates against the current California High-Speed Rail plan were an asset in motivating San Joaquin Valley voters to go to the polls on Election Day.

“Some political commentators in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. said they were surprised by the election performance of several candidates in the San Joaquin Valley,” says Frank Oliveira, a co-chairman of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA). “They fail to recognize that water, agriculture, and high-speed rail continue to be prominent concerns in our communities.”

Oliveira cites the strong election performance of Congressman David Valadao, Congressman Jeff Denham, State Senator Andy Vidak, and the unexpected preliminary lead of 736 votes of Johnny Tacherra (challenger to Congressman Jim Costa). All of these candidates spoke openly to a broad spectrum of local residents about the drawbacks and challenges of water, agriculture, and high-speed rail.

“It has surprised everyone that Johnny Tacherra could actually end up unseating the ‘Father of High-Speed Rail’ in the Central Valley,” says Oliveira. “But Tacherra made his campaign distinct in part by opposing the current path of California High-Speed Rail through prime farmland and neighborhoods full of small businesses and churches.”

Oliveria sums up what is happening in the San Joaquin Valley: “Residents from all perspectives and walks of life are frustrated about the apparent disdain that some politicians show toward our communities. Some Californians embrace a futuristic vision of a bullet train cutting across our abandoned farmland. We want our elected officials to represent our desire to maintain the importance of agriculture in our region.”

Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group based in Kings County. Members include residents of the City of Hanford and surrounding rural areas, along with other Californians affected by the high-speed rail. The group has been in the forefront since June 2011 of attempting to get the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and its board to be in full compliance with Proposition 1A, which the state’s voters passed in November 2008.

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Encouragement: Our Next Steps in Pursuit of California High-Speed Rail Accountability

Frank Oliviera, co-chairman of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability, provides these encouraging words to all Californians (and Americans) concerned about how the most expensive endeavor in human history continues to advance in defiance of law.

Here Is Where We Are…

What is the Meaning of the October 15, 2014 California Supreme Court Decision?

On October 15, 2014, the California Supreme Court denied petitions asking the court to review a disappointing appellate court decision that sided with Governor Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority. This outcome is a setback but certainly not the end of the citizen campaign to ensure accountability for the California High-Speed Rail project.

The news media is mistaken when it echoes the triumphant claims of Governor Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority that this court decision is a major “go-ahead” for construction to start. It is not. This project is not inevitable and citizens on the side of the rule of law should not surrender to the interests pushing it.

The appellate court decision simply said that the trial court (the Sacramento County Superior Court judge) erred in rejecting the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s FIRST funding plan. The appellate court declared that the first funding plan was simply notification to the California legislature before the legislature appropriated money for the project. The appellate court also said that the Authority COULD NOT USE or SPEND Proposition 1A bond funds UNTIL it had gone through the rigorous requirements and procedures of a SECOND funding plan.

Without the ability to spend Proposition 1A bond funds, the Authority is still hindered in its plan to take land and direct its design-build contractor Tutor Perini/Zachary/Parsons to demolish buildings and prepare land and build bridges for actual rail construction in a few years. It will have to rely on limited revenue obtained through cap-and-trade taxes and other budget sources. It may also seek international government funding or perhaps even private investment.

It is also important to remember that the appellate court itself said that the Authority FIRST funding plan was defective and deficient. These problems still exist, and the Authority will have to overcome them before approving a second funding plan.

Therefore, there will be somewhat of a “repeat” of what has happened to date. Before borrowing and spending $8.5 billion authorized by Proposition 1A, the Authority has to prepare a detailed new second funding plan. This plan must meet requirements in state law to demonstrate adequate funding and environmental compliance. Then the California Director of Finance must approve the plan.

Our Next Steps to Ensure Accountability

Citizens will have an opportunity to file papers if there are legitimate legal reasons to oppose approval of the second funding plan by the California Director of Finance. If approval is granted for a defective and deficient plan, citizens can seek a writ of mandate from a court to stop the funding plan on the basis of its failure to comply with Proposition 1A. The appellate court said that citizens had the opportunity to do this when the ACTUAL SPENDING of the money is at issue.

Another Lawsuit Is Moving Toward Trial on Some Compelling Arguments

Meanwhile, a case is moving toward trial based on the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 526(a), a state law that gives taxpayers rights to defend their interests against injury. This lawsuit is separate, involves different issues, and is NOT AFFECTED by the appellate or supreme court decisions. A Sacramento County Superior Court judge has already rejected aggressive efforts to dismiss this lawsuit. Damaging evidence is being collected to introduce at the trial, which is expected to occur early in 2015.

If the people filing the lawsuit win on any of these four issues, the project may be stopped:

  1. Will the Authority be able to carry a passenger between San Francisco and Los Angeles in the 2 hours, 40 minutes required by law? (No.)
  2. Does the adoption of the “blended system” by the Authority violate Proposition 1A because California voters never approved it, and does those the blended plan make the goals of the High-Speed Rail system unachievable? (Yes.)
  3. Will the government need to subsidize operating costs – something forbidden expressly by Proposition 1A? (Yes.)
  4. Is the High-Speed Rail system financially and physically viable? (No.)

Once the evidence is determined, the court will establish a briefing schedule. The case will be briefed, argued, and then decided. The leaders of CCHSRA believe that the California High-Speed Rail Authority does not meet the requirements of Proposition 1A; in fact, the Authority CANNOT comply the requirements of Proposition 1A under its current business plan or under ANY plan.

Few people are willing to admit this stunning truth in public: Proposition 1A was a poorly-written law, and the state legislators who are routinely honored for writing it actually doomed the project through their incompetence.

There’s a Long List of Other, More Obscure Lawsuits Challenging the Project

As anyone can see from looking at the closed session agenda items of the board meetings of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, there are at least a dozen other major lawsuits originating from all over the State of California challenging the project. Some lawsuits contend that the Authority has violated environmental laws; a few challenge the constitutionality of the cap-and-trade taxes that are now a major source of funding for the project. In fact, the 2014 business plan for the California High-Speed Rail Authority is riddled with weaknesses, inadequacies, absudities, and failures to comply with the law.

Hundreds of private property owners in the San Joaquin Valley are prepared to go to court to force the state to legally justify the taking through eminent domain of homes, ranches, farmland, churches, and small businesses. On the Peninsula, numerous parties are ready to file a lawsuit challenging a Final Environmental Impact Report shortly to be approved for the electrification of the CalTrain commuter rail. This electrification of the CalTrain rails is a precursor to high-speed rail trains sharing track with CalTrain commuter trains at the northern “bookend” of the “blended plan.” If you don’t remember voting on this blended plan, your memory isn’t failing: it was developed AFTER voters approved Proposition 1A.

California High-Speed Rail Can’t Get Through the Tehachapi Mountains

New outrages and schemes come to light at every California High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting. Proving yet again the value of the First Amendment, the press is constantly exposing what Governor Brown, his appointees, and some powerful legislators don’t want the people to know.

The latest revelation is not a surprise to people who closely monitor the Authority, but nevertheless it is a stunning development.

The Authority’s own experts and consultants (contracted through the engineering firm of URS) issued a report in September 2013 saying that the grade going south over the Tehachapi Mountains (between Bakersfield and Los Angeles) was too steep and the route for the Bakersfield to Los Angeles project segment through Palmdale was therefore infeasible. The Authority was ridiculously assuming that the high-speed train would coast down from the mountains to the San Joaquin Valley at 220 miles per hour. Reportedly these consultants/experts found themselves looking for a new job after writing this report.

All along, Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability has insisted that the Authority needs to choose a route along Interstate 5 through the Central Valley and through the Grapevine. Twice the Authority has rejected this alignment based on logic and instead chosen an alignment based on politics.

Expect this report to be important evidence in the trial about taxpayer standing.

Don’t Give Up, and Please Consider Ways to Support the Fight for Accountability

The backers of California High-Speed Rail as currently planned have corporate and political power as well as taxpayer money and public legal resources. Governor Brown is intent on getting the project underway. The financial industry is eager for the bonds to be sold to investors. Construction and transportation conglomerates and their unions want the work and the money, now. Meanwhile, a small but influential group of intellectuals and activists regard the train as the centerpiece of a utopian vision for America in the 21st Century.

A majority of Californians rightly see the project as foolish and misguided. Generally, the more people know about the high-speed rail project, the less they are to support it, at least as it stands now. Whenever you hear people talking about how “cool” the train will be, start by asking them if they know how much it will cost, how the state will get the money, where the train route will go, when the system will be completed, and how it will be secured.

Finally, please join our group of ordinary citizens in staying the course and fighting for accountability on every aspect of this project. If we persevere, I am confident that we will achieve our goal of accountability, but it will take time and money. Don’t be discouraged!

Please share this with any interested parties.

High-Speed Rail Authority Addresses Fresno County Agricultural Issues: In Palmdale, During Harvest Peak

Shelli Andranigian speaks to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors.

Shelli Andranigian speaks to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors.

On September 16, 2014, the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors held a meeting in Palmdale, where it plans to have a station and a possible connection one day to a high-speed rail line that goes to Las Vegas. Numerous people reported difficulty watching the meeting on the Authority’s video feed.

One item on the meeting agenda is important to farmers in Fresno County. It did not get the news media attention it deserved.

Below is a statement of Shelli Andranigian, board member of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA), on the Authority’s meeting agenda item #8 to make findings related to Government Code Section 51292 (Agricultural Preserve/ Williamson Act) for California High-Speed Rail-related improvement locations in Fresno County.

Good morning. My name is Shelli Andranigian and our impacted family farming operation is in the Fresno to Bakersfield section. Since I am also addressing many not familiar with the area, we are in the San Joaquin Valley aka the Central Valley in South Fresno County along the Cole Slough of the Kings River.

I would like to know why you are addressing changes to The Land Conservation Act of 1965 also known as the Williamson Act as it pertains to farmland in Fresno County (Agenda Item 8). This topic should not be discussed or decided upon here at the California High Speed Rail Authority Board meeting today in Palmdale which is in Los Angeles County. Why is this important issue not being addressed in the Central Valley where farmers are in the midst of the busy harvest season and not able to be here which is two hundred plus miles away for them to publicly comment/question? Could it be because both Fresno County and the City of Fresno have each recently passed items unfavorable to the California High-Speed Train Project including a resolution to reverse their previously favorable stance of HSR by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors this past July 29th?

Those in California’s Central Valley feed and clothe everyone in this room and the rest of the world. Farmers are the true environmentalists and stewards of the land. This action not only disrespects them, but everyone who cares about the environment. The California High Speed Train Project is not the “Green” project the Authority wants everyone to believe.

I urge you to table any action on the Williamson Act (which will negatively impact over 70 properties in Fresno County) and bring it up at a future board meeting in Fresno. No mention of this action was even broached at the Fresno County Board of Supervisors meetings in July 2014 at which both CEO Morales spoke before the board one week and Vice Chair Richards at the next meeting or even at recent meetings. I am sure those here in Los Angeles County would not be pleased if a similar action impacting their properties was discussed in Fresno County at 9 a.m. on a weekday.

Those behind-the-scenes at the California High-Speed Rail Authority have been in a rush to connect a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, yet they have not yet planned on how to get from just north of Bakersfield to here in Palmdale. The Authority will need a rail line to traverse the mountainous Ridge Route aka Grapevine that bridges Southern California with the Central and Northern areas of our Golden State.

Meanwhile, family farms, private homes, small and larger businesses, churches, schools, historical landmarks and the Fresno Rescue Mission which has been providing a home for the homeless  since 1949 remain negatively impacted.

Rogue appraisers, including those from out-of-state have been running rampant in the Central Valley. They have been harassing elderly female homeowners along with those who farm the land in the midst of the busy harvest season. The appraisers must be in a rush to get paid by the Authority before the funds run out!

Those who ask the appraisers for more information so they can note the exact impacts to one’s property (by requesting a large and legible map), are not taken seriously and/or asked if said individual needs something for all impacted properties. Why would someone only need a large and legible map for property A and not for property B, C and D? A neighbor’s map sent by the appraisers even has the rivers near their farm labeled incorrectly.

I’m not sure if the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board realizes the inept actions of those representing them on the front lines. The largest infrastructure project of its kind remains flawed because of continued missteps like those just mentioned. Who in California would want a train speeding through  their communities at over 200 plus miles per hour when no thought continues to be put into the planning process at every level?

It is high time to put the horse before the cart and hit the restart button to make it precise at every step of the way so those who prefer train travel such as myself will get to experience it in their lifetime in California. #NoOneWillBeAbleToRide until then.

Thank you and safe travels.


September 16, 2014 Meeting Agenda for California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors

Staff Report to California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors: September 16, 2014 Meeting Agenda Item #8 – Consider Making Findings Pursuant to Government Code Section 51292 (Agricultural Preserve/ Williamson Act) for High-Speed Rail-Related Improvement Locations in Fresno County (CP* 1C and part of CP* 2-3). (There are 71 locations that the Authority claims it did not select “based primarily on a consideration of the lower cost of acquiring land in an agricultural preserve.”)

Resolution #HSRA 14-26 of California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors: Adoption of Findings Pursuant to Government Code § 51292 (Fresno County)

*CP means “Construction Package.” CP-1 is civil engineering (grading, drainage, bridges, etc.) in preparation to lay track between Madera and Fresno. The Authority awarded a contract in June 2013 for that construction package to a Tutor-Perini/Zachary/Parsons joint venture. CP 2-3 is civil engineering in preparation to lay track between Fresno and the border of Tulare County and Kern County. Three of five pre-qualified design-build entities reportedly plan to bid on this combined construction package. A winner may be announced by the end of 2014.

Transcript of September 16, 2014 Board Meeting of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

 

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