Tag Archives: Proposition 1A (2008)

People of California (and America): Please Comment on 2016 California High-Speed Rail Business Plan

In 2014, Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) submitted thoughtful comments to the California High-Speed Rail Authority evaluating its 2014 Draft Business Plan. CCHSRA even prepared its own alternative 110-page Business Plan from scratch that tried to fulfill requirements in state law for the contents of the plan. See the CCHSRA alternative plan here:

Legacy Issues: The Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability 2014 Business Plan for the California High-Speed Passenger Train System, Including Direct Connections with Existing and Planned Intercity and Commuter Rail Lines, Urban Rail Systems, and Bus Networks Using Common Station and Terminal Facilities

Our long title was deliberate and revealed something few people know: the California High-Speed Rail Authority was authorized by Proposition 1A to spend almost $1 billion of borrowed money on “connectivity” projects. The State of California had already borrowed that money through bond sales to investors, and the state legislature appropriated the money to various state and local agencies for expenditures such as new train cars for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter rail.

Our alternative Business Plan served as a comprehensive centralized source of organized data that the public could not find elsewhere. In preparing our version of the Business Plan, CCHSRA determined that the California High-Speed Rail Authority did not comply with state law and actually COULD NOT comply with state law in preparing its official Business Plan. Perhaps that’s why the official Business Plan appeared to be a promotional marketing piece.

Nevertheless, the CCHSRA alternative Business Plan and comments submitted by hundreds of other Californians served as an outlet for public frustration and set a foundation for anyone wanting to add a new lawsuit to the many lawsuits filed against the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In a few cases, the California High-Speed Rail Authority revised its 2014 Draft Business Plan because of constructive public comments.

Now, we encourage YOU to read the California High-Speed Rail Authority 2016 Draft Business Plan and submit comments by close of business on Monday, April 18. Here are the instructions:

First, look at the 2016 Draft Business Plan:

Connecting and Transforming California: 2016 Draft Business Plan

Then, submit your comments. There are five ways to do it:

Attn: Draft 2016 Business Plan
California High-Speed Rail Authority
770 L Street, Suite 620 MS-1
Sacramento, CA 95814

  • Leave a verbal comment on the Draft 2016 Business Plan voicemail at (916) 384-9516
  • Submit written material or provide oral public comment during the March 8 and April 12 meetings of the California High-Speed Rail board of directors. (Note: public comments at board meetings usually have a three-minute time limit, and we recommend bringing 10 copies of any written material to submit to the board.)

All public comments submitted about the California High-Speed Rail Authority 2014 Draft Business Plan can be found on another website:

The People Express Frustration and Outrage about California High-Speed Rail in Comments about 2014 Business Plan; Read All Comments – commentary by Kevin Dayton at www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – April 25, 2014

What were the comments submitted to the California High-Speed Rail Authority about its 2014 Draft Business Plan? Here’s what was submitted through April 10, 2014, when the board approved the draft (with some minor changes) to be sent to the California State Legislature. I classified the comments based on three perspectives: critical, concerned, and supportive.

Court Hears Arguments on California High-Speed Rail Authority Prop 1A Compliance

Several members of Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) attended the February 11, 2016 Sacramento County Superior Court hearing in Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority. From throughout the state, critics of the current high-speed rail project joined CCHSRA members in the courtroom to watch oral arguments in this pivotal lawsuit for the People of California.

Along with CCHSRA, John Tos and the County of Kings contend that the Authority has failed to comply with Proposition 1A. This is the ballot measure, approved by 53% of California voters in November 2008, that authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion to start building the high-speed train system.Flashman and Brady at Tos v California High-Speed Rail Authority

Attorneys Stuart Flashman and Mike Brady came to the hearing prepared to make this case for Mr. Tos and Kings County. They refuted many of the claims of the state attorneys representing the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Here are some of the arguments from Mr. Flashman and Mr. Brady:

  • Prop 1A as presented to voters contains much more than just an authorization for the state to issue bonds. It sets specific criteria for the construction and operation of the system itself. For example, Prop 1A requires the train to be capable of traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes, with five minutes between each train.
  • Authoritative studies and analyses (for example, from Caltrans) indicate that the mandates of 2 hour, 40 minute travel time and five minutes between trains cannot be achieved under the blended plan. And the slower and less frequent trains under the blended plan mean that ridership and revenue projects do not achieve the Prop 1A guidelines either.
  • Studies and analyses produced for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to demonstrate compliance with Prop 1A are based on erroneous, unlikely, and untested assumptions.
  • California High-Speed Rail was portrayed to voters as a dedicated track system, not a “blended” system in which the high-speed train shares track with commuter rails (Caltrain and Metrolink). There are no references to a blended system in the 2005 and 2008 Environmental Impact Reports related to the project. The 2012 legislative mandate for the system to share track with commuter rail was a novel development that surfaced after Prop 1A was enacted by voters.
  • If the California legislature or the Authority wants to deviate from Prop 1A, they need to ask voters to authorize those changes. Prop 1A was a constitutional measure that cannot be altered by simple legislative action.

Here are some of the arguments from the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

  • Like in Phase 1 of this lawsuit, it is premature to claim that Prop 1A guidelines can’t be met.
  • The Authority was required to develop a blended approach by the legislature. This plan served the public by reducing the cost of Phase 1 from $98 billion to $68 billion.
  • There is a lot of evidence in the administrative record showing that the Authority can meet the requirements of Prop 1A.
  • The court needs to defer to the decisions of the experts of the agency working on the project.
  • Parties to the lawsuit are inappropriately challenging experts.
  • When the judge asked the Authority’s attorney what would happen if the court determined that the Authority could not fulfill the Prop 1A travel times, the attorney responded that it would be the fault of the legislature, not the Authority.

A ruling is expected in 60-90 days.

News Media Coverage

California High-Speed Rail: Landowners’ Lawsuit Goes Before Judge – Associated Press (via San Jose Mercury-News) – February 11, 2016

Kings County Opponents of High-Speed Rail Get Their Court DateFresno Bee – February 11, 2016

Lawsuit Contends the California Bullet Train Project Is Violating State LawLos Angeles Times – February 12, 2016

Legal Challenge Could Freeze Billions In Funds For California’s Bullet Train – Capitol Public Radio (via KVPR – Valley Public Radio) – February 11, 2016

Videos from Court Hearing (courtesy of DerailHSR)

Part 1 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

Part 2 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

Part 3 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

Voters Can Set California Priorities Straight: Water In, Train Out

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Aaron Fukuda, 559-707-8928 or cchsraorg [at] gmail.com

Voters Get Opportunity to Set California Priorities Straight – Water In, Train Out

 

(Hanford, California, Thursday, November 12, 2015) – The voters of California now have an opportunity to determine where the priorities of California need to be in the near future. Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner and Senator Bob Huff have submitted a voter initiative to the Attorney General that could be placed on the 2016 Election. This initiative will give voters a choice to take unused bonding capacity from the California High Speed Rail Project (HSR Project) authorized under Proposition 1A and put it towards water infrastructure projects that are vitally need to meet the current water needs of the State and to prevent social and economic impacts when the next drought strikes California.

This initiative comes at a critical point in the HSR Project as the California High Speed Rail Authority (Authority) has made very little progress on the project and numerous questions of legitimacy surround the Authority and the HSR Project. To fund water projects in California, the initiative seeks to redirect unused HSR funds from the project that were authorized by the voters in 2008 under Proposition 1A. The Authority has spent eight years trying to develop a project that meets Proposition 1A’s requirements, and both the courts and the public have highlighted numerous shortcomings that have kept the Authority and the State from issuing Proposition 1A bonds.

More recently, the Authority came under fire for withholding key documents that showed that the 2014 Business Plan that was presented to the California Legislature was based on artificially low values, and the project will likely exceed the budget set forth in 2014. The Authority also received proposals from 36 international companies that specialize in high-speed rail projects, most of which told the Authority that private funding was not coming to the rescue and that the approach planned by the HSR Authority is not technically or financially feasible.

The Democratic Party-controlled California Legislature, charged with the responsibility to oversee the HSR Project, has refused to appropriately address concerns and has opted instead to loosen oversight of the project. Recently, Assembly Speaker Tony Atkins responded to a request to investigate the Authority for withholding documents by brushing off the severity of the incident and emphasizing “broader range of oversight in 2016.” Earlier in the year the legislature passed Assembly Bill 95, which eliminated the requirement for the Authority to produce and submit key progress reports and reduced the frequency that the Authority produced and submitted project and financial reports.

A large majority of voters of California are tired of watching communities, farms and businesses struggle with the lack of water while a rogue agency like the California High Speed Rail Authority and the Legislature mismanages their multi-billion dollar project. We hope that in 2016 voters will send a message to the Governor and the California Legislature that we can and will set water as our priority in the State of California and hold our public agencies accountable for the use of our limited tax dollars.

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Voters Get Opportunity to Set California Priorities Straight – Water In, Train Out

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.

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.

Court Rejects Governor Brown’s Arguments to Skirt Court Decision and to Let State Borrow Money for California High-Speed Rail

While Governor Brown and a majority in the California legislature seem to tolerate the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s violations of state law, the judicial branch of California government recognizes that the Authority is failing to comply with Proposition 1A.

On April 15, 2014, the California 3rd District Court of Appeal rejected an extraordinary appeal backed by Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority. These top state officials wanted the appeals court to suppress two decisions of a lower court so the state could borrow money for the High-Speed Train Program by selling bonds.

The Docket (Register of Actions) for California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County (Case No. C076042) states the following:

The Petition for Extraordinary Writ of Mandate or Other Appropriate Writ is denied. The standard of review for a judgment on the pleadings is the same as for a judgment following sustaining of a demurrer; we look only to the face of the pleading under attack. [Citations.] … All facts alleged in the complaint are admitted for purposes of the motion and the court determines whether these facts constitute a cause of action. [Citations.] (Hughes v. Western MacArthur Co. (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 951, 954-955.) The parties’ motions for judicial notice are denied. RAYE, P.J. (RoBu) … Case Complete.

In 2013, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge found that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act,” approved by 52.7% of California voters on November 5, 2008. (See links to these court decisions, below.)

Governor Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority wanted the court to disregard the promises the state legislature made to California voters when it placed Proposition 1A on the ballot. In their mindset, the vote of the people to authorize the state to borrow money for California High-Speed Rail overrides the burden to actually comply with the law. In fact, desperate supporters of the project are increasingly making this “democratic” argument.

But we still live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy, and the courts will not allow the California High-Speed Rail Authority to spend money in a way that violates the law. It does not matter how many politicians or political activists support the bullet train or how “important” or “innovative” this $68 billion San Francisco to Los Angeles train will be for humanity.

Ultimately, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will have to follow the law, ask voters to change the law, or shut down operations until new people are governing the state.

News Media Coverage

Appeals Court Denies Petition, Clears Way for High-Speed Rail Trial by Tim Sheehan in the Fresno Bee – April 16, 2014

Court Refuses Appeal of High-Speed Rail Project: Part 2 Prop 1A Lawsuit Will Proceed by Kathy Hamilton in www.Examiner.com – April 16, 2014

What is Governor Brown Trying to Stop?

The coalition of individuals, local governments, business organizations, and taxpayer associations (including Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability) that won this April 15, 2014 decision have already won in court as a plaintiff in a Prop 1A compliance lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority and as a defendant in a bond validation lawsuit filed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Read those decisions here:

November 25, 2013 California High Speed Rail Authority Bond Validation Lawsuit Ruling

High-Speed Rail Authority and High-Speed Passenger Train Finance Committee, for the State of California v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of the Validity of the Authorization and Issuance of General Obligation Bonds to be Issued Pursuant to the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century and Certain Proceeding and Matter Related Thereto.

August 16, 2013 Tos v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Ruling

November 25, 2013 Tos v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Remedy

John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, County of Kings v. California High Speed Rail Authority, et al.

In addition, the same coalition has also won a court decision concerning the inclusion and consideration of arguments in Tos v California High-Speed Rail regarding the promised travel time requirements in Proposition 1A, such as 2 hours 40 minutes from San Francisco to Union Station in Los Angeles.

March 4, 2014 Ruling on Submitted Matter: Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

“Courts Are Not Entitled to Rewrite Legislation” – A Response to Governor Brown’s “Arrogant” Demand to Borrow $8.5 Billion for California High-Speed Rail

As the California High-Speed Rail Authority chafes at the bit for groundbreaking and moving forward with construction of the first 29-mile segment of rail between Madera and Fresno, it has also petitioned the California Supreme Court for extraordinary action to overrule two Superior Court decisions and allow it to sell Proposition 1A bonds. Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) and its allies object to this desperate scheme to get quick cash and roll over voters who approved a different project.

A brief filed on behalf of Kings County residents John Tos and Aaron Fukuda and the County of Kings asks the California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District to “reject this arrogant request.”

While Courts are empowered to enforce legislation, and to interpret legislation when the Legislature’s intent is unclear, Courts are not entitled to rewrite legislation. That is particularly the case when the legislation involved is a bond measure presented to and approved by California’s voters.

In 2013, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that neither the authorization for issuing bonds from the California High-Speed Passenger Train Finance Committee nor the funding plan put forward by California High-Speed Rail Authority met the requirements of Proposition 1A, the statewide ballot measure voters approved in November 2008 to authorize the state to borrow $9.95 billion for the rail system through bond sales. In other words, voters approved borrowing money under certain conditions, but the California High-Speed Rail Authority now wants to borrow it under different conditions.

Remember that Proposition 1A told voters they would get a $45 billion complete high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego. Now it’s a $68 billion “blended plan” between San Francisco and Los Angeles in which the first and last parts of the journey (the “bookends”) are not high-speed rail. Construction of a new high-speed rail segment is most immediately planned for bisecting or demolishing more than 1,100 properties between Merced and Bakersfield.

Read the brief at Return by Answer and Supporting Memorandum of Points and Authorities of Real Parties in Interest John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, County of Kings to California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Petition for Extraordinary Writ of Mandate.

California Attorney General Files Brief with Appellate Court Defending Extraordinary Petition to Sell California High-Speed Rail Bonds

California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a brief this afternoon (Monday, February 10, 2014) on behalf of Governor Jerry Brown, California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, the Director of the Department of Finance, the Secretary of the State Transportation Agency, the High-Speed Rail Authority, and the High-Speed Passenger Train Finance Committee.

Their goal is to get the California Supreme Court to allow them to borrow money for California High-Speed Rail by selling bonds, thereby overruling two November 2013 decisions of a Sacramento County Superior Court judge determining that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with state law (Proposition 1A) that establishes conditions to issue the bonds.

Here’s the brief: Petitioners’ Reply to Preliminary Opposition of Real Parties in Interest – Stay Requested by March 1, 2014.

The brief states that the case involves “weighty matters with far-reaching implications that demand this Court’s rigorous consideration…the stakes are high and the risks are great…” That’s probably the only statement in the brief that has unanimous agreement among the parties.

Expressing the highest levels of professionalism and respect for fellow California citizens, the brief also dares to call the winners of the two Sacramento County Superior Court cases “a collection of special interests.” That’s how they treat citizens who seek California High-Speed Rail accountability.


Read the decisions of Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny:

November 25, 2013 California High Speed Rail Authority Bond Validation Lawsuit Ruling

High-Speed Rail Authority and High-Speed Passenger Train Finance Committee, for the State of California v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of the Validity of the Authorization and Issuance of General Obligation Bonds to be Issued Pursuant to the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century and Certain Proceeding and Matter Related Thereto.

August 16, 2013 Tos Fukuda Kings County v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Ruling

November 25, 2013 Tos Fukuda Kings County v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Remedy

John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, County of Kings v. California High Speed Rail Authority, et al.

Filed with the Court: Opposition to Governor Brown’s Petition to Allow California High-Speed Rail to Borrow Money by Issuing Bonds

February 3, 2014 – The winning parties in Sacramento County Superior Court against the California High-Speed Rail Authority now fight back against an attempt by Governor Jerry Brown to help the Authority evade public accountability by seeking extraordinary relief from the California Supreme Court.

California High-Speed Rail - Cut Water Deliveries - Disasters - Courtesy of Governor Brown - April 4 2013 in Fresno

Parked outside a California High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting remote location – April 4, 2013 in Fresno.

Gov. Brown (along with State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Attorney General Kamala Harris) wants the state to proceed with borrowing money for construction of the 29-mile Madera to Fresno high-speed rail segment by issuing Prop. 1A bonds, even though the California High-Speed Rail Authority has not complied with the law, as confirmed in 2013 by a judge.

February 3, 2014 – Preliminary Opposition of Real Parties in Interest John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, County of Kings, and County of Kern to Governor Brown Petition for Extraordinary Writ of Mandate – California High-Speed Rail Authority

Please contact these leaders with press inquiries:

Aaron Fukuda – afukuda77 [at] gmail.com – Cell: 559-707-8928

Frank Oliveira – frank.oliveira [at] me.com – Cell: 559-469-6685

Court decisions against California High-Speed Rail Authority:

John Tos v. California High Speed Rail Authority (Prop 1A compliance)

August 16, 2013 Tos Fukuda Kings County v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Ruling

November 25, 2013 Tos Fukuda Kings County v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Remedy

California High-Speed Rail Authority v. All Persons Interested (bond validation)

November 25, 2013 California High Speed Rail Authority Bond Validation Lawsuit Ruling