A “Watershed Moment” For HSR?

Oct 26th, 2011 | Posted by

That’s what HSR critic Senator Joe Simitian told the San Mateo Daily Journal about next week’s release of the latest Business Plan by the California High Speed Rail Authority:

“This is a watershed moment for high-speed rail,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. “After three years, the public is expecting some good answers to some obvious questions like what is the cost and how will it be paid.”

Unfortunately, anti-HSR Assemblymember Jerry Hill is already wanting to throw in the towel:

“It lacked credibility from beginning to end,” Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said about the 2008 business plan. “Every estimate has been off, way off.”

If the update to the business plan is unsatisfactory, Hill said, it might be time to drop support for the project.

“If the project has changed drastically in scope and magnitude, then voters may need to revisit it,” he said.

Hill obviously has never heard of the independent peer review of the ridership numbers, which found them to be sound. He obviously prefers to pick and choose which facts to believe and which to ignore; he has no real credibility of which to speak.

That last line is a giveaway that Hill is opposed to the HSR project on principle. If it were merely a question of cost, then one solution is to press the pause button and figure out how to get more funding. Increase the state gas tax or vehicle license fees to pay for a wide range of rail projects? Increase the size of the bond? Or wait until 2013 when, one hopes, the House of Representatives is no longer under the control of a group of extremists determined to destroy the economy?

Because that is the real issue here. California’s HSR project is basically stuck, like everything else in this country, as the federal government is mired in paralysis caused by the radical Republicans who control the House. America’s jobs crisis, our worsening inequality, our health care and environmental problems, our education needs – all of these are being badly neglected because House Republicans have decided that destroying the middle-class and giving more money and power to the rich is their only priority.

Hill and Simitian are doing the right-wing’s work by blaming the Authority for problems that are being created 3000 miles away. They both appear willing to sacrifice a key element of California’s transportation future and our fight against global warming because they are too scared to stand up and fight Republicans.

The contrast with the protestors in the streets of virtually every major American city is instructive. Because political leaders like Hill and Simitian have totally failed to provide leadership for a better future, preferring to instead accept a failed status quo and criticize people who are trying to make things better, young Americans have little other choice but to take to the streets to demand the changes that the weak politicians refuse to deliver.

That’s not to say Hill and Simitian should refrain from making criticisms when needed. But what is needed is a spirit of problem-solving. If there are problems, figure out how to fix them so the project can move forward. America does not have the luxury of just throwing in the towel and accepting failure.

  1. Tony D.
    Oct 26th, 2011 at 21:36
    #1

    Excellent post Robert! If it were not for the GOP/Tea Drunk zealots in Washington, this project would be full go! Also, as I mentioned in a previous thread, those opposed to this project will continue with their GOP-like lies, talking points of the authority lacking credibility, the business plan is unsatisfactory, no one will ride this thing, blah blah blah. Heck, again, they’re probably already salivating over the release on November 1, talking points at the ready!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If not for the Tea Party hacks, California would have a few billion dollars less money (though it probably would’ve gotten more in a second round of funding, which may have been enough to compensate). The administration would’ve still prioritized Florida, as a self-contained fully-funded line with multiple consortia willing to absorb the risk of cost overruns and operating losses.

    joe Reply:

    If FL had a project then the attempts to kill HSR would be undermined. The fact we’re going it alone is exactly why Mica was able to attack HSR funding.

    That is to say, it’s bad, very bad to have other projects cut.

  2. joe
    Oct 26th, 2011 at 21:50
    #2

    That’s not to say Hill and Simitian should refrain from making criticisms when needed. But what is needed is a spirit of problem-solving. If there are problems, figure out how to fix them so the project can move forward. America does not have the luxury of just throwing in the towel and accepting failure.

    Where and how will the Peninsula grow and add jobs and keep traffic congestion from worsening?

    I see no solution to their over constrained problem of pleasing any and every group while doig nothing to upset anyone. Just trying to get past the next election cycle and scapegoat HSR for the dismal state of Caltrain.

    Even in South County Santa Clara, HW 101 is congesting after a adding 2 lanes about 10 years ago.

    Along 101 in the Peninsula, Facebook & Google are expanding and adding employees.

  3. JJJ
    Oct 26th, 2011 at 23:27
    #3

    I disagree that the project is in anyway stuck. Let’s not forget how long it takes for projects like this to happen. It’s moving at a speed which any project of its kind would move at.

    Remember, construction can start as planned in 2012, and it would take years for the existing money to run out. Meanwhile, the 2013, 2014, 2015 etc Houses can allocate more Monday.

    And don’t forget, the 2012 budget includes a lovely $100m. Some of which will obviously head our way. $50 million may not seem like much for a project that costs $45 billion…..but that’s still $50 million worth of contracts that get to be sent out (plus matching funds)

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Yeah the 2012 rhetoric is going to get pretty hot in here I assume as we approach the election. Transportation policy in this country is only going to get more batshit as more people fight for fewer dollars….

    synonymouse Reply:

    Both Democrats and Republicans are talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare; do you really think funding for Borden to Corcoran is a done deal?

    Peter Reply:

    I dunno about Borden to Corcoran, but Fresno to Bakersfield is in pretty good shape. ;)

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I hear Charlie Manson is upset that he will have to hear the sound of trains whizzing by his cell…

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh too bad, Maybe He’ll hang Himself…

    VBobier Reply:

    Syno If they do try to cut Social Security, I very much doubt Democrats will do that, Repugs on the other hand, sure(but If You don’t tell your elected Reps that Ya don’t want Social Security cut, then how are they going to know how Ya feel?), the elected officials will be signing their own defeat at the polls, as it will be electoral open season…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    With people in the streets of every major American city, I would love to see Congress try and make those cuts. Occupy Congress would happen almost immediately, and then we would see something resembling an outright revolt in this country.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This may in fact happen. The level of insanity and stupidity among established politicians has reached a record high. Well, a high not seen since the 1850s in the US, and not seen since the 1930s in Europe — so it’s not *really* a record.

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 27th, 2011 at 04:35
    #4

    “. . .They both appear willing to sacrifice a key element of California’s transportation future and our fight against global warming because they are too scared to stand up and fight Republicans.

    “The contrast with the protestors in the streets of virtually every major American city is instructive. Because political leaders like Hill and Simitian have totally failed to provide leadership for a better future, preferring to instead accept a failed status quo and criticize people who are trying to make things better, young Americans have little other choice but to take to the streets to demand the changes that the weak politicians refuse to deliver.”

    Yep, that describes the typically cowardly politicians I know.

    That’s why I’ve taken to calling the Democrats the Disappointicrats. No wonder the Repugnant Ones call’em “wimps.” They not only do not wish to really fight the (cough, cough) so-called “conservatives” (boy, have the Republicans ruined that name), but they are even afraid of their own constituents, not willing to work at convincing the public of things that need doing.

    Of course, in common with their opponents and as expressed by Drunk Engineer about our leadership in general, they are also technically incompetent, which doesn’t help matters.

    StevieB Reply:

    A conservative by definition is in favor of preserving existing conditions and opposed to innovation and change. It has always been a label embraced by those who are doing well under current conditions. How has the connotation of conservative changed in your opinion?

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    The more highbrow of traditional conservatives have liked Edmund Burke’s famous criticisms of the French Revolution as reckless and ideological. But looking at US “movement conservatives”, they seem much more like Maximilien Robespierre than Edmund Burke.

    If there’s anyone who’s Burkean, it’s Obama, with his cautious health-care plan that does not go as far as what some other nations have — it does not try to put the medical-insurance companies out of business, but regulates them and forces one to sign up with one of them.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Right-wingers these days seem to want to change things dramatically. They’re actually reactionaries, trying to create an idealized past which never was. Many of them believe in a theocracy (“Christian nation”) while many worship brainlessly at the altar of the so-called “free market”. They’re trying to undo all the social movements of the last 150 years. None of them are trying to preserve the status quo. They’re not conservative.

    Obama seems to be trying to preserve the status quo.

    We unfortunately need a party which is trying to change things for the better. This is why people are protesting in the streets — choosing between the status quo and turning the clock back to 1900 are stupid, unacceptable choices.

  5. Eric M
    Oct 27th, 2011 at 09:39
    #5

    High-speed rail an engine for economic vitality

    The comments will make you laugh too, when you see who they are by

    Peter Reply:

    Link doesn’t work.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    This one does

    Eric M Reply:

    I guess they moved the article address page and the comments were removed as well

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    See if this works, it has comments too (at least as I was able to get it):

    http://www.capitolweekly.net/article.php?_c=103hvqn95nzdk68&xid=103gp6ery6vdq3r&done=.103hvtp6sa6slbo

    morris brown Reply:

    Eric M.

    Your link doesn’t work (at least for me).

    You will find the article at:

    http://www.capitolweekly.net/article.php?_c=103gqnof1podhqq&1=1&xid=103gp6ery6vdq3r&done=.103gpzeny6fk4go&_credir=1319736247&_c=103gqnof1podhqq

    I don’t know the author, Julian Canete, who obviously know little if anything about the project. I didn’t find any comments at all.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Hmm, the comments come up here, too, you just have to scroll down to get them, or else they turned up later.

    Sometimes things are funny in cyberspace. . .

    Eric M Reply:

    I see those are the new comments. Kathy H. that write BS in the SF paper had a comment too

  6. morris brown
    Oct 27th, 2011 at 10:53
    #6

    At:

    http://www.calwatchdog.com/2011/10/27/high-speed-rail-spending-alert/

    NEW: High Speed Rail Spending Alert

    from Cal Watchdog, Assembly woman Diane Harkey unloads both barrels at the Authority and its “preview business plan”.

    Also noted in the article is the $65 million that the Authority is trying to sneak away without legislative oversight, which BTW, Robert, got a pretty cold reception from one of your favorite people, Mark Leno.

    ( see the letter of 10/25/11 from Leno to the Department of Finanace)

    Peter Reply:

    I contacted Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, for her reaction. Harkey, the Legislature’s high speed rail expert, was planning on attending the luncheon.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    VBobier Reply:

    Harkey, an expert? What at making people laugh?

    If she gets any real visibility Hay Leno and Company will make Her the butt of Jokes, which would serve Her right.

    VBobier Reply:

    Should be Jay Leno…

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Katy Grimes is CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist. Grimes has written columns for The Sacramento Union, The Washington Examiner, The San Francisco Examiner and The Sacramento Bee. Grimes has been an influential political blogger since 2004 and currently blogs at Townhall.com and The Sacramento Citizen.

    Robert, would you please do us a favor and delete Morris’s comment that purport to be news links that are in fact…hit pieces bankrolled by the Union Pacific’s Phillip Anschutz? This is propaganda, and if this is going to allowed then expect the rest of us to return the favor to Morris in kind….

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed, Robert please do something about Morris…

    James Reply:

    Better to keep an eye on Morris and be aware of and respond to the articles he brings. You should thank him for the service of providing reports on the opposition. Avoids preaching to the choir or worse, mowing straw-men all day like some radio stations and pundits do. :P

    Eric M Reply:

    All that is needed is for Robert to do this once a day, then click news and voila. Now just decide how far back in the news you want to go.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Morris has been around on the blog since 2008 – I find it useful for him to post here, as it’s an easy way of keeping track of what the opposition is thinking and saying.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I know, but seriously…this isn’t thought….but I understand.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ahh. I did say that was the only thing he was good for, oppo research.

  7. RisenMessiah
    Oct 27th, 2011 at 16:11
    #7

    Surface Transportation Board Grants Desert XPress Federal Exemption .

    And for junkies, here’s the link to the actual STB ruling.

    Enjoy your evening.

  8. Jeff Carter
    Oct 28th, 2011 at 04:34
    #8

    Hill and Simitian are voicing the concerns of their (small but vocal and well organized) constituents and their clueless city councils. The opposition constantly pushes their fear mongering lies and propaganda. This propaganda continues to sway the uneducated public. I have personally gotten emails and postal mailings telling of the dangers of HSR and the destruction it will cause, and to please write my elected representative… There seems to be no organized pro HSR efforts to counter all the anti-HSR propaganda.

    Has anyone asked Hill and Simitian the question: How has Belmont and San Carlos been destroyed by the Caltrain grade separation? How many homes and businesses were destroyed by it?

    Has anyone asked the Burlingame city council: Doesn’t the current Caltrain ROW separate/wall off Burlingame? After all it is a private ROW, off limits to the public, and separated from public eye through most of Burlingame, by trees and vegetation. I have posed this question to the Burlingame city council but they have never provided me with an answer.

  9. Reality Check
    Oct 28th, 2011 at 07:13
    #9

    Fun fact: Jerry Hill used to be a Republican. I think he switched parties mainly because being a Republican politician on the Peninsula is very career-limiting for anything above non-partisan city council seats.

    joe Reply:

    Funner Fact: He still is.

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