Devin Nunes’ Anti-HSR Rant

Nov 11th, 2010 | Posted by

Not everyone in the Central Valley is happy that the region will be the first to get high speed rail in California. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, from the 21st District (Tulare County and eastern Fresno County) published an anti-HSR rant in today’s Fresno Bee, denouncing the funds for helping give a boost to Democrat Jim Costa, who appears to have narrowly survived his re-election bid. Costa is a leading supporter of HSR, having authored the original bill to create the California High Speed Rail Authority and acting as one of the project’s key supporters in Congress.

That rankles Nunes, who is a particularly rabid right-wing ideologue. You can get a sense of that by reading his rant:

Just days before Halloween and about a week prior to the general election, the White House announced billions in stimulus spending around the country. These grants, a by-product of the stimulus slush fund created by Congressional Democrats last year, were used to provide last-minute re-election assistance to struggling Democrats.

Republicans, including myself, unanimously opposed passage of the trillion dollar boondoggle that financed these grants. At the time, I told The Bee and others that stimulus spending would not create sustainable employment, which it hasn’t, but that it would be used to finance the re-election efforts of Democrats, which it was. The Bee not only failed to report my observations during the stimulus debate, but also failed to report the facts as they unfolded in our own community days before the election.

The president’s effort to secure the re-election of Democrats who voted for ObamaCare manifested itself locally in a $715 million grant for high-speed rail in the San Joaquin Valley. The announcement of this funding rightly spurred outrage on the part of fiscal conservatives who not only see the stimulus spending as reckless, but view the high-speed rail project to be inappropriate, given California’s financial crisis.

In other words, Nunes charges that the decision by the US Department of Transportation to award all existing federal HSR funding California has received to the Central Valley was political payback for Costa having voted for the president’s health care reform bill. Nunes has absolutely no evidence this is the case, and willfully ignores the obstacles to quickly spending the stimulus funds on the other two segments (SF-SJ and LA-Anaheim). Nunes’ op-ed reads like an angry email he might have penned once he learned that Costa took what is likely to be a permanent lead in the vote counting over Republican challenger Andy Vidak.

Nunes does levy a bunch of other charges against the project, none of which are new:

California’s effort to establish a high-speed rail system has been chugging along since 1996 at anything but high speed.

Actually, by 2004 the proposal was ready to go to the ballot, but Nunes’ fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger preferred to delay the vote not once but twice. Only in 2008 was the bond funding finally approved.

In one year, from 2008 to 2009, the High Speed Rail Authority was forced to raise its cost projections from $32.6 to $42.6 billion.

Nunes distorts the truth by not explaining why the projection changed – the federal government mandated a shift in cost accounting from current year to year-of-expenditure dollars. In the absence of inflation, the cost could actually be well below $42.6 billion.

Indeed, the final price tag of high-speed rail could easily exceed the combined federal highway spending in California for the 50 years from 1957-2007.

That would be a rather stunning outcome. Nunes provides no evidence whatsoever in support of this extraordinary claim.

But those issues are secondary for Nunes, who is clearly motivated by a bizarre political vendetta against his Democratic opponents:

Now is not the time for fairytales about the future of travel in California, nor is it time to celebrate jobs that have yet to materialize.

The passage of time will tell taxpayers whether they were tricked or treated by President Obama’s Halloween surprise. In the meantime, I would hope that Bee writers would refrain from mischaracterizing my remarks in an attempt to blame Republicans in order to protect the Dustbowl Democrats from their own political stunts.

Nunes is clearly unhinged. But the joke’s on him.

Nunes is a beneficiary of the 2001 gerrymander that created ultra-safe seats for both Republicans and Democrats. Without having to worry about a Democratic challenger, Nunes was free to embrace an extremist agenda without paying attention to the dire needs of his constituents. Nunes opposed the stimulus that has prevented the already difficult situation in the San Joaquin Valley from getting worse. Now he opposes an HSR project that will bring thousands of desperately needed jobs to his district and boost long-term growth prospects. Nunes’ district includes the Visalia area, which has been hoping to get a station at nearby Hanford – but instead of helping his community achieve that goal, Nunes is bent on frustrating it.

His constituents are getting fed up with his right-wing anti-jobs politics; this recent letter to the editor in the Visalia Times-Delta is just one particularly strident example of the anger in the community over Nunes’ policies. But because Nunes is in a safe seat, voters can’t hold him accountable for preferring extremist rants to job creation.

That’s all about to change. Because of the passage of Proposition 20, Congressional districts will be redrawn by the nonpartisan citizens’ redistricting commission for the 2012 election cycle. It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that Nunes will be drawn into a district that includes a LOT more Democrats and therefore is much less safe.

In particular, Nunes might get more of Fresno proper in his district (currently the district ends at the western edge of Clovis). Voters there won’t look too favorably on Nunes’ opposition to HSR, which will bring not only construction jobs to the Valley, but provide the basis of a long-term economic prosperity that will lift the Valley out of poverty.

HSR not only has widespread support in Fresno, but bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats alike understand the benefits of HSR and want it brought to the Valley. Nunes is an outlier here, and while his rant in the Fresno Bee might make him feel better, it’s only going to undermine his re-election chances in 2012 when he can no longer count on gerrymandering to enable his extremism.

  1. Brandon from San Diego
    Nov 11th, 2010 at 20:33

    “…In other words, Nunes charges that the decision by the US Department of Transportation to award all existing federal HSR funding California has received to the Central Valley was political payback for Costa having voted for the president’s health care reform bill….”

    Even if it were true, which I am not saying it is, isn’t this a product of ‘politics’?

    Either way, $715 million is quite a lot for a vote on Health Care! Doesn’t sound like a credible argument at all.

  2. Brandon from San Diego
    Nov 11th, 2010 at 20:37

    Regarding length of time to undertake project thus far….

    – It is mf’ng big! It will be california’s largest public works project in history. Big projects take time.

    – Some delay, perhaps as many as 3 years worth, can be placed at the footsteps of the legislature for not adequately funding the project planning phases.

    – Probably due to the exteneded planning phase of the project, some project elements have additionally changed. Some have been the result of AB 3034. No?

    Matthew Reply:

    Somehow he wants to use that planning has been constantly delayed as an argument to further delay the project. That just doesn’t make sense.

  3. Castle Expert
    Nov 11th, 2010 at 22:12

    Autority Board members and staff this is another reason to pick the Fresno to Merced priority corridor. Why should the authority worry about this guy taking shots at them on every dollar being spend or siding with Handford and Kings County who do not even want High Speed Rail.

    The Fresno to Merced corridor is cheaper to build, straighter and will generate far more construction jobs because two stations are be built instead of one. Moreover, the elected represenatives in this corridor want to see the project survive and in fact thrive. Both Costa and Galgiani have staked thier reputations on giving this project life. The best pay back for people like Nunes is for him to see this project be built right next to his distict and then listen to him explain to his constintuents why he voted against it. If I am an authority Board member this is one more reason to pick Fresno to Merced as the priority corridor. Devin be careful what you wish for Karama can be a real bitch.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Hanford does want HSR. Hanford was opposed to the impact of a downtown station and route thru the city not the service, much like Chowchilla was opposed to one of the alternatives for Merced-Fresno. Kings County farmers are raising the same issues raised by Madera County farmers.

    And politics? Don’t forget the presence of Fran Florez from Shafter on the Board. And Kern County has gained the donation from Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms of a HMF site, indicating Resnick and his political influence are on board. That could influence things as much as Galgiani’s support.

    Don’t forget nearly the entire Fresno-Bakersfield route is within the boundaries of Costa’s congressional district, The Jim Costa High Speed Rail Corridor has a nice ring to it. ;)

    Peter Reply:

    I still think it will be Merced-Fresno, for the simple fact that two stations are included in the construction.

    Clem Reply:

    And it builds the junction to Pacheco. Facts on the ground, cast in concrete

    Peter Reply:

    Very true. Although, by the time anything is actually built, that will probably be settled already in the courts.

    dave Reply:

    Couldn’t they in reality just cast two slabs on both sides of track at the end of the line, erect a sign and call it a temporary station? Maybe near an accessible road?

    Peter Reply:

    That’s kind of the plan for Hanford, I believe.

    dave Reply:

    Oh okay, I meant for Fresno-Bakersfield tho’.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    The Fresno-Bakersfield gets more bang for the buck with 100+ miles built compared to only 50 something for Fresno-Merced due to all the grade seperations..and of course the the UP compared to the BNSF that has already stated they will work with HSR along the Fre-Bak segment

    YESONHSR Reply:

    And with the Nimbys it may just go south at first opening to LA before the final SF segment

    Bret Reply:

    While there’s no telling what the HSRA is thinking, it’s hard to imagine choosing the Merced-Fresno segment first when the Fresno-Bakersfield segment would provide a larger potential workforce between Fresno and Kern Counties, and higher ridership once complete between Bakersfield and Fresno. In addition, the travel time savings is better between Bakersfield-Fresno (1:52 down to :37) vs. Fresno-Merced (:58 down to :21) making it a more usable segment for travelers. Plus, without the right-of-way issues that UPRR is disputing, the BNSF line between Fresno and Bakersfield provides little to no opposition to construction. Ultimately, the ridership is likely going to be higher in the southern part of the state, might as well start with the segment of the valley that is closer to Southern California.

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 11th, 2010 at 22:45

    Robert mentioned a recent letter; check out some of the comments with Nnes’ rant as well. If this is any indication, he is not universally liked, and at least half the people in his territory want HSR.

    Curious that he does not fit the normal age demographic for the anti-rail crowd (he’s just under 40), so I wonder what his motivation is. It does seem shortsighted, particularly inregard to the oil situation, as the anti-rail crowd often can be.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    He’s an ideologue, plain and simple. He is going to have a difficult time with that in 2012 when he can no longer count on gerrymandering to enable him.

    Victor Reply:

    Oh now isn’t that just too bad and so sad, Not on the sad part at least, But then I don’t live near Fresno, Although I did live in the City of Tulare once upon a time when I was younger.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Doesn’t California’s gerrymandering perennially favor incumbents of both parties?

    Matthew Reply:

    Not necessarily, it depends on who does the gerrymandering. Its primary function is to try to swing the overall balance of representatives in favor of a given party. It’s to the republicans disadvantage to have a landslide district when another district only slightly favors the democrats.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know it depends. But how it works in each state depends on the local political culture. My understanding is that California’s gerrymandering favors incumbent protection over overrepresenting the party that controls the legislature.

    wu ming Reply:

    the 2000 redistricting was done by the democrats, but was an attempt to preclude a republican lawsuit tying things up for a decade (as had been done in 1980, the last time the dems controlled the statehouse and the state leg) by drawing safe seats for all incumbents. by the end of the decade, this ended up looking like a pro-GOP gerrymander, because of the huge demographic blue shift in all districts during the decade: safe D seats became overwhelmingly D, and safe R seats became close but still somewhat R.

    no matter how the lines are drawn, the next redistricting will most likely produce more D seats, just because of that overall shift D (and independents who tend to vote for D) in the state.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Currently the California districts favor incumbents as of the 2000 census, but that’s set to change since the state now has an independent redistricting commission for the state legislature, and as of the 2010 election, for U.S. Representatives.

    rafael Reply:

    Perhaps geographic districts on such a small scale are an outdated concept to begin with. The available seats for a state ought to be awarded to each party on the basis of statewide totals for that party (i.e. some variation of proportional representation). IANAL, so if the US constitution does not permit a state to switch to that for Congress, then at least do it for the California state assembly and senate.

    Peter Reply:

    Ahh, sounds a lot like a part of the German system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s perfectly legal to do this for Congress. But that would only give you proportionality in the larger states.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In the smallest states they already have it. Everyone votes for the same House member since there’s only one district in the whole state……

    Peter Reply:

    The German system, in contrast, also allows for a direct election of representatives, in addition to the “list” method you appear to be discussing.

    Emma Reply:

    Yes. It really is a very smart system that should be implemented in California. This is the best time to put forward such a concept since we are in desperate need of a new state constitution.

    wu ming Reply:

    i think this would be a better use of the state senate, given that its districts are to large for decent representation anyways, as a counterbalance to the inevitable losers (not just partisan, but also urban/suburban/rural, economic, local, etc)) in any process of district elections.

  5. Jerry
    Nov 12th, 2010 at 02:40

    While the pathetic Peninsula NIMBYs spread myths and lies about HSR the Fresno County community business leaders thru their Economic Development Corporation (EDC) created “Fresno Works” in order to bring the HSR Heavy Maintenance Facility (HMF) to Fresno County.
    “Fresno Works” is a very enthusiastic bipartisan community effort that supports CSHSR more than any organization I’ve come across. They conducted a video contest entitled “I Want My High Speed Train.” The top ten videos and the winner can be seen at their excellent web site:
    In addition, the Fresno County Transportation Authority is offering $25 million of Measure C money for the HSR Heavy Maintenance Facility if it is located in Fresno County.
    Representative Nunes would do well to open his eyes and help Fresno move ahead at the speed of 220 mph. Representative Jim Costa has worked hard for his district and well deserved his re-election.

  6. morris brown
    Nov 12th, 2010 at 06:10

    Robert continues to live in his dream world.

    The cost estimate of $33 billion was nothing more than a lie that was propagated to the voters to get passage of Prop 1A. Only when the FRA insisted they give a true cost estimate did the Authority finally come up with $43 billion, which doesn’t even cover going from 4th and King to the TBT. Lowenthal, in the meeting last week brought up that exact point.

    Robert get real, the costs are headed skyward.

    Now van Ark is using the $43 billion number and repeatedly saying that is his budget.

    Yet in his testimony last week he stated that the $4.3 billion he now has in hand to build a segment was only 50% of the cost needed to go from SF to San Jose. The last I saw, this estimate was a bit over $5 billion for that segment. Pardon me if my math is not accurate, but if $4.3 billion is only enough to build 1/2 of SF to San Jose, than that make the cost of the Bay area segment $8.6 billion. He has revealed that the cost estimates they have been shouting about are again on low side.

    He also said that the $4.3 billion was only enough to cover 2/3 of the cost of LA to Anaheim. That make that segment costing $6.45 billion, again way over the previously announced cost of around $4.5 billion.

    One must wonder if the large population centers of So. California and the Bay area, are going to be content to have their tax dollars spent on building a segment in the central valley, a segment that won’t even be able to run high speed trains until further funding for more of the system is obtained. Announced yesterday was that a $6 billion hole in the current State budget is already here, and that a a further $18 billion deficit exists in the next fiscal year, a whopping total of $24 billion.

    There will be no further funding for the HSR project from the Feds, for at least the next two years; the Republican majority in the house has made that quite clear. Very dark clouds for this boondoggle.

    Peter Reply:

    “True cost estimate”: Also known as changing it to Year of Expenditure dollars.


    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Agreed Troll

    Victor Reply:

    Yes Morris Yer a Troll, Now go back to Satan where Ye belong.

    Nadia Reply:

    I’m with Clem on this one – enough with the name calling – it is juvenile and it doesn’t help the cause

    Peter Reply:

    Neither NIMBY nor troll is meant as an insult. Not that I wouldn’t mind insulting him.

    NIMBY is an apt description of someone who opposes a project based on the personal physical impact, real or imaginary, it would have on him. Hell, it’s even listed in the dictionary.

    Troll in the online sense means someone who does nothing more than lurk on online forums and post incendiary remarks.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    8.6 (SF-SJ) + 6.45 (LA-Ana) +4.3 (Fres-Merc) = 19.35. That leaves over 23 Billion dollars to do LA to Bakersfield and Merc to SJ…

    Do you check your math before you put out your statements? Of course this would explain your lack of understanding of federally mandated accounting principals as well.

    Peter Reply:

    NIMBYs have no need for honesty. They can just scream and later say they were misunderstood.

    Clem Reply:

    Before getting all hot under the collar about Morris’s math, read the 2009 business plan. I’m sure he did.

    The business plan breaks down the $43 billion YOE dollars as follows:

    $4.5B for systems and electrification
    $0.1B for testing and commissioning
    $3.3B for trains
    $3.3B for program implementation overheads

    $5.1B for San Francisco – San Jose
    $5.3B for San Jose – Merced
    $2.2B for Merced – Fresno
    $3.6B for Fresno – Bakersfield
    $3.9B for Bakersfield – Palmdale
    $6.5B for Palmdale – Los Angeles
    $4.8B for Los Angeles – Anaheim

    So yes indeed, costs seem to be already growing beyond the 2009 business plan.

    All this NIMBY and troll name-calling might have greater credibility if it were actually rooted in published figures. In this case, the lack of understanding is not on Morris’s part.

    Peter Reply:

    I retract my statement over him not having any honesty. He’s still a NIMBY and still a troll, though.

    Peter Reply:

    Let me elaborate: He lives right next to the tracks and wouldn’t care about the project otherwise, which makes him a NIMBY. He drops some acid-dripping comments or posts some Reason Foundation drivel and never participates in any discussions on the blog. That makes him a troll.

    Eric M Reply:

    And a spammer!

    rafael Reply:

    @ Clem –

    All the more reason to push for a solution based on track sharing plus (a) mid-line overtake(s) in the case of SF-SJ and one based on track sharing plus plug flow for LA-Anaheim. I suspect that several billion of PBQD fat could be trimmed from those segments if planning agencies for both the legacy and HSR services were prepared to – read: forced to – think out of their private sandboxes.

    Example: sacrifice some pet projects (Caltrain CBOSS), some peak period performance (HSR @ 90mph) and some peak period timetable flexibility (Caltrain limiteds with 9 stops, HSR with 2 stops, both in multiple patterns) to help address the overall funding shortfall for the SF-SJ segment. With ETCS level 2 and ERTMS, 2 tracks plus 2 mid-line overtakes can support 8tph for Caltrain plus 8tph for HSR without overserving any one community. There is no fundamental need for quad tracking the entire peninsula, nor for a dedicated mid-peninsula HSR station nor for dedicated HSR platforms.

    Provided some regulatory relief can be secured, the real issue boils down to the fact that separate bureaucracies prefer keeping off each others’ turf to entangling their planning because politicians are unwilling to fund integrated passenger rail service at the corridor level. Piecemeal funding for independently planned projects almost always leads to avoidable financial and environmental burdens.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m all for it as long as it can be done without sacrificing Caltrain local service.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Next real world project–get Robert, Clem, Richard, and perhaps Spokker, Jim SF, and me on the HSRA board, where the lot of us can have some positive impact beyond spouting off here. That might include a proper merger of the Caltrain operation and the HSR project, which would be an excellent way to get things coordinated, and to get rid of some things like the CBOSS system (why it is still being pursued with off-the-shelf systems either available or in the wings is a mystery, although we have a couple of posters who would explain it with saying horrible things about a certain general contractor, management, and others in the system).

    Al-Fakh Yugoudh Reply:

    $Millions Mile $ Million/mile
    SF-SJ 5,100 50.0 102
    SJ-MD 5,300 116.0 46
    MC-FN 2,200 58.0 38
    FN-BF 3,600 110.0 33
    BF-PD 3,900 95.0 41
    PD-LA 6,500 63.0 103
    LA-AH 4,800 26.0 185

    At these [prices I can see Republicans complaining.
    I think we’d be better off to hire the French or the Spaniards to build it for us. Even the cheapest segment is more expensive than theirs (and theirs included everything, even systems and electrification). And LA to Anheim at $185 M/mile is what the Italians spent to build the FI-BO line, which is basically 3 tunnels for a total 50 miles underground. Do they plan to tunnel all the way from LA to Anheim?

    Peter Reply:

    That’s right within the range of even constructing light rail. LA-Anaheim is high, I’ll agree.

    Ted Crocker Reply:

    Consistent with what van Ark has said, at the LA-AH rate of $185M/mile, SF-SJ would cost $9.3B. When these numbers were presented, the LA-AH stretch was further along in the engineering than any of the other sections, so (in theory anyways) those numbers should be the most accurate, whereas the others are likely low. I couldn’t begin to guess why or where these numbers are high for construction of LA-AH, and wonder why you think the consultants are high?

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The European obligation to have international bids for major projects has dramatically reduced costs. This has given birth to giants like Vinci and Bouygues in France and ACS in Spain, which are the world’s biggest construction companies. In the old days, when contracts went to local firms, roads were so expensive to build that you wondered if they were gold-plated.
    The UK still has high construction costs, but it’s not Vinci’s or Bechtel’s fault. There are so many law firms, counselling firms and financial agents who take their bite first that only a fraction of the money ends up paying for actual work.

    morris brown Reply:

    But as I wrote above, from van Ark’s own mouth, SF to SJ is 8.6 billion and LA to AH is 6.45 billion. This is hardly Spain or any other country. Many supporters of the project who write
    on this blog will still support the project even it costs balloon to twice what is currently estimated.

    Eric M Reply:

    You are partially right because the project will put a lot of people back to work, improve the economy and leave great infrastructure when it is finished. Besides, if the cost to build rail goes up, what do you think the cost to build more roads or runways will be, huh?

    John Burrows Reply:

    If you check out table 3 page 85 of the CHSRA 2009 business plan–(Capital costs by segment by item), the Los Angeles to Anaheim segment will cost 6.454 billion.

    The cost for the Los Angeles to Anaheim segment “from van Ark’s mouth” as interpreted by Morris Brown—– 6.45 billion.

    Congratulations Morris!!! You are accurate to within 3 decimal places.

    Peter Reply:

    And SF-SJ is listed as $6.412 billion, not $5 billion as Morris is trumpeting.

    I retract my retraction about him being dishonest.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    And LA to Anheim at $185 M/mile is what the Italians spent to build the FI-BO line, which is basically 3 tunnels for a total 50 miles underground.

    SJ-SF has similar cost/mile. In other words, if CHSRA were to have the same efficiency as the Italians (talk about setting the bar low!) all Peninsula communities could have tunnels, without adding one dime to the project budget.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Those costs aren’t that awful. The rural at-grade segments cost a little bit more per-km than LGVs, but it’s not a huge deal. At-grade LGVs go for about $16 million per km, and the Central Valley segment is $20-24. I honestly have no idea how they got numbers this low for SJ-Merced and Bakersfield-Palmdale – presumably the tunnels average out with the long at-grade segments.

    That leaves the urban and suburban segments. Many people in this forum, including myself, like to make fun of American construction costs. But in reality, urban construction is always more expensive, especially in the US. Grade separations in urban areas cost a lot, because they require elevated structures. So do tunnels. If you hear of a subway built for under $100 million per km, it means it was built through relatively unpopulated areas; the photos of Metrosur construction make it clear that much it was built through exurbia.

    Yes, CAHSR is going to be expensive. But so far it seems not to be hugely expensive by European standards. Relative to the amount of tunneling required its cost is somewhat above average. As a resident of the region whose most recent HSR plan has the per-km cost of maglev tunnels, I’m not going to complain too much.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Hmm, San Jose to Palmdale are the cheapest segments per mile. With San Francisco to San Jose on Caltrain, and Palmdale to LA on Metrolink, you’d be able to get there with only 2 transfers, and at 1 hr for SF-SJ, 1:47 SJ-Palmdale, and Palmdale-LA at 1:50 it’s faster than the Coast Starlight or the bus. For tourist travel, I’d do it.

    The reason LA-Anaheim is so expensive is that the corridor currently carries freight, Metrolink, and Surfliner trains as well as a bunch of grade crossings. Construction will be a nightmare.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The only reason you’d force two transfers on an intercity train is if you secretly wanted the project to fail.

    dave Reply:

    I think that costs inflating beyond YOE still exist. It’s no surprise to me. I’m going to wildly guess the true cost at $48Billion for the starter line. Even so, I’m not worried. That’s life, unexpected. How I see it, we’ve already screwed ourselves with the Trillion dollar War, $43, $48, $100 Billion is chump change and at the end of the day, I get to use it. I can’t ride a Missile or Bomb to get to L.A., or can I?? Hmmm?

  7. Andrew
    Nov 12th, 2010 at 07:08

    Here in Iowa we have a non-partisan commission draw the redistricting lines. It’s something I think every state should use to make elections more competitive and fair. That being said, we still can’t get rid of that ass hat Steve King.

    Ben Reply:

    I wrote a paper about redistricting and reapportionment many years ago and the problem is that there are many conflicting goals, especially with the strict (draconian) term limits in CA. Members of the Assembly, Senate, and CA Congressional delegation are often not only looking out for their seat but since members of the Assembly are limited to 6 yrs and the Senate 8 yrs, they’re looking at creating safe seats for moving to the next elected position as well.

    More competitive elections might produce more moderates and less Ayn Rand-disciples such as Devin Nunes but competitive elections are also more expensive and, as this last election has demonstrated, businesses such as Koch Industries and groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce and Club for Growth are only too happy to help fund/buy these elections.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    I would elaborate on what Ben said. The combination of term limits that affect seats from city council to state senate in conjunction with jerrymandering have conspired to really mess with the basic concepts of representative government. Someone in office is really making decisions based upon the next office they are running for. Because gerrymandering is done differently on every level of government, the next office boundaries, although technically a step up, may only include a small fraction of the people currently represented. As a citizen, it is really hard to figure out who is actually representing you.

    California voters just approved non-partisan redistricting for both federal and state offices. This makes life very interesting for the next year as all current officeholders are in the dark as to what district they will be in.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    It is not obvious that districts will be super competitive now. In California, we have done a pretty good job sorting ourselves by political persuasion into different geographic regions.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s very true. I’ve made that argument frequently at Calitics, and strongly opposed Prop 20 (as well as Prop 11). Overall it will not produce a lot of change in who represents California in Congress or their politics.

    That being said, one of the few places in the state where you will see an impact on the districts IS in the San Joaquin Valley. Nunes’ seat will look different in 2012. It is likely to include either much more of Fresno proper, or Kings County and perhaps parts of Kern County. Either way, it’s not as likely that Nunes can count on being in a safe seat from which he can oppose jobs for his constituents from such a radical, ideological perspective. Nunes might be able to get re-elected, but he’s putting himself way out on a limb with these kinds of comments.

    wu ming Reply:

    the central valley is the m ain place where redistricting will have an effect on the partisan balance. if you look at the map, the districts around sac, stockton, fresno and bakersfield are the most creative partisan districts in the state. an aggressive gerrymander of the sac area alone could probably turn all of northern california into safe or lean dem seats. i suspect the san joaquin seats will be swing seats next time around, and all safe-to-lean D seats by the end of the decade, just because of the sheer demographic force of young latino citizens registering to vote as they age into the electorate.

    Dan S. Reply:

    To me its another case of Californians shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to setting up their government to fail. 2/3 majorities on any regular function of government, be it raising taxes or the extremely different case of raising fees, is one classic example. Mandating percentages of the budget to go to certain constituencies, however well-meaning, is another.

    And it’s so true and apropos of this conversation, mandatory term limits are a ham-handed way to erect an illusion of control while keeping experience out of government.

    But all of those examples are results of the people not trusting their own decision-making power. Look, the government works at the fancy of the public anyway. Let them try to do their job. If you likey, vote for them again. If you no-likey, vote them out. If you want to screw yourselves and your children, erect artificial barriers to keep the politicians from doing their jobs even if they wanted to, and then just complain about your lot in life. A lot.

    Standard Dennis Miller disclaimer applies.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Those are all excellent points and I fully agree with them. As I said in reply to Elizabeth, I don’t expect much to change for most CA members of Congress due to Prop 20 (Prop 14 on the other hand could make things much more interesting). However, one of the areas where new district lines that aren’t drawn for incumbent protection purposes probably WILL have a big impact is the San Joaquin Valley. I could see Nunes and Costa, or Nunes and Cardoza, or even Nunes and McCarthy, drawn into the same district and having many more registered Dem voters to contend with.

    Ben Reply:

    I digress but we can only hope Michele Bachmann will be redistricted out of Congress in 2012.

  8. StevieB
    Nov 12th, 2010 at 09:08

    A Track Record of Success: High-Speed Rail Around the World and Its Promise for America
    is a report published this week by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The report enumerates many benefits delivered around the world from 45 years of high speed rail. Reducting intercity car travel, environmental protection, public safety, economic benefits, and reducing other infrastructure costs by encouraging sustainable development patterns are a few of the benefits reported.

    Emma Reply:

    Thank you. I wish those NIMBYs would read this. In fact, I wish all NIMBYs would use a high speed train in Europe or Japan before they start complaining.

  9. tomh
    Nov 12th, 2010 at 15:59

    I wonder if Nunes thinks that stimulus spending to build the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Hoover dam, etc. in the 1930s were also boondoggles.

    wu ming Reply:

    or the aquaduct in the 60s, for that matter.

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 12th, 2010 at 18:04

    More literary history lite:

    In contrast to “boondoggle,” this one has been around a bit longer, supposedly since 1812.

  11. StevieB
    Nov 13th, 2010 at 01:45

    Republicans have not long opposed high speed rail. They are simply opposed to anything Obama is in favor of and change position depending upon the presidents platform. The 2000 Republican Party Platform expoused the need for passenger railroad investment.

    Our national railroad network is a crucial component of our public transportation system. Railroads helped build our country, and our national passenger railroad network remains a precious resource that can play a key role in transportation and economic growth. Republicans support a healthy intercity passenger rail system, and where economically viable, the development of a national high-speed passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development, and enhanced mobility.

  12. dfb
    Nov 13th, 2010 at 23:56

    These sort of arguments are standard for Nunes, if not a little watered down. Have you seen the load of lies he intentionally spreads about water, water rights, and the war currently waged for Delta water? He has no shame if it gets votes and funds his campaigns. I also hope the redistricting commission does away with much of the gerrymandering; however, in the end Nunes will not get much real competition in the South Valley.

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