Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton Joins Anti-HSR Chorus

Oct 11th, 2011 | Posted by

It should come as no surprise to read that the leading Republican in the California State Senate is making a move against the HSR project:

Senate minority leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said he aims to derail the multi-billion high speed rail project that would link Southern California with the Bay Area and Sacramento….

But critics of the plan, like Dutton, say the project would cost far more than originally projected. Dutton said he plans to introduce legislation to use funds intended for the project to instead construct local transportation projects around the state.

“This is gonna be the biggest boondoggle that anybody’s ever seen and we haven’t even scratched the surface with how much this thing’s gonna cost,” said Dutton in a meeting Tuesday of the editorial boards of the Daily Bulletin and The Sun. “This is going to be a big white elephant. It can’t sustain itself.”

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, said bipartisan skepticism about the project is growing. Huff said legislation is likely to be introduced in January when legislators return to Sacramento.

“Faster speeds from Anaheim to Los Angeles or L.A. to the High Desert would help people commute to work,” Huff said. “That concept makes a lot of sense.”

This isn’t really a new argument – it’s the Alan Lowenthal line of reasoning, that nobody will ride trains between LA and SF despite the mountains of evidence suggesting a lot of people will, and so the best thing to do is just spend the money piecemeal on local routes. Anaheim to LA and LA to the High Desert – via Palmdale and DesertXpress – are all parts of the existing HSR project. So you would think it makes sense to support building out an entire system, rather than just do small tiny pieces as Lowenthal and Dutton seem to want.

Because this isn’t a new argument, I’m not concerned about it posing a major problem to HSR in Sacramento. Support for the SF-LA project, as an initial phase of the complete HSR system proposal and as part of an overall effort to invest in passenger rail in California, remains strong among the Democratic majority.

Just as importantly, Governor Jerry Brown appears most interested in a statewide, systemic approach to rail planning. There’s been no indication at all that he is interested in the Lowenthal-Dutton approach of gutting the SF-LA spine. Instead he has strongly supported the current project even as he is taking a close look at its details.

Some HSR critics have hoped that the Legislature would force Brown to bend to their will on this project. But that certainly isn’t the way things have unfolded on anything else in Sacramento. Brown has shown a strong willingness to veto bills from the Legislature, rejecting 17% of the 563 bills sent to him since mid-September. If Brown doesn’t agree with Dutton and Lowenthal on gutting the HSR project for smaller, less effective spending on local projects, then it isn’t likely to happen.

Dutton, like Lowenthal, is termed out next year. His party has a small fringe role in state politics, unable to win statewide races and facing further loss of seats due to the end of the pro-Republican gerrymander of legislative districts done in 2001. Sacramento Republicans tend to overthrow their leaders in advance of their being termed out, so I would not expect Dutton to be the Minority Leader for very long in 2012. He would still exert some influence, and we know that Sacramento Republicans are a highly ideological group anyway. But on their own, they don’t have the power to block HSR in California. And they won’t be able to peel off enough Democratic votes to block HSR. Even if they did, Brown would veto any bill undermining the HSR project, and legislators rarely ever attempt to override a gubernatorial veto.

In the end, Dutton’s threat to the HSR project will prove empty. But it is a good reminder that anti-HSR attitudes remain dominant among California Republicans, in spite of evidence showing the project to be a good idea and in spite of the need to create jobs through sustainable infrastructure.

  1. Risenmessiah
    Oct 11th, 2011 at 22:36

    For the un-initiated:

    Dutton’s district includes the proposed Ed Roski NFL stadium in Industry. It received a waiver for CEQA but was stalled due to financing. Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and its eponymous owner who also owns Union Pacific recently got the Legislature to sponsor a bill to fast-track litigation for large projects in the state so that they could begin construction on a rival stadium downtown.

    Now, Roski’s camp is reeling and looking for a counter-attack. Urban L.A. transit advocates already have their cause celebres…but now Dutton will attempt to create his own to sabotage the downtown stadium….

  2. Ben
    Oct 12th, 2011 at 03:56
  3. Tony d.
    Oct 12th, 2011 at 08:42

    Playing devils advocate, I don’t necessarily see Duttons position as “anti-HSR.” His position is more akin to “we wont be getting enough money for the entire project as envisioned, so let’s use what we got to move folks in our urban areas.” On the surface, I agree with this position: if no further federal or private funding is seen coming our way for HSR, then we should “split” what we got and beef up commuter rail, transit in LA and the Bay Area. Hopefully we get full funding in the future and it doesn’t come down to considering HRS-light.

    Mike Reply:

    Robert is correct that Dutton’s bill is basically irrelevant, but I have a slightly different take on why it’s of any interest at all. And it’s not because it’s a reminder that California’s irrelevant political party opposes HSR. Rather, it’s interesting (to me) as another sign of a continuing effort by local officials in the LA region (not just Lowenthal, but LA MTA, OCTA, SCAG, etc.) to swipe the money from the Central Valley. See, for example:

    Southern California is trying to steal Valley’s high-speed rail money

    Michael D. Antonovich: Upgrading our existing lines is best rail idea

    I gather that the FRA has pretty forcefully closed the door on this idea. Perhaps these LA politicos think that they can create enough momentum that the FRA will be willing to change its mind, but I don’t see how the Central Valley and the Bay Area ever get on board.

    joe Reply:

    Rather, it’s interesting (to me) as another sign of a continuing effort by local officials in the LA region (not just Lowenthal, but LA MTA, OCTA, SCAG, etc.) to swipe the money from the Central Valley.

    Really it’s about the coastal urban ares trying to muscle away resources from the State and preserve the status quo.

    GOP wants to kill the projects which IMHO is going to force Dems to stop playing three stooges and slap each other for a small pie piece OR collaborate and build the size of the pie. That means stop fighting over funded projects and trying to break a project to steal a small piece.

    These are battles best fought behind closed doors and when a consensus is built – stick to it.

    Dems need to follow the Gov. and stop reinforcing GOP nihilism otherwise there isn’t going to be any funding. The Gov will veto their asses.

    VBobier Reply:

    That won’t happen. Not in this reality or in this state at least, get used to It, Repubs have no chance of killing or redirecting money for HSR to something else, Don’t like that? Bender in Futurama said It best: KMSMA…

    synonymouse Reply:

    The city of fallen angels dictated the Palmdale detour. Could be they might want their money back.

    As the unions are wont to chant, “Power, power, who’s got the power?” Up against LA region’s 20 million it sure ain’t Fresno. Jerry Brown can pose all he wants but LA can lean on him real hard. In the end the machine will have its way.

    VBobier Reply:

    Whoopee doo…

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    The 20 million number doesn’t matter… it’s the 28 number that does… as in 28 Congressmen reside in Southern California. With reapportionment, that is larger than any state’s delegation except Texas and California.

    The problem is that urban members are getting attacked on the fringes (literally) by those who want more connection to the urban cores while still being geographically separate. The guys who apparently beat up synonymouse as a kid naturally resist this because it’s a depredation of the urban core….

    Mike Reply:

    I’m not following you; how do 28 congressmen/women (all either powerless Democrats or hsr-hating Republicans) matter in a 435 member, teabagger-led House of Representatives? There’s only vote on hsr that would pass in the House, and that’s to defund the program.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    It’s called earmarking…which was done under a GOP controlled Congress and White House in the 2005 Transportation Bill. Projects that touch a lot of districts are less heartburn than those that don’t (see, supra “Bridge to Nowhere”)

    However, it’s equally true that Nancy Pelosi actually has more influence now that she did as Speaker because she can shepherd her bloc much more easily than before. (Fewer blue dog Democrats). Boehner and the other committee chairmen who didn’t get elected yesterday realize there needs to be compromise. But he can’t get the votes for much of anything, and is hoping that Wall Street tamps down the Tea Party antics after the euphoria wears off.

    VBobier Reply:

    Blue Dogs need to be on a tight leash or out of office, that goes double for Repugs…

  4. morris brown
    Oct 12th, 2011 at 14:11

    Former,CHSRA, director Katz blows off some steam and aims a lot of it at the Authority and the project.

    What is really clear, is his motive is to try, somehow, to get the funds moved to So. California. A similar effor to what Simitian/Gordon/Eshoo have tried to do in getting funds moved to the Peninsula.

    Its all about the money — it is all politics.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Wow, I’m speechless. Katz quit the board saying he was frustrated. That’s really insightful Morris….did you also know the sky is blue?

    Peter Reply:

    He needs to wait for a news article that supports his position before coming out and saying that the sky is blue.

    Spokker Reply:

    Katz is speaking the truth in that interview.

  5. morris brown
    Oct 12th, 2011 at 16:32

    King’s County Supes say no to county HSR routes :

    “After months of frustration dealing with plans proposed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, county supervisors said Tuesday they are ready to wash their hands of the whole project.

    Board members said no high-speed rail route through Kings County would be acceptable while denouncing the Authority and its Fresno-to-Bakersfield environmental impact report.”

    Wasn’t one of the major agreuments for strting in teh CV, that tere was little to no opposition. David Crane said at a meeting ” go where they love us”.

    Peter Reply:

    “King’s County Supes say no to county HSR routes”

    They don’t get a veto. A lawsuit was inevitable, anyway.

    Joe Reply:

    Stupid, if used as a negotiation tactic for leverage.

    Saying no for any route period means, as any parent knows, they lose influence over the decision.

    This is EXACTLY how the Dems dealt with the GOP on the budget.
    Since any tax increase was off the table, the Dem leadership froze the GOP out of all Budget planning.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep and that’s how You handle them, lack of service if they object. Show them how powerless they are.

    Howard Reply:

    Build a High Speed Train station at the Madera Amtrack Station instead of Hanford if Kings County does not want High Speed Rail. The Madera Amtrack Station site offers a great location for a direct San Joaquins transfer on the High Speed Train mainline from San Fransisco to Los Angeles (put off Merced to later).

    Spokker Reply:

    Why are we considering a Hanford or Madera station anyway?

    datacruncher Reply:

    That article also says part of the reasoning seems to be that Hanford/Kings County likes the 6 San Joaquins per day stopping in Hanford. They seem to think opposing HSR will preserve Amtrak service. Seems instead like opposing HSR might also lead to rail service not stopping in Kings County with the San Joaquins replaced by shuttle bus service to a HSR station outside the County, causing exactly what they say they fear.
    “Hanford city officials are expected to approve a letter to the Authority this week critical of the EIR. Though proposed rail routes don’t go through the city, Hanford officials are concerned about the possible loss of the Amtrak station if high-speed rail is built.”

    VBobier Reply:

    I’d fire back a letter stating, You(Hanford) oppose HSR and the replacement for the SJ will be no service and no shuttle service will be offered.

  6. datacruncher
    Oct 12th, 2011 at 18:24

    Fresno County Supervisors in today’s news:
    “Fresno County leaders acknowledge that constructing a statewide rail line for 220 mph trains will present inconveniences for the Valley – lost farmland, closed roads and noise. But they say it’s worth it. After a brief presentation to the Board of Supervisors by the California High-Speed Rail Authority on Tuesday, county supervisors reiterated their support for the project.”

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    ….and from the small Fresno County burg of Kingsburg comes the best nimby hysteria yet. According to the Kingsburg Recorder, the Mayor pro tem is expressing concerns about the “wind” effect of the fast trains. Kingsburg is FIVE MILES from the right-of-way.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Link (likely to be for a limited time):

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 12th, 2011 at 21:09

    Ran into this while looking for something else, and thought it might be interesting, if basic:

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