Curt Pringle and Two Others Appointed to CHSRA Board

Dec 31st, 2010 | Posted by

I was going to post a “2010 in review” article today, but there’s actual breaking news on the final day of the year: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made three appointments to the California High Speed Rail Authority board:

With his time to make appointments coming to a close, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday announced the reappointment of former Assemblyman Curt Pringle to the High-Speed Rail Authority.

Pringle, 47, was mayor of Anaheim until earlier this month.

Schwarzenegger also appointed Thomas Richards of Fresno and Matthew Toledo of Malibu to the authority. Compensation is $100 per diem, and the positions do not require Senate confirmation.

Richards is president and chief executive officer of Penstar Group, a Fresno-based developer. Toledo is publisher of the Los Angeles Business Journal.

So Pringle is reappointed after all, despite controversy over his possible holding of “incompatible offices” related to his post on the Orange County Transportation Authority board, which he will relinquish at the end of this month. Pringle did not run for re-election as mayor of Anaheim this year.

Matthew Toledo replaces Richard Katz, who resigned in November in the wake of the “incompatible offices” controversy (he chose to leave the CHSRA board in order to remain on the LA Metro board). In addition to publishing the LA Business Journal, he served this year as chair of the LA Chamber of Commerce, which has been strongly supportive of HSR. It’s not exactly easy to find out much information about him, though Toledo has been active in supporting Metro’s 30/10 plan.

Tom Richards replaces Fran Florez Rod Diridon and is a Fresno developer:

Richards, 61, has been president and chief executive officer of the Penstar Group since 1981.

He is the developer of the 11-story United Security Bank office building, which is on M Street near the convention center, and with developer Ed Kashian has proposed the Fancher Creek project in southeast Fresno.

Richards also chairs the Fresno Workforce Investment Board.

Toledo and Richards are therefore very similar figures – leaders in their local business communities, active in promoting economic development efforts. They do not have a background in transportation policy or planning, although they’ve been active in supporting local transportation projects.

Their appointments are likely a reflection of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ideological belief that businessmen are better at managing government projects than politicians and transportation experts. It’s far from clear that’s actually the case, and Arnold’s own tenure in office seems to prove that a lack of previous government experience is not exactly a good thing. On the other hand, both Toledo and Richards will likely be able to maintain private sector support for the project. And besides, most project planning will be done by the CHSRA staff itself, with particular responsibility resting with CEO Roelof van Ark. So it is far too early to tell whether these two appointments are wise or not.

Reappointing Pringle, on the other hand, is almost certain to cause further friction with the state legislature. Senator Alan Lowenthal and Pringle do not get along, although to be fair to Pringle, Lowenthal opposes the HSR project anyway, so he will not be inclined to look favorably on whomever it is that chairs the CHSRA board. Still, we can reasonably expect Pringle and the legislature to continue butting heads in 2011.

That raises two overall issues about these appointments. First, it would have been better for Arnold to not make any appointments at all, rather than doing so on his last day in office. Jerry Brown will be sworn in as governor on Monday, and he ought to have been able to fill these three seats on the CHSRA board. That’s not a reflection on Pringle, Toledo or Richards, but instead a recognition of the fact that Jerry Brown is the new governor and should have had the chance to make these appointments himself, since he’ll have to work with these appointees for the next four years.

Second, Authority reform is going to be a major topic of conversation – and probably of legislative action – in 2011. Without having his own people on the board, Jerry Brown may be more open to such reforms than if he had been able to make three appointments of his own. Authority reform could be a positive step for the project, depending on how it is done. I am guessing these appointments make it more likely, not less, that there will be substantial reform of the Authority in 2011.

I wish all three of them well. After all, when it comes to HSR, I don’t care what one’s background or politics are – as long as they strongly support the project and work hard to get it built, that’s what matters most to me.

UPDATE: More from the outgoing governor:

“California high-speed rail is ushering in a new era of economic and environmental leadership for our state, and ensuring that it is completed successfully and at the lowest cost to taxpayers is of the highest importance to me,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I know that Curt, Thomas and Matthew all have the vision, commitment and qualifications to move this project forward, and I look forward to watching this historic high-speed rail system become a reality.”…

Richards, 61, of Fresno, has been president and chief executive officer of the Penstar Group since 1981. Previously, he was general partner for North American Investments from 1974 to 1980 and secretary-treasurer for Sunset Company Realtors from 1973 to 1974. Prior to that, Richards served as treasurer for MacElhenney Levy from 1972 to 1973 and staff accountant for Faletti, Knapp and Jarabin Certified Public Accountants from 1970 to 1972. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Richards is a Republican.

Matthew Toledo, 48, of Malibu, has been chief executive officer and publisher of the Los Angeles Business Journal since 1994. He is a chair of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and a member of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation board of directors, Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission board of directors, Los Angeles coalition board of directors, Town Hall Los Angeles board of directors and Central City Association Executive Committee. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Toledo is registered decline-to-state.

Again, no transportation background or experience for these two. Which doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be good, but the board does need to have a lot of folks who understand how to plan and build transportation projects in this state.

UPDATE 2: My own sources confirm it is indeed Rod Diridon who isn’t getting reappointed. That’s a real shame, since he has a great deal of experience with transportation policy and projects in California. As I said above, while I have no specific objection to Toledo or Richards, we saw with Schwarzenegger himself the problems that come from appointing people without experience to run government. Diridon is a tireless champion for HSR and brings a lot of experience with passenger rail projects to HSR. Hopefully Jerry Brown can find a place for him to be useful to the HSR project.

  1. Clem
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 09:31

    Have they been issued their rubber stamps?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Your fast Robert!!! I just read about this minutes ago and wondered when you would have a post..

  2. Spokker
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 10:07

    “Richards is president and chief executive officer of Penstar Group, a Fresno-based developer.”


    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Perhaps he can bring a PPP perspective to the table.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, with a stake in a business that will lose out in the event of a PPP just for the sake of PPP, one would hope he would push for a deal that benefits the state, and not just the private partner.

    James Fujita Reply:

    A quick Google search: Richards’ name and Penstar Group shows up in a document on alternative transportation in Fresno (2004): “The project by Richards and Kashian represents one of the first attempts, perhaps even the first, to build housing in a mixed-use setting in Fresno. The housing-over-retail component of the project will represent an important test case in the local market.”

    I don’t remember how that project turned out, but the fact that they attempted mixed-use development in sprawling Fresno is a good sign.

    More recently, they purchased a bank office tower in downtown Fresno.

    Given that the first Cal HSR line will have a station in Fresno, it might not be a bad thing to have a Fresno developer in the mix. There will be room for shops, stores or something on the lower floors of that viaduct HSR station.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Oh sure, the word “developer” in California is about as popular as “teabagger”. But actually Richards might be a canny pick for two reasons. One, he’s a big donor to Jim Costa, even though he is a registered Republican. Two, he’s repeatedly navigated Fresno’s public finance system to get projects built and subsidized. To that end, he’s probably going to get the city of Fresno to pony up more money in different areas which will become the model for local participation with HSR.

    Of course, with developers, there’s always the chance of a white elephant….but seems like someone like Richards at least is a good fit for the Authority Board.

    James Fujita Reply:

    I’m hoping to see plenty of development at the HSR stations. Both near the station and at the station itself.
    Kyoto station is a bit much, but it certainly is impressive, with plenty of shops and restaurants. Even Shinagawa had a department store. Just getting Famima!! was a huge improvement for Los Angeles Union Station.

    Train stations ought to be gathering places

  3. Data Girl
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 10:52

    Richards is not replacing Fran Florez; she is a Senate Rules Committee appointee. Richards replaces either Diridon or Schenk whose terms have expired and who are both governor appointees. Most likely Schenk has been replaced—she served in Brown’s prior administration as a dept. head, and was chief of staff for Gov Grey Davis. Since the November election, she’s been quoted widely about Brown’s transition activities, etc. More than likely, she’s headed to the Brown administration and Gov. Arnold picked a replacement for her.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Thanks. From what I have heard, it may indeed be Diridon, but I’m still checking to confirm.

    Howard Reply:

    Does this mean that Jerry Brown still gets one appointment right after he takes office?
    How long are their terms? When will Gov Brown get to re-appoint or replace them?

    Data Girl Reply:

    It appears Governor Brown could appoint one more immediately and another in 2013. And all of these three in 4 years on Dec 31, 2014. Officially, terms are for four years. However, board members can continue after their terms expire and until the appointing person/group replaces them. There are three appointing groups. Governor appoints 5, Senate Rules committee appoints two. Speaker of the Assembly appoints two. With regards to governor’s appointments: Rod Diridon’s term expired Dec 2009, Lynn Schenk’s expired in 2004 according to all paperwork I have found online. David Crane will expire in Dec 2013.

  4. Spokker
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 10:59

    Off topic, but I can’t help but think about high speed rail and whether or not we’ll see security theater.

    The current climate is still fairly lax but I’m seeing an increasing amount of random bag checks and photographers being harassed by private security guards for taking pictures. I was harassed just the other day on a local light rail system.

    I got the whole treatment from “We’re not trying to give you a hard time” to “If you don’t delete that we’ll have you taken away in handcuffs” to “This is about homeland security.” The system actually had no photography policy to speak of. It’s not even in the ordinance that governs behavior on the light rail system.

    As such, I believe there is a direct correlation between increased security theater shenanigans and decreased ridership due to 1) the increased time it takes perform security theater (I was detained for about 10 minutes and almost missed a connection) and 2) the humiliation endured when being questioned, threatened and intimidated (I had to sit there in public while being berated for engaging in a lawful act).

    The system is years away from even beginning to be constructed, but I’m really worried where transit in going in regard to security. If I am threatened for lawfully taking photos on or near a high speed train, fuck it, I’ll never ride again. I don’t mind being questioned politely and saying, “Oh I’m a fan of trains.” and being left alone.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Of course there’s correlation, Spokker – Amtrak isn’t gaining mode share on the airlines in the Northeast because of its good quality of service.

    But I don’t think there’s going to be anything remotely like airline-style security theater on HSR. Worst case scenario is that there will be a very short, non-humiliating security theater, where you have to pass through a metal detector and put your bags through an X-ray machine, without taking shoes off or standing in long lines. All access to train stations in Israel is so controlled at the entrance, and it takes less than a minute. There’s also such minute-long theater in China. Neither is a big deal the way airport security theater is.

    Spokker Reply:

    Being harassed for taking pictures is humiliating, and that’s already happening on transit. I may not have been arrested (they threatened it), but others have been for not deleting photos, continuing to take pictures, etc. Some have even been awarded settlements for wrongful arrest. This is despite the fact that photography is not illegal and this even happens in cases where the transit agency has sent out memos saying, yes, photography is absolutely permitted on the transit system.

    Mad Park Reply:

    Interestingly, I’ve seen less recently of “security” goons bothering rail and transit photographers here in the NW – maybe I’ve been lucky. Regardless, Spokker’s experience shows that photographers can be bothered at any time on any system. Know the rules and regulations of the system you are visiting, and always remember to carry a copy of

    Spokker Reply:

    This system has no rules and regulations about photography, at least any that are publicly distributed.

    The system is NCTD Sprinter if you want to try for yourself.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Cops humiliate people just because they can; this doesn’t require security theater for the general population. Again let’s look at Israel, where train travel has next to no security controls, and yet the police loves abusing everyone who isn’t Jewish and gets away with it.

    Spokker Reply:

    These weren’t police. These were armed private security guards hired by the transit agency.

    James Fujita Reply:

    it’s really as much a training problem as it is a rules problem. They could solve the rules problem if they would just create the rule and POST it, saying that photography was allowed, unless it violated some other safety or security issue.

    The rest is more: do they hire people who have behavioral problems? Who watches the watchmen?

    And again: this is really completely separate from keeping terrorists off trains.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In the US, the rules go in the opposite direction. Under pressure from police departments, some state legislatures have made it illegal to photograph cops, making all evidence obtained by photographing cops inadmissible in court.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Well, that’s just stupid. And again, it’s a completely separate issue from the issue of photographing trains.

    However, rail fans and photographers also have champions in court and their own pressure group: the ACLU. For certain religious groups, ACLU is a swear word, but they have consistently fought for photographers’ rights.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Well, not all security is created equal. To my way of thinking, photographer harassment should be a completely separate issue from all that other stuff. Bomb-sniffing dogs, not a problem. X-ray machines at the fare gates, I’ll show up earlier and visit the station bookstore while I wait.

    But photography should be a right which should only be limited to the degree that the photographer is being a jerk or putting himself or others in danger.

    Leroy W. Demery, Jr Reply:

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve been “profiled” as “a-rab,” “moose-lim,” “turkey” (might be some truth to that one …) and so forth. Ha, ha. However … all that ceased to be funny on the day after September 10, 2001.

    (I have actually been mistaken “for” Arab “by” Arabs, in a convenience store very close to the northern terminal of Tacoma Link … ah, well …)

    There is a possible “counter-move” against security guards in the situation “Spokker” described – but the number of people willing to use it is probably “not large.”

    You call 911 on your cell phone (carried in plain sight) and start talking. “Armed men … wearing what look like security guard uniforms … they’re claiming that I broke a rule that I know does not exist … I have concerns about my personal safety … I suspect that these men might be impostors and that this might be a robbery attempt … ”

    But not too many people would be willing to do this. I’ve been, um, “armed and ready,” but have not had to “follow through” just yet.

    I do have an advantage – as outlined above – which I have used on a couple of unsuspecting cops. California has a law that explicitly forbids “racial profiling” by “peace officers.” The “penalty” (or “remedy”) – don’t laugh too hard – is diversity training (which must be an annoyance). Furthermore, the state law establishing procedures for complaints against peace officers stipulates that the complaint must remain in the officer’s file for a specified interval (five years, if I remember clearly).

    One complaint, big deal. “Several” complaints, and the officer might (“might”) miss out on the next promotion. Or two.

    On a related topic, which some find embarrassing or inappropriate: In this country, it is legal – and has always been so – for a mother to breast feed her child, in any location where she may lawfully be present with that child. The number of states where complaints about harassment have compelled legislatures to enact laws reaffirming this: 47, and counting. Hmmm …

    Finally, for “Spokker:” several years back, a man taking photos in a Muni Metro station was harassed by a trio of SFPD cops, including one whose conduct (as described in the “Chronicle”) raised significant questions about her judgement. However … the gentleman was a semi-professional photographer, and was well versed in photographer’s rights, organization, publicity and so forth. He put together a “shoot-in” – a well-publicized event where people descended upon Muni and took photos to their heart’s content. He drafted, and sent, a letter to the city which – pointedly – did not ask for permission, but merely advised “the powers that be” of the planned date.

    Some weeks later, at a Muni Metro station, I watched a pair of SFPD cops look on as one young woman filmed another with a videocam, boarding the train. I tried not to laugh, and succeeded, but that was a struggle for a Cold-war era fossil like myself. You see, the two women weren’t speaking English … they were speaking … Russian.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    This has been a sore spot with some members of the railfan community, and has lead to a number of articles in Trains magazine and the discussions noted below from the magazine’s own forum:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A bit more:

    I have to admit to not following this much as I have not been much into photography in recent years (partially expense, partially lack of time, partially new equipment not having the interest of old–including not enough steam excursions!)–but as can be noted, plenty of others have had problems, and thankfully, there are some railfans among law enforcement, including a couple in fairly high positions.

    Still, we should not have to rely on just luck or fate for a modicum of respect.

  5. datacruncher
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 11:24

    A Fresno resident addition is probably good given the first segment is centered on Fresno. Richards will likely add needed regional and political knowledge and support as that section moves closer to construction.

    A little more I found on Richards.

    Richards’ Fancher Creek project seems to be a form of a TOD project that will serve as the terminus of Fresno’s BRT route that will run east from the HSR station to the eastern city limits.

    He seems active in other things besides development and the Workforce Board too. Tom Richards donated $500,000 to start the construction of Terry’s House near Fresno’s downtown medical center. Named for his brother, Terry’s House opens next week and will be similiar to a Ronald McDonald House but is located near the only level 1 trauma and burn centers between LA and Sac to help families from across Central California.

    He is also chairman of Fresno’s First Steps Home (transitional housing for homeless) and the city’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness committee.

    It also looks like last year Penstar bought the old Bank of Italy building in Fresno, about 3 or 4 blocks from the station site. That is a historic Renaissance Revival building that was neglected and kept empty by a previous out-of-town owner. Some great pictures here:

  6. Elizabeth
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 11:30

    Here are the board members and the details about their appointments:

  7. Elizabeth
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 15:55

    We have posted more info on our site, including verification that it is Diridon that is off -

    thatbruce Reply:

    nifty link

  8. Bret
    Jan 3rd, 2011 at 11:41

    An appointment of a Fresno-area developer should put some worry into Merced and Kern County over the HMF when that decision comes up for grabs.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Merced’s slim chances of getting the HMF were already sealed

    Bret Reply:

    I agree that Merced’s chances have dwindled, but as a Kern County resident, it certainly causes some trepidation here to see a Fresno-area member on the Board. Granted, we have Fran Florez as a Kern representative, but I guess only time will tell how this all plays out.

    James Fujita Reply:

    right. because having Curt Pringle as the chair of the whole thing really helped pull the first HSR tracks to Anaheim.

    Bret Reply:

    Well, unless the Federal Goverment steps in a dictates where the HMF has to go like it did with the first segment, I’d say that Fresno having a rep on the Board could make a difference.

    James Fujita Reply:

    All things considered, it might be better if the federal government stepped in. The Central Valley met the federal government’s rules and requirements much better than Anaheim did.

    I’d much rather have the maintenance yard be decided by who had the best plan, who was best for Cal HSR rather than by political horse-trading. Having a Fresno representative on the board might make a difference, or it might not. Pringle was in a much more powerful position than any of the new appointees will be.

    Tom Richards’ expertise would appear to be in urban redevelopment and real estate, which would be perfect for making the Fresno HSR station into the central focus point that it needs to be.

    Bret Reply:

    I certainly hope you’re right. Let the best site/plan win, and not be chosen due to politics and attempts to buy favor.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    When is the decision going to be made? There is no pressing reason to make the decision on the maintenance center during Richard’s term, while there is going to be a need to finalize plans and break ground in Fresno.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Just to flag that is not reporting on an event but summarizing the conclusion of an argument ~ an argument which only notes supporting points and ignores a wide range of qualifiers, leading to an overstated conclusion.

    Indeed, the kind of argument which CARRD would roundly criticize if it appeared in an official CHSRA document.

    Bret Reply:

    Did she use her own opinion to support her own opinion? I didn’t realize we could do that. If that’s the case, I think the HMF should go to Kern County, and if you need support for that, just ask me.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I’d assume she thought that people who clicked through would be compelled to agree with the brilliant argument. The fact that there is no knowing the net capital cost and capitalized operating cost impact of the various proposals are going to be until rival plans are draw up and submitted is conveniently overlooked ~ indeed, the prospective influence of a franchise winner in the event of a one of the franchise systems being picked as the business model is also overlooked.

  9. Mike
    Jan 3rd, 2011 at 12:50

    While it’s true that Rod Diridon has a long association with transportation and in that sense his departure from the Board is a loss, I think it’s also true that he would have been hard-pressed to add a whole lot of Board value going forward. Two reasons: first, he’s something of a lightning rod on the Peninsula and so has to keep a very low profile locally. Second, he has already accomplished what he most cared about, namely getting the alignment to San Jose.

    The greater disappointment is that Diridon wasn’t replaced by a more effective Bay Area representative; the region is now left with only Kopp and Crane, neither of whom are particularly good advocates for the Bay Area

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