A “Watershed Moment” For HSR?
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.