Category Archives: Future of California High-Speed Rail

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 the 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 a 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 the 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 the 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 you have suffered an injury whether it be at work or at someone’s home, you can see about starting a lawsuit for a severe injury you have sustained.

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 with 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, absurdities, 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 the 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 https://cchsra.org and/or contact Shelli Andranigian at andranigianmedia7@att.net. Thank you.

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CCHSRA, Attorney Michael J. Brady Weigh in on Fresno County Board of Supervisors Decision to Approve Resolution, File Amicus Brief

Hanford, CA July 30, 2014 – Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability applaud the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for their decision Tuesday to approve both a resolution to oppose the California High-Speed Rail Project and file an amicus brief.

CCHSRA’s Co-Chairman Frank Oliveira said of yesterday’s 3-2 decisions: “The Fresno County Board of Supervisors, after years of scrutiny, has recognized that the high-speed rail plan is fiscally irresponsible and impossible to achieve without bankrupting the County and the entire state. The current design is a flawed plan; high-speed rail is achievable in California, but not with a flawed plan. We applaud the supervisor’s courage and decision.”

Attorney Michael J. Brady came to both meetings to present fact-based testimony before the board, while the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) was represented by CEO Jeff Morales on July 15 and Vice-Chair Tom Richards on July 29. Mr. Richards is also a Fresno area businessman and developer.

“The most dramatic thing about the July 15th and July 29th hearings was that several supervisors had sent detailed questions to the Authority since 2012 about their specific concerns, including supervisors such as Mr. Perea,” said Brady. “These questions were never answered, when they could have been answered. Any public official would be very angry at this failure to respond when their community is being so dramatically affected by a project like this. This failure to respond to important concerns fully justified the withdrawal of support.”

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors resolution of opposition also stands alone as the only one in Fresno County on file re: the controversial train project. Any prior resolutions supporting the project from Fresno County will now be removed from the record.

The vote was taken two weeks after the resolution to oppose the project was first presented by District 5 Supervisor Debbie Poochigian on July 15th. An amicus brief to support the Tos/Fukuda/Kings County Proposition 1A lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) was presented by District 2 Supervisor/Chairman Andreas Borgeas at Tuesday’s meeting.

 

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

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

July 29 – Fresno County Board of Supervisors to Vote on California High-Speed Rail Position and Litigation

Are you a Fresno County resident concerned about how the government selected your community to be the testing ground for the troubled California High-Speed Rail program?

On July 29, 2014 at 9:00 a.m at 2281 Tulare Street in Fresno, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors will meet to discuss two critical items on its agenda concerning California High-Speed Rail:

  • Discuss and provide direction to staff to prepare and file an amicus brief regarding the High-Speed Rail litigation.
  • Discuss and give direction to staff regarding the Fresno County Board of Supervisors position on the California High-Speed Rail project (continued from July 15, 2014).

Here is information provided from the public to the Board of Supervisors for its July 29 meeting about taking a position on California High-Speed Rail: Background Material on California High-Speed Rail. Supervisor Debbie Poochigian prepared a memorandum and a draft resolution – read it here: California High-Speed Rail Project – Poochigian Memo – July 29, 2014.

As indicated on the July 29 agenda, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors considered taking a position at its July 15, 2014 meeting in opposition to the current manifestation of California High-Speed Rail. Supervisor Debbie Poochigian prepared a memorandum and a draft resolution – read it here: California High-Speed Rail Project – Poochigian Memo – July 15, 2014.

The Board of Supervisors did not take a position but decided to continue discussing the proposal at their next meeting. Here is video from the July 15, 2014 meeting related to the agenda item:

Michael Brady (attorney for Kings County) and Jeff Morales (CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority) Introductory Comments (10 minutes each)

(Video – 30 minutes total)

Public Comment

(Video – 2 hours 3 minutes)

Supervisors’ Discussion, Including Rebuttals from Brady and Morales

(Video – 1 hour 33 minutes) 

News Coverage

Fresno County Supervisors to Reconsider High-Speed Rail Stance – Fresno Bee – July 12, 2014

Fresno County Delays High-Speed Rail Support Vote – Fresno Business Journal – July 15, 2014

Fresno County Supervisors Wait On Poochigian Proposal To Oppose High-Speed Rail – Valley Public Radio KVPR – July 15, 2014

Fresno County Supervisors Make No Decision on Opposing High-Speed Rail – Fresno Bee – July 15, 2014

Fresno County Board of Supervisors Consider Withdrawing High-Speed Rail Support – KSEE Channel 24 (NBC) – July 15, 2014

Craziness with Job Numbers with the High-Speed Rail Project – by Kathy Hamiton in Examiner.com – July 23, 2014

Fresno County Supervisors Revisit High-Speed Rail ConcernsFresno Bee – July 25, 2014

Fresno Bee Publishes Commentary by Two Leaders of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability

The June 25, 2014 Fresno Bee includes an opinion piece written by Aaron Fukuda and Shelli Andranigian, leaders in Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA). It states that “the group’s mission is to make sure the proposed California High-Speed Rail Project does not adversely affect the economy, environment or quality of life for California communities.”

Read it here: California High-Speed Rail Fairytale

From the opinion piece: How long will our emperor (Gov. Brown) and his ministers (California’s dominant party Legislators) still walk among us with nothing in hand and promising the world? The emperor has no clothes, and California will not have the first high-speed rail system built in America.

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About California High-Speed Rail (Out of Thousands of Things Almost No One Knows)

Here’s a list of “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About California High-Speed Rail” from page 2 of CCHSRA’s alternative business plan, entitled 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.

Ten Things You Did Not Know about California High Speed Rail

 

Pacific Legal Foundation Files Brief Against Governor Brown on Behalf of Bakersfield Church in Path of California High-Speed Rail

On March 17, 2014, the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed a brief in support of the First Free Will Baptist Church in Bakersfield against Governor Jerry Brown’s extraordinary petition to allow the State of California to borrow money to fund California High-Speed Rail construction by selling Proposition 1A bonds. Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) is fighting this petition, which would undo our court victories in 2013.

Here is a copy of the brief: March 14, 2014 Pacific Legal Foundation on Behalf of First Free Will Baptist Church Against Jerry Brown on California High-Speed Rail

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled in 2013 that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with Proposition 1A as authorized by voters, and therefore the state could not sell Prop 1A bonds. Governor Brown, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and other officials asked the California Supreme Court to override the lower court decision and allow the state to issue the bonds. The California Supreme Court appropriately bounced the petition back to the California Court of Appeals for the 3rd District.

The Pacific Legal Foundation describes itself as “the oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that fights for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection.” For more information, see the Pacific Legal Foundation’s March 19, 2014 press release about the filing of the brief:

Pacific Legal Foundation Litigates Against Sale of California High-Speed Rail Bonds

The brief is also posted at the Pacific Legal Foundation web site, along with a podcast explaining the brief.

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability Co-Chair on Ray Appleton Show, KMJ 580 AM, 12:30 pm, Wednesday, February 12

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) co-chair Frank Oliveira will be interviewed live at 12:30 pm today (February 12, 2014) on the Ray Appleton show on Fresno radio station KMJ 580 AM.

Listen to the show live on the web at this link: http://player.listenlive.co/28021

Frank will be speaking from the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. This is the world’s largest agricultural exposition. Governor Jerry Brown will be there this morning.

For the latest controversy involving California High-Speed Rail, read Public Gets First Crack at New High-Speed Rail Business Plan – article by Tim Sheehan in Fresno Bee – February 11, 2014.

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.

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