Category Archives: Governor Brown and High-Speed Rail

Proposition 53 Has Implications for California High-Speed Rail

Proposition 53 Has Implications for California High-Speed Rail

Governor Jerry Brown and his political allies, led by construction trade unions, have ramped up a major campaign to defeat Proposition 53. This statewide ballot measure could jeopardize future funding prospects for California High-Speed Rail.

Proposition 53, also known as the “No Blank Checks Initiative” would require voter approval for the State of California to sell a total of more than $2 billion worth of revenue bonds for a project. Unlike “general obligation bonds,” which are repaid (with interest) through state income and sales taxes, revenue bonds are repaid (with interest) through fees, fares, tolls, or other payments for services.

The Delta farmer who funded the placement of Proposition 53 on the ballot and is funding the campaign to pass it was mainly inspired by a desire to stop Governor Brown’s controversial “Delta Tunnels” project. But Proposition 53 could also hinder future efforts by the State of California to borrow money for California High-Speed Rail construction and operation.

Voters fed up with the continuing expenses for high-speed rail could potentially reject the sale of revenue bonds and cut off a source of state funding. An effective opposition argument to the sale of revenue bonds for California High-Speed Rail would probably focus on the exaggerated projections of ridership and fare revenue for the high-speed passenger train system.

California High-Speed Rail is frequently mentioned in the news media as a project that could be jeopardized if Proposition 53 passes on November 8. For example, the October 14, 2016 San Francisco Chronicle article about Proposition 53 was titled “Prop. 53 Could Bring Big Projects to a Halt” and featured a frequently-published photo of CCHSRA allies Kevin Dayton and his daughter picketing at the high-speed rail groundbreaking ceremony in Fresno in January 2015.

Besides the farmer who is paying for the Proposition 53 campaign, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association – an ally of CCHSRA – is the main organization supporting it. The argument in favor of Proposition 53 cites California High-Speed Rail as a reason to vote for it:

Proposition 53 will STOP POLITICIANS FROM ISSUING BLANK CHECK DEBT to complete billion dollar state boondoggles. Take California’s bullet train. They told us it would cost California taxpayers $10 billion. Now we know it’s going to cost more than $60 billion! Yet, you don’t have a right to vote on that huge increase!

Leading opponents of Proposition 53 are construction trade unions, which have a monopoly on construction of the California High-Speed Rail system through a Project Labor Agreement. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California; the Carpenters, Laborers, Ironworkers, and Operating Engineers unions; and the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Trust have been top funders of the campaign to defeat Proposition 53.

The rebuttal to the argument against Proposition 53 in the California Official Voter Guide states that opponents “include insiders who profit from massive state revenue bond projects, and politicians and bureaucrats who don’t trust you to decide whether to approve boondoggles like the $64 billion bullet train…” Some people would declare that to be an accurate depiction of the chief backers of California High-Speed Rail.

For More Information:

California General Election November 8, 2016 Official Voter Information Guide – Proposition 53

Proposition 53 Donors – For and Against

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.


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


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

“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

The website for DamTrain is

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 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.
? 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.
? 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.
? 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!
? 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!
? 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.

Court Allows California High-Speed Rail to Violate Terms in Voter-Approved Bond Measure: Press Release from Legal Team

On July 31, 2014, the California 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned two lower court decisions and sided with the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Governor Jerry Brown. It allowed the California High-Speed Rail Authority to borrow $9 billion for high-speed rail as authorized by Proposition 1A, approved by voters in November 2008. Here is the decision:

3rd District Court of Appeal Decision: California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County (John Tos, Real Party in Interest) 

Here is a press release from the legal team that argued against the California High-Speed Rail Authority. They argued that the Authority had violated some of the provisions of Proposition 1A and therefore could not borrow money by selling bonds as authorized by voters in 2008 under Proposition 1A.


August 1, 2014
For Immediate Release


The Third District Court of Appeal late yesterday overturned two trial rulings that had hamstrung Californiaʼs still-embattled High-Speed Rail project. The 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.”

Plaintiff’s lead counsel, Michael Brady, was disappointed with the ruling. He said “The voters approved Proposition 1A only because it included stringent requirements to protect the state from financial risk. The Court ruled that although the project did not meet the requirements, taxpayers have no remedy now. They can only sue after many more tens of millions of dollars are spent on design and analysis.”

Stuart Flashman, co-counsel added, “The court has essentially allowed the Authority to ignore promises it, and the legislature, made to Californiaʼs voters. It bodes ill for votersʼ willingness to trust such promises in the future. Supreme Court review appears warranted.”

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 sufficient funding was available to complete the Merced to San Fernando Valley segment of the project.

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 addition, the appeals court reversed Kennyʼs ruling that blocked the issuance of bonds because of another failure to satisfy bond measure requirements. In California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. All Persons Interested, the appellate court held that no evidence was needed to show that it was “necessary or desirable” to issue the bonds – effectively erasing that provision from the ballot measure.

Click here to access documents from the two cases. Three other claims in the Tos case are still pending in the trial court.


May 23 Is Date for Oral Arguments: California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County

The 3rd Appellate District Court for the State of California announced on April 28 that oral arguments in California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County are scheduled for Friday, May 23.

This is the case which started when California Governor Jerry Brown, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority asked the California Supreme Court under an extraordinary petition to allow the state to issue (sell) Proposition 1A bonds to fund California High-Speed Rail. (In October 2013, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge had blocked the sale of the bonds through two decisions ruling that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has failed to comply with Prop 1A.) The California Supreme Court wasn’t impressed: it sent the Governor’s petition to the appeals court where it belonged.

Track the case at this link: California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County – Case Number C075668

Supporting the Rule of Law:

Members of Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA)
County of Kings
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
County of Kern
Eugene Voiland
Kings County Water District
Union Pacific Railroad Company
First Free Will Baptist Church in Bakersfield

Supporting Governor Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board
San Mateo County Transit District
Metropolitan Transportation Commission (San Francisco Bay Area)
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
City and County of San Francisco
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO
Cathleen Galgiani, member of the California State Legislature
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Southern California Association of Governments

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 – 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.

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:

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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