Tag Archives: Assemblyman Jim Patterson

California Legislators Concerned About California High-Speed Rail Accountability

During the past four weeks, the California State Legislature has discussed the 2016 Draft Business Plan for California High-Speed Rail in several hearings. While some legislators continue to effusively praise the project, many legislators – both Republicans and Democrats – have expressed grave concerns about the abrupt change in the direction of the project and the outlook for funding sources.

On March 28, 2016, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report entitled Review of High-Speed Rail Draft 2016 Business Plan. This report stirred the Assembly Transportation Committee enough to pass Assembly Bill 2847 on a 15-0 vote on April 18.

Introduced by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (a critic of the project), AB 2847 requires the California High-Speed Rail Authority to do two things in future business plans: (1) include projected financing costs for a proposed segment or combination of segments, and (2) identify any significant changes in scope for segments identified in the previous business plan or project update report, and provide an explanation of adjustments in cost and schedule attributable to those changes.

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) continues to be active in calling for public accountability for this beleaguered project. CCHSRA Co-Chair Frank Oliviera spoke during public comment at the April 6, 2016 hearing of the Assembly Budget Committee #3 – Resources and Transportation – on California High-Speed Rail funding. (Watch the video clip of Frank Oliviera testimony.) A letter from CCHSRA was cited in a March 28, 2016 Associated Press article, State Lawmakers Poised to Scrutinize California High-Speed Rail Plan:

In a letter to the committee, Citizens for High-Speed Rail Accountability urged lawmakers to reconsider all funding for bullet trains. “There is not enough money available to put a functional financially sound high-speed train on what they are building,” the group wrote.

Nevertheless, the project moves on, with an Assembly budget hearing scheduled for April 20 to discuss the $500 million annual budget appropriation of cap-and-trade tax revenue to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

AGENDAS AND VIDEOS OF LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS

On March 28, the California State Assembly held an oversight hearing to review the Draft 2016 Business Plan for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

http://olive.calchannel.com/videos/assembly-oversight-hearing-on-the-review-of-the-draft-2016-business-plan-for-the-california-high-speed-rail-authority/

On April 4, the California State Senate held an oversight hearing on California High-Speed Rail: An Overview of the 2016 Draft Business Plan.

Agenda: https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http%3A%2F%2Fstran.senate.ca.gov%2Fsites%2Fstran.senate.ca.gov%2Ffiles%2Fagenda_4-4-2016.pdf&embedded=true

Complete Video: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=3525

Individual Speakers (video compiled by derailhsr)

State Senator Lois Wolk: https://youtu.be/xTK8-13P7iY

State Senator Richard Roth: https://youtu.be/rYq34TFI75Y

State Senator Jim Nielsen: https://youtu.be/ebxdrSkUWbo

State Senator Cathleen Galgiani: https://youtu.be/N89xw1YaLNk

State Senator Ted Gaines: https://youtu.be/kuB2ECon1hc

State Senator Ben Allen: https://youtu.be/Iy9BaL-ubAk

State Senator Bob Huff:  https://youtu.be/iCnPn36NSu8

Lou Thompson, California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group: https://youtu.be/7gZvvW4Jmvc

Jessica Peters, California Legislative Analyst’s Office: https://youtu.be/FXI3GHg3OLM

Dan Richard, Board Chairman, California High-Speed Rail Authority: https://youtu.be/yBnVW-0jHuw

On April 6, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #3 Resources and Transportation held a hearing on California High-Speed Rail.

Agenda: http://abgt.assembly.ca.gov/sites/abgt.assembly.ca.gov/files/Sub%203.%20Exide%20Cleanup%20and%20High%20Speed%20Rail.%20Revised%20-%20final.pdf

Complete Video: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=3543 starting at 13:03

Individual Speakers (video compiled by derailhsr):

Jessica Peters, California Legislative Analyst’s Office: https://youtu.be/PhuWAclk0zI

Assemblyman Jim Patterson: https://youtu.be/iBziL_H0xOc

Dave DePinto, Save Angeles Forest for Everyone: https://youtu.be/3Xuz0BvdLes

Frank Oliveira, Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA): https://youtu.be/J9DeiYsyxYE

Mike Brady, Community Coalition on High Speed Rail (CC-HSR): https://youtu.be/QiHX1IGyXZY

David Schonbrunn, Train Riders Association of California (TRAC) and Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF): https://youtu.be/-jYy0F2cevM

William Grindley, high-speed rail analyst and critic: https://youtu.be/t9KEffvGG34

Cindy Bloom of Save Angeles Forest for Everyone: https://youtu.be/OyB6UUaf6bY

Citizens and Legislators Decry Poor Oversight of California High-Speed Rail

California State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins claimed in a November 3, 2015 letter that the Assembly would be “undertaking a broader range of oversight activities in 2016” related to California High-Speed Rail. She wrote that “oversight mechanisms have already been put in place” and “that oversight will continue in January through the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation.”

California Speaker Atkins High-Speed Rail Oversight PromiseThat promised committee oversight hearing about California High-Speed Rail referenced by Speaker Atkins happened on January 27, 2016. (See agenda and staff report here.) Representatives of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) were at this hearing of the California State Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation. (See the list of committee members here.)

As expected, the alleged “oversight” of the validity of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s estimates of project costs and schedule was inadequate and deceptive. Citizens and state legislators concerned about the project were given minimal opportunity to challenge the “high levels of confidence” that California High-Speed Rail Authority officials claimed to have about the project.

No one from Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) or any other organization critical of the project was invited to be a panelist, of course. Invited panelists were Dan Richard, Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, Jeff Morales, Chief Executive Officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and Louis Thompson, Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group.

Similar to past oversight committee meetings, the chairperson of the committee (Assemblyman Richard Bloom) limited the time of the hearing to 90 minutes and the allotted time given to public comment to one minute. Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) asked questions. After questioning various claims about the project and receiving empty answers, Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) futilely requested the committee chairman to allow additional time for discussion of the most expensive construction project in human history.

A chief focus of the hearing was rebutting an October 24, 2015 Los Angeles Times article ($68-Billion California Bullet Train Project Likely to Overshoot Budget and Deadline Targets). It was also emphasized that the California High-Speed Rail Authority would soon issue a new 2016 Business Plan that would essentially make the past irrelevant.

Brief public comment critical of project oversight came from Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), representatives of two train rider organizations, a representative of several communities in Los Angeles County affected by the proposed route, and five residents of the San Joaquin Valley, including multiple representatives of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability. Valley resident Shauna Green simply declared that based on her past experience with the California High-Speed Rail Authority and the testimony at the hearing, people should know that “they’re liars.”

A few professional lobbyists defended the California High-Speed Rail Authority during public comment. Prominent among them was a representative of the California Labor Federation and a representative of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, who praised the agency’s transparency and eagerness for oversight.

Video of the Hearing (courtesy of Derail HSR)

Assembly Budget Committee High Speed Rail Oversight Committee – January 27, 2016 – Authority Chairman Dan Richards and Assemblyman Das Williams comments

Assembly Budget Committee High Speed Rail Oversight Committee – January 27, 2016 – Assemblyman Jay Obernolte Questions

Assembly Budget Committee High Speed Rail Oversight Committee – January 27, 2016 – Assemblyman Jim Patterson Questions

Assembly Budget Committee High Speed Rail Oversight Committee – January 27, 2016 – Assemblywoman Patty Lopez Comments and Public Comments

Papers Submitted to Committee

Population Growth and the Need for High-Speed Rail – Pushing Back on the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Myths About High-Speed Rail

4,300 Miles of Highway Lanes as an Alternative to High-Speed Rail – Pushing Back on the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Myths About High-Speed Rail

The Green Train – Pushing Back on the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Myths About High-Speed Rail

The Truth About Public and Private Financing for the California HSR System – Pushing Back on the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Myths About High-Speed Rail

Letters Regarding California High-Speed Rail Oversight

Assembly Speaker Must Strengthen High-Speed Rail Oversight – Background from Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) – November 11, 2015

Request to Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins for Legislative Subpoenas to Obtain Internal California High-Speed Rail Authority Documents – Assembly Minority Leader Kristen Olsen – October 28, 2015

Denial of Request for Legislative Subpoenas to Obtain Internal California High-Speed Rail Authority Documents – Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins – November 3, 2015

Letter to Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins Regarding Inadequate Legislative Oversight of California High-Speed Rail – Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) – November 10, 2015

News Coverage

Bullet Train Chairman Projects Lower Cost, Longer Timeline – Associated Press (in San Francisco Chronicle) – January 27, 2016

Bullet Train May Take Longer to Build But Cost Less Than Originally Estimated, Official Says Los Angeles Times – January 28, 2016

High-Speed Rail Officials Seek to Reassure Lawmakers – KQED – January 27, 2016

Lawmakers Demand Answers from High-Speed Rail Leaders – KCRA (Channel 3) Sacramento – ‎January 27, 2016‎

High-Speed Rail Opponents Allege Conflict of Interest, Lack of OversightSan Fernando Sun – January 28, 2016

High Speed Rail Hides from Oversight – commentary by Morris Brown – Fox & Hounds – February 1, 2016

Press Releases

Assemblyman Patterson Questions Rail Officials on Major Shift in Project Plans – California State Assemblyman Jim Patterson – February 2, 2016

Vidak Calls Assembly Hearing on High-Speed Rail “Another Pitiful Whitewash” – California State Senator Andy Vidak – January 27, 2016

“We Will Not Delay Consideration” – California High-Speed Rail Authority Proceeds with Fresno-Bakersfield Final Environmental Impact Report

Get ready for the California High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting in Fresno on May 6 and 7, 2014 for public comment and a vote on the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (FEIR/FEIS) for the Fresno to Bakersfield Project Segment of the California High-Speed Train Program. This report is required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and federal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) sent a letter dated April 23, 2014 to the California High-Speed Rail Authority asking the agency to delay a May 7, 2014 scheduled vote of the board on the Fresno to Bakersfield Project Segment. CCHSRA argued that 17 days was too short of a time for interested parties to review and analyze the Authority’s 4,800 pages of responses.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority responded promptly with a letter dated April 28, 2014 to CCHSRA declaring that the process for environmental review has been ongoing for five years. With other arguments, it concluded that “we will not delay consideration of the Final EIR/EIS.”

As reported in the article “Bullet Train Opponents Want More Time to Review EIR” in the April 28, 2014 Central Valley Business Times, Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) and State Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) also requested the Authority to delay the vote.

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) Express Support for Bill to Freeze Spending of Federal Funds While Courts Stop Bond Sales

On Monday, March 24, the California Assembly Transportation Committee held a hearing on Assembly Bill 1501, introduced by Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno, that would have prevented the California High-Speed Rail Authority from spending federal grant money on the bullet train while the courts continue to prohibit the state from borrowing money by selling Prop 1A bonds. Assemblyman Patterson noted that the state would be bound to matching any of the federal funding spent on the high-speed rail project.

Aaron Fukuda, co-chairman of the CCHSRA, testified as a key witness in support of AB 1501. A second featured witness in support of AB 1501 was Diane Friend, Executive Director of the Kings County Farm Bureau. In addition, Alan Scott and Frank Oliveira of CCHSRA spoke during public comment in support of AB 1501, along with policy consultant and CCHSRA ally Kevin Dayton of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC.

A California High-Speed Rail Authority representative claimed that Cap and Trade auction allowances (described by some as “taxes”) would match the federal funding. Representatives of the California Labor Federation, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and individual construction trade unions spoke in opposition to AB 1501, along with representatives of high-speed rail interests.

Assemblyman Patterson had hoped the committee would pass his bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee in order to trigger a fiscal analysis. Instead, the Democrat majority on the committee rejected the bill on an 11-4 party-line vote.

Watch the video of the AB 1501 hearing (starts at 20:50).