State Senate to Hold Hearing on HSR in Mountain View on March 13
The three State Senate Democrats who have been the most wobbly on high speed rail – potentially siding with Tea Party Republicans instead of with their governor and their president – are holding a hearing on the project in Mountain View on Tuesday, March 13. From an email sent by Senator Joe Simitian:
The proposal for a High-Speed Rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles presents California with one of our most consequential decisions in years. As Chair of the Senate Budget Subcommittee #2, which oversees transportation spending, I hope to gather as much information as possible to help the Legislature make wise choices on whether or how to proceed. That is why I am holding a State Senate Information Hearing on March 13 at 7 p.m. in Mountain View.
I would like to encourage you to attend. In addition to testimony from state officials and others, the hearing will include a public comment period open to attendees. It is critical that legislators and High-Speed Rail officials hear from the public on this issue.
Joining me at this hearing will be:
• Senator Alan Lowenthal, (D-Long Beach) chair of the Senate Select Committee on High-Speed Rail
• Senator Mark DeSaulnier, (D-Concord) chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee
WHAT: State Senate Informational Hearing on High-Speed Rail
WHEN: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 7:00 PM
WHERE: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
Lowenthal is the Southern California Democrat who wants to go to Congress, where his future colleagues strongly support the HSR project. But Lowenthal has been one of the project’s most consistent opponents. His stance has begun to raise eyebrows among Southern California Democrats – this post about Lowenthal’s HSR stance, which originally appeared on this blog, has been getting shared widely among Southern California Democrats. Lowenthal will have a lot of explaining to do if he sides with the Tea Party to destroy California’s high speed rail project.
Simitian, who represents Mountain View until this December, has also been echoing Tea Party talking points, suggesting that California behave like right-wing governors Scott Walker and Rick Scott in rejecting federal HSR funds:
“Whether they are federal funds or not, they should be used wisely,” Simitian said. “Whenever someone tries to hustle you into a quick decision, that should give you pause. I feel like we’re getting jammed by the threat of losing the federal funds.”
As he points out, the state should not “make a $100 billion mistake to save $3 billion” from Washington.
For Simitian to call President Obama and Governor Brown hustlers is pretty strong language. It’s offensive and does not indicate any desire to solve problems constructively, which is the attitude that ought to be taken.
DeSaulnier is an interesting one. He is usually much more sensible than the anti-HSR Simitian and Lowenthal. I’ve speculated in the past that DeSaulnier is more interested in bringing some HSR money to urban areas, which the California High Speed Rail Authority intends to do. So we will see whether he follows Simitian and Lowenthal down the anti-HSR rabbit hole or maintains a more sensible posture.
Some HSR critics want to reject the notion that legislators have only two choices – follow the Tea Party and oppose HSR funding or follow Obama and Brown and support it. They claim they want HSR but want to modify the project in one way or another. If they actually believed that, then they would be siding with Obama and Brown. The California High Speed Rail Authority, working with the governor’s office and the Obama Administration, has been making a series of adjustments to the project to address concerns. They’ve been repairing relationships in the Central Valley. On the Peninsula, the CHSRA did adopt Simitian’s proposed “blended” proposal to run HSR trains over two tracks along the Caltrain corridor in the short-term while plans for more tracks are developed over time.
In fact, there really are only two choices here. Either you want HSR built or you don’t. If you want it built, then you will be willing to work together to solve problems. Obama, Brown and the CHSRA are clearly interested in doing so. If, however, you’d rather make up evidence-free attacks and continue claiming that somehow the project won’t pan out financially or that nobody will ride it, and persist in trying to deny it funding in 2012 rather than solving problems, then you’re clearly not interested in building HSR and would rather side with the Tea Party.
Of course, this all raises the question of whether Simitian is an honest actor here. The CHSRA gave him his blended proposal and yet he’s still lobbing grenades at the project. In fact, he’s bringing this hearing to the Peninsula, where NIMBYism is pretty strong. Simitian may be hoping to get a strong anti-HSR turnout to use as justification for voting to kill the HSR project by denying it funding.
That means HSR advocates need to make a strong showing at this hearing. Our voices need to be heard early and often. Don’t let the NIMBYs or the opponents dominate this. Don’t let Simitian and Lowenthal claim that the hearing found only opponents. Don’t let the media show up and file stories claiming supporters were outnumbered. This is an opportunity to show these wavering Senators that California still backs HSR. Don’t let it go to waste.