Category Archives: Future of California High-Speed Rail

Assembly Speaker Must Strengthen High-Speed Rail Oversight

See a copy of this letter: CCHSRA Letter Dated November 10, 2015 to Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on Inadequate California High-Speed Rail Oversight


November 10, 2015

The Honorable Toni G. Atkins
Speaker of the Assembly
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0078

Dear Speaker Atkins:

We are commenting on your November 3, 2015 letter to Assembly Minority Leader Kristen Olsen about California High-Speed Rail oversight. Your letter claims that legislative oversight of the Authority planned for 2016 will be sufficient, and it rejects a request for the legislature to issue a subpoena to the Authority.

Your response, along with a law enacted in June to reduce legislative oversight, seems to indicate that the legislative branch is essentially in cahoots with the administration of Governor Brown in limiting public scrutiny of this troubled mega-project. By declining legislative oversight of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, you are evading an uncomfortable political reality and depending on the courts to reveal the truth about the status of this project.

Our extensive interaction during the past five years with the California High-Speed Rail Authority has revealed the agency’s culture. It works to conceal documents that contradict its public statements, its business plans, and other reports provided to the legislature.

It’s understandable why the California High-Speed Rail Authority avoids accountability. It cannot possibly comply with Proposition 1A. We urge you to reverse your position and take extraordinary means to obtain internal documents and public testimony from officials of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Our Experience with the California High-Speed Rail Authority

Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) was formed in 2011 by farmers, small business owners, and other residents of Kings County and rural Fresno County. It was a response to the lack of public accountability we observed firsthand from the California High-Speed Rail Authority as they planned the rail alignment through our rural agricultural communities.

Our introduction to the Authority gave us a foreshadowing of their typical conduct, which continues today. Representatives of the Authority began trespassing on our properties without notice or permission of the owners. Initially bewildered, we soon discovered these outsiders were assessing our land in preparation for the Authority to take it, either through unfairly low financial offers or through eminent domain.

Meanwhile, the Authority established a rail alignment that literally put the track through the front door and out the back door of the only livestock rendering facility south of Fresno. It was stunning. A conspiracy theorist would conclude that the path was deliberately chosen to undermine the region’s dairy industry and make an ideological statement of some sort.

We perceived the disdain of agency officials for the agricultural life and rural traditions of our community. You may not be aware that most of the 1300 parcel owners now targeted by the California High-Speed Rail Authority are resisting the government appropriation of our land. Every month, the State Public Works Board takes action to obtain that land.

After we became a visible critic of the agency’s conduct, the California High-Speed Rail Authority held some local community meetings devoid of substance in our region. To add to our frustration, someone arranged these meetings to be flooded with union construction workers from outside the area. The Authority briefly opened an office in Hanford (the county seat of Kings County) for community outreach and then shut it down without public notice, perhaps calculating it could better handle the rural communities by crushing us with political power.

For almost five years, our members have met weekly for status updates at the Kings County Farm Bureau office, attended almost every monthly meeting of the Authority board, and studied the legislative-mandated reports and public relations material available to the public. We identified numerous inconsistencies and questionable claims from the Authority to the Kings County Board of Supervisors, the California legislature, and the public. The 2014 Final Business Plan for California High-Speed Rail fails to fulfill statutory requirements and presents a false picture of the program. It’s already woefully out of date.

We hired some lawyers and policy consultants to perform detailed analysis of the performance of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, particularly in relationship to the mandates in Proposition 1A and in state laws implemented in conjunction with Proposition 1A. They confirmed our impression that public accountability is sorely lacking for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Some of the most devastating information obtained by Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability is only publicly available because of public records requests and off-the-cuff remarks made at board meetings. The discovery of unreleased internal Authority documents by the Los Angeles Times reporter isn’t surprising to us.

A Typical Example of California High-Speed Rail Authority Hiding the Truth

We surmise that your official perspective about the California High-Speed Rail Authority comes primarily from its representatives through communications such as an October 30, 2015 letter to you from the chairperson and the CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. This letter rests on outdated Authority claims such as the June 2013 announcement of bid results for Construction Package 1 (civil engineering work from Madera to Fresno).

Original bidding guidelines for Construction Package 1 emphasized the importance of experience with high-speed rail construction. During the bidding process, the Chairman and the CEO of the Authority – without any public vetting nor board action – changed the bidding rules. In the end, the contract was awarded to Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, a Joint Venture, which had the least amount of experience with high-speed rail construction.

You may not be aware that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has not even advertised a request for bidder qualifications yet for laying track for what is currently the Initial Construction Section (Madera to Shafter). That would be Construction Package 5.

Actual earthwork has recently begun for Construction Package 1, a bid has been awarded for Construction Package 2-3, and bidders have been prequalified for Construction Package 4. Realize that all of this work is merely civil engineering – no track, no electrification, no heavy maintenance facility, no stations – from Madera to Shafter. And Merced and Bakersfield are not incorporated into this work.

As far as electrification work for the genuine high-speed rail capability that voters expected when they voted for Proposition 1A in November 2008, it looks like they will need to settle for eventual electrification of the “bookend” track that the Authority will share with Caltrain commuter service (San Francisco to San Jose). The electrified Initial Operating Segment from Madera or Merced to somewhere in Los Angeles County is essentially a bunch of options drawn on paper.

Behind the Authority’s public relations campaign (funded by a $500,000 item in the fiscal year 2015-16 state budget), the specifics of the project’s outlook are grim.

Oversight of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Has Been Reduced

Perhaps the most egregious act to suppress accountability for the California High-Speed Rail Authority occurred this past summer. Language was inserted into a budget trailer bill (Assembly Bill 95) eliminating the requirement for the Authority to produce and submit some progress reports and reducing the frequency for the Authority to produce and submit other progress reports.

The October 30, 2015 letter to you from California High-Speed Rail top officials states that “the Legislature maintains strong oversight of the High-Speed Rail program through several mechanisms. Senate Bill 1029, which authorized expenditures for the program, contains strict reporting requirements.”

Echoing these comments, you claim in your November 3, 2015 letter that “oversight mechanisms have already been put in place.” Actually, oversight mechanisms are being removed, and you apparently condoned it as Assembly Speaker and voted for it.

We never expected the executive branch to acknowledge the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s lack of public accountability, but we expected the legislative branch to insist on it. Instead, it will be the judicial branch that fulfills its role to serve the people.

In less than six months, the California legislative leadership, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and Governor Brown will be exposed for concealing the reality of this project. We expect a Sacramento County Superior Court judge will confirm the Authority’s lack of accountability and failure to comply with Proposition 1A through a decision in Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Oral arguments are scheduled for February 11, 2016. You still have time to respond to Assemblywoman Olsen’s request and avoid tainting the legislature in the California High-Speed Rail scandal. We urge you to issue a subpoena to the California High-Speed Rail Authority immediately and end its continual deception of the People of California.

Sincerely,

Aaron Fukuda, CCHSRA Co-Chairman
Frank Oliveira, CCHSRA Co-Chairman

Cc:

Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen
Assemblyman Jim Patterson
Assemblyman Tom Lackey
Assemblyman Scott Wilk
Senator Andy Vidak

California High-Speed Rail Authority Must Remain Accountable to the Public for Its Legal Obligation to Obtain Private Investment

Prop 1A Official Title and Summary - California High-Speed Rail Bond MeasurePrivate investment in California High-Speed Rail is more than just a “nice thing to have.” The law requires it!

But it isn’t coming anytime soon. During discussion at the October 6, 2015 board meeting of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, CEO Jeff Morales tried to present a positive message: “Now the private sector is saying, ‘We’ll be there under the right set of circumstances and here’s how we’d like to be there.’”

The board chairman Dan Richard concluded that “Eventually we’ll be ready to really look to the private sector for their participation in funding; we’re just not there yet.” News media subsequently investigated and reported on the 36 “Expressions of Interest for an Initial Operating Segment” submitted to the authority.

There aren’t any serious offers for imminent private investment at this time. But interested parties made the following observations in their submissions:

  • There is too much risk for private investors
  • A lot more public investment is needed
  • Current technology cannot achieve the performance goals required by law
  • Ridership projections are overstated and public subsidies will be needed
  • It will take a lot more time and money than estimated to build the system

Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) has long made these arguments. It isn’t surprising that private entities don’t want to invest money in the high-speed train system.

As a grassroots organization working to ensure that the California High-Speed Rail Authority follows the law, CCHSRA wants to make Californians aware that the Authority has a legal commitment to voters to pursue AND obtain private investment.

What Is the Law?

Do you remember the statewide ballot measure that triggered the current land acquisition, contract awards, and preliminary construction for the high-speed rail system? It was approved seven years ago by 53% of California voters (including 78% of San Francisco voters).

Proposition 1A was identified on the November 2008 ballot as the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.” It authorized the State of California to borrow $9.95 billion via bond sales for high-speed rail and rail connectivity projects.

Today, the California High-Speed Rail Authority struggles with Proposition 1A. It likes the idea of getting the $9.95 billion, but it would prefer to see the people of California loosen up a little (or a lot) on the taxpayer protections required as a condition of borrowing that money.

Evidence That Private Investment in California High-Speed Rail Is Required

The November 2008 Official Voter Information Guide for Proposition 1A contains this incontrovertible evidence that private investment is required:

1. Language in the text of Proposition 1A, now in California law as Streets and Highways Code Section 2704.07, explicitly states this requirement:

The authority shall pursue and obtain other private and public funds, including, but not limited to, federal funds, funds from revenue bonds, and local funds, to augment the proceeds of this chapter.

2. The ballot summary in the Official Voter Guide states that the high-speed rail system will be established “…with private and public matching funds required…”

3. The neutral fiscal analysis of Proposition 1A by the California Legislative Analyst in the Official Voter Guide states the following:

  • the authority plans to fund the construction of the proposed system with a combination of federal, private, local, and state monies
  • $9 billion would be used, together with any available federal monies, private monies, and funds from other source.
  • bond funds may be used to provide only up to one-half of the total cost of construction of each corridor or segment of a corridor. The measure requires the authority to seek private and other public funds to cover the remaining costs.

4. The argument in favor of Proposition 1A in the Official Voter Guide states that “Proposition 1A will protect taxpayer interests … Matching private and federal funding to be identified BEFORE state bond funds are spent.”

Don’t Let Taxpayer-Funded Public Relations Distract You From the Law

As November 2008 fades into the past, the temptation increases for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to focus on the project itself at the expense of the legal justification for that project.

The Authority’s taxpayer-funded public relations campaign may nudge voters toward a conclusion that 2008 was a long time ago, and since then the state has “evolved” out of a rigid legal expectation of private funding. Voters may also hear a claim that passage of Proposition 1A was simply an endorsement from voters for California High-Speed Rail, and therefore the details of how it’s funded, built, and operated don’t really matter.

If this is truly the case, then the California High-Speed Rail Authority needs to ask voters to approve a new ballot measure that doesn’t include taxpayer protections such as private investment. When you hear elected and appointed government officials claim that it’s too soon to expect private investment for California High-Speed Rail, refer them to the Official Voter Guide for Proposition 1A.

Secret Money Funds a Fresno Contingent to Visit Spain to See High-Speed Rail Infrastructure

One of the prizes dangled by the California High-Speed Rail Authority in front of the people of the San Joaquin Valley is a “Heavy Maintenance Facility” for the Initial Operating Segment of the bullet train. The cost of construction for this facility could range from $650 million to more than $1 billion. Up to 1,500 employees could work there during any 24-hour period.

It is expected that numerous research and development firms related to high-speed rail transportation will set up shop near the facility, bringing thousands of college-educated workers who would populate the transit villages around the Fresno rail station. This demographic group is regarded as highly desirable for the future of the Valley.

Before the startup of initial operations, the Heavy Maintenance Facility would support the assembly, testing, commissioning, and acceptance of high-speed rolling stock. During regular operations, it would provide maintenance and repair functions, activation of new rolling stock, and train storage.

In 2010, the California High-Speed Rail Authority identified five feasible sites for the facility on what is currently the Initial Construction Section between Madera and Shafter: Fresno, Hanford, Wasco, and two in Shafter. To lobby for Fresno to be the location, the City of Fresno, the County of Fresno, and other Fresno local governments teamed up with construction-related businesses and unions to create a coalition called Fresno Works.

Based on a September 10, 2013 staff report to the California High-Speed Rail Authority board, it seems that one company will win one contract to provide and maintain the trains and also construct, outfit, and maintain the Heavy Maintenance Facility. And this prospect apparently explains why a contingent of Fresno government officials and community leaders traveled to Spain from September 26 to October 4, 2015.

A September 23 article in the Fresno Bee reported on many unknown aspects of the trip, including who was going, what the group would be doing, and who was paying for it. (See Fresno Officials Will Travel to Spain to Study Its High-Speed Rail.) Some people definitively identified as part of the contingent:

  • Fresno Assemblymember Henry T. Perea
  • Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea
  • Fresno City Council President/Councilmember Oliver L. Baines III
  • Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria
  • Palmdale Mayor James C. Ledford, Jr.
  • Lee Ann Eager, President/CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Fresno County
  • Chuck Riojas of the Fresno, Madera, Kings, and Tulare Counties Building and Construction Trades Council (construction unions)
This photo was allegedly taken during the trip to Spain.

This photo was taken during the trip to Spain.

Unions anticipate 600,000 construction jobs from the development of the entire train system, all of them filled by unions as a result of a “Project Labor Agreement” implemented internally by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

A September 23 press release from the office of Assemblyman Perea stated that “the tour to Spain includes elected officials, labor organizations, business and economic interest representatives, higher education administrators, and representatives of the California agricultural industry.” That press release also denied that taxpayer funds were being used for the trip. There is speculation that some travel was paid for by construction-related companies and/or labor-management cooperation committees affiliated with construction unions.

A highlight of the still-mysterious trip was on September 28, when the group toured a heavy maintenance facility in La Sagra operated by Alstom, a French industrial power and transportation conglomerate. Alstom is widely rumored to be a leading candidate for selection by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to provide trainsets and to build and operate the Heavy Maintenance Facility. Alstom contributed $21,500 to the 2008 campaign to support Proposition 1A, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act.

This trip probably succeeded in giving Fresno an advantage on winning this facility. Will the competing cities of Hanford, Wasco, and Shafter be able to organize and scrape together enough money to fund their own lobbying contingent to travel to Spain or France? Who will make the case to Alstom or other companies that other cities are more worthy than Fresno to be the location of the Heavy Maintenance Facility?

This kind of sly politics is another reason why Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability continues to monitor and expose the questionable antics of the politicians and special interests jamming this rail project through farmland, businesses, and homes owned by generations of San Joaquin Valley families.

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

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.

###

“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.

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.

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 Opponents Seek California Supreme Court Review – Press Conference on September 2 in San Francisco

HIGH-SPEED RAIL OPPONENTS SEEK CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT REVIEW

Attorneys challenging the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s bond funding will hold a press conference on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 to explain the petitions they are filing with the California Supreme Court. Michael Brady and Stuart Flashman, representing John Tos, Aaron Fukuda and Kings County, will offer copies of the Petition for Review they plan to file that morning.

Here’s the location, time, and date of the press conference:

Sidewalk in front of the California Supreme Court Building
350 McAllister Street, San Francisco
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 10:30 AM

In addition, Harold Johnson of the Pacific Legal Foundation will discuss the petition he will be filing on behalf of the First Free Will Baptist Church in Bakersfield. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will also be represented at the press conference, barring scheduling difficulties.

The petitions ask the Supreme Court to review the Third District Court of Appeal decision overturning two trial rulings that had hamstrung Californiaʼs High-Speed Rail project. The Appellate Court ruled that “The Legislature appropriated the bond proceeds based on the preliminary funding plan, however deficient, and there is no present duty to redo the plan.”

The Court also held that no evidence was needed to show that it was “necessary or desirable” to issue bonds, reversing the trial court ruling that had prevented the sale of bonds and effectively erasing that provision from the ballot measure. Plaintiff’s lead counsel, Michael Brady, says “The Authority is now on life support; it has been granted a stay of execution by the Court of Appeal. This filing seeks to lift that stay.”

Stuart Flashman, co-counsel adds, “The Court of Appeal ruling overturns longstanding precedents in the interpretation of bond measures. If these decisions stand, voters will lose trust in future bond measures.”

Harold Johnson of the Pacific Legal Foundation says “The High Speed Rail project must be fully transparent and fully faithful to the law. Evading accountability can’t be allowed on one of the most expensive public works projects in U.S. history.”

The Tos Petition for Review will be available on the morning of September 2, at the bottom of the TRANSDEF web page, along with all documents from these two cases. Three other claims in the Tos case are still pending in the trial court.

You can also read the court decision and the petition for review at these links:

September 1, 2014 Tos / Fukuda / Kings County Petition to California Supreme Court for Review of California High-Speed Rail Decisions

July 31, 2014 California Appeals Court Decision in Favor of California High-Speed Rail Authority

Background

The Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority case was brought by a farmer, a rural homeowner and Kings County. It asked the Court to block the Authority from using bond funds because the project failed to meet the ballot measureʼs requirements.

In November 2013, Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the High-Speed Rail Authorityʼs Funding Plan failed to properly certify, as the bond measure required, that all needed environmental clearances had been obtained and that sufficient funding was available to complete the Merced-to-San-Fernando-Valley segment of the project.

In California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. All Persons Interested et al., Judge Kennyʼs ruling blocked the issuance of bonds because of another failure to satisfy bond measure requirements.

For more information, please visit us at http://www.cchsra.org and/or contact Shelli Andranigian at andranigianmedia7@att.net. Thank you.

###

« Older Entries Recent Entries »