Tag Archives: Frank Oliveira

California High-Speed Rail Authority Hasn’t Planted Any Trees (December 16, 2015)

Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) co-chairman Frank Oliveira was interviewed for an investigative news story about another failure of the California High-Speed Rail Authority to fulfill its commitments. KCRA Channel 3 in Sacramento broadcast the story on December 8, 2015.

In June 2013, the California High-Speed Rail Authority produced a report for the state legislature as required by Senate Bill 1029, which was signed into law by Governor Brown in 2012. Entitled Contribution of the High-Speed Rail Program to Reducing California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels, this report was supposed to analyze the net impact of the high speed rail system on the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

It promised “zero net emissions” during construction by offsetting equipment and material production emissions with programs such as irrigation pump replacement, new tractors for farmers, new buses for school districts, and a tree-planting program. According to the report introduction by chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, “The analysis of GHG emission reductions in the Authority’s report clearly demonstrates that the high-speed rail project will be an important part of meeting California’s overall climate goals.”

This report also helped to justify the decision of Governor Brown and the California legislature to keep the project alive through annual budget appropriations derived from Cap-and-Trade auction revenue. Construction of the high-speed rail system was not supposed to contribute to climate change. All pollution would be offset by other activities.

Almost a year after the ceremonial groundbreaking in Fresno, KCRA reporter David Bienick looked into the tree planting program. In response to a question asked with a camera running, California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales admitted that not one tree had been planted. Morales had claimed in 2014 testimony to legislative committees and in other presentations that 5,000 trees would be planted to achieve the “zero net emissions.”

This KCRA story turned to CCHSRA leadership for commentary:

Frank Oliviera on California High-Speed Rail Tree Planting

Frank Oliviera speaks about the absurdity of the California High-Speed Rail tree-planting program.

Frank Oliveira of the group Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability said some studies have shown the state will need to plant 5 million trees.

“Where are they going to put 5 million trees and keep them alive? Who’s going to take care of those trees? How much is that going to cost to take care of those trees?” Oliveira said.

Read the article and see the video here: High-Speed Rail’s Tree-Planting Plan Slow to Start: Nearly a Year After Groundbreaking, Not a Single Tree Planted.

Also, see the CCHSRA letter to the California Air Resources Board about the appropriateness of using Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds to fund California High-Speed Rail construction: Questioning the Outlandish Idea That California High-Speed Rail Deserves Cap-and-Trade Funds.

An April 2014 article published by the California Policy Center suggested that the tree-planting plan and other “schemes” to achieve zero net emissions were “farcical.” See California High Speed Rail’s Dubious Claims of Environmental Benefits.

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. Injuries that occur, and are not the fault of the injured, can usually be taken to trial with the assistance of a professional lawyer, similar to those at lamber goodnow. Injured parties can seek a settlement which covers the cost of medical bills, loss of earnings and any other financial inconveniences that may have occurred because of their 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. People are looking to these from other states too, such as some people considering hiring a personal injury lawyer illinois after a rail-related accident. 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.