Anti-HSR Initiative Cleared for Circulation

Mar 19th, 2012 | Posted by

The Republican-backed effort to kill the California high speed rail project has been cleared for circulation – but don’t expect to see any petitions at a strip mall near you anytime soon:

Republicans Doug LaMalfa, who’s running for Congress, and former Congressman George Radanovich, who are behind the effort to derail the rail project, must collect signatures of 504,760 registered voters – the number equal to 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in order to qualify it for the ballot.

Under state law, they’ve got until Aug. 13 to round up the necessary signatures.

The last initiative to qualify for the ballot in California using purely volunteer signature gathering efforts was in 1986 when an English-only initiative qualified. Since then, some amount of paid signature gathering has been used to get initiatives on the ballot. Unless you’re able to fund signature gathering, you’re unlikely to make it.

The cost is not cheap. In order to ensure you have enough signatures that qualify, you want to gather a lot more signatures than you need to qualify in order to overcome the error rate. For the anti-HSR folks, they’d need at least 750,000 signatures, maybe more.

As the election draws nearer, the cost per signature rises. Sponsors are lucky to get $1 per signature – as the deadline nears the rate can rise to $2 or $3 per signature. That’s going to be $1.5 million or $2.25 million just to put an initiative on the ballot.

From there the obstacles only grow. The initiative would require a yes vote to pass, but it’s harder to get yes votes than no votes. Voters tend to default to “no” if they aren’t sure about a proposal, and sowing doubt is pretty easy with an initiative.

The only way to avoid that is to outspend the other side. If an anti-HSR initiative did make the ballot, one can bet that unions, contractors, developers, and urban businesses would spend money to protect the HSR project. So anti-HSR forces would need to raise another $10 to $20 million just to be competitive, primarily with TV ads.

Right now, none of that money has materialized – either to get the initiative on the ballot or to fund a campaign to pass it. If that money did materialize, then we’d have a battle on our hands. Until it does, however, this is just Doug LaMalfa trying to screw with California’s future again. Worth keeping an eye on just in case.

  1. Jerry
    Mar 19th, 2012 at 22:23

    So is the first initiative (the No Train Please Act by Seidel) still hanging out there for signatures also?

  2. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 19th, 2012 at 22:54

    Don’t be too complacent about the opposition not getting signatures. They have been quite successful at raising doubts about the project, largely with a currently bum economy. They will also likely have some support from anti-rail businesses, such as car dealers, car insurance agents, and of course, the oil business. You can bet that bunch, particularly the last one, has money available for this, and will use it.

    A couple of million bucks, spread over two or three oil companies, is nothing at all.

  3. morris brown
    Mar 19th, 2012 at 22:57

    Although I would love to see this initiative be able to gather the signatures and send it to the voters, where the. by now apparent strong oppositon. to this boondoggle of a HSR project would die, I don’t believe they will be able to get the job done.

    As noted, there is the funds problem, and we have seen no indication that they have the funds necessary to gether the signatures. Maybe Senator LaNmalfa is lying in the weeds and indeed has the resources; just a bit of time should tell.

    But there is another deadline that must be met in order to get it on the Nov 6 2012 ballot.

    They must be able to gather and submit the signature 131 days before the electin date. That workds out to June 28th in order to qualify for the next election ballot.


    (c) The Secretary of State shall then submit the measure at the next general election held at least 131 days after it qualifies or at any special statewide election held prior to that general election. The Governor may call a special statewide election for the measure.

    So the time element is much shorter than Robert states in his article. If they are able to gather the signatures but not before June 28th, but before August 13th, then the initiative would appear on the next general election ballot, which wouln’t be until Nov 2014 (unless a special election were called — not likely)

    The governor is trying to get a new ballot amendment to raise taxes, and needs 8% of the voters or over 800,000 signatures plus a margin, (well over 1 million signatures), and he does not yet have S.O.S. clearance. He probably won’t be able to meet the Novermber’s election , even with all the funds he can garner.

    James in PA Reply:

    It is not a boondoggle until Richard’s nightmares come true. If they build it right it is an efficient transportation system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What happens if the initiative passes in 2014 but the funds have already been committed and construction already begun?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Ever see the film Brewster’s Millions?

    Peter Reply:

    Then California and the federal government spent a lot of money on nothing whatsoever. And then California gets to repay a lot of money to the federal government. Money that has already been spent…

    VBobier Reply:

    Well then someone should be out there with flyers disseminating the truth, that HSR is opposed by Big Oil who brings High Gas prices(they expect Ya to pay & pay…), with thoughtless Nimbys who selfishly & ironically are helping to make sure Big Oil has plenty of customers… Of course without HSR Caltrain won’t get any of the necessary upgrades that it needs, unless someone does something about its funding & support, which is not too likely yet.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Daniel Krause said the same in reply to another post of mine although he also said that in practice they would need to get the signatures to the Secretary by April to get certified.

    Brsk Reply:

    Dead petition crawling…

    From the text, “April 20, 2012 – Last day for proponent(s) to file the petition with county elections officials.

    May 2, 2012 – Last day for county elections officials to complete raw count totals and certify raw numbers to the Secretary of State.

    May 11, 2012 – Last day for Secretary of State to receive raw count totals from each county elections official, determine whether the initiative petitions meet the minimum signature requirement, generate the random sample, and notify each county elections official of the results.

    June 25, 2012 – Last day for county elections officials to verify and certify results of the random sampling of signatures to the Secretary of State.

    June 28, 2012 (E-131) – Last day for Secretary of State to determine whether the measure qualifies for the ballot or 100% signature verification is necessary. At this point, if a 100% signature verification were necessary, it would not qualify for the November 6, 2012, General Election ballot.”

    HAHAHA they are goin’ to get how MANY signatures in ONE month? HAHAHA!!!

    Brsk Reply:

    Even better if they use the “full count” procedure!

    “March 2, 2012 – Last day for proponent(s) to file the petition with county elections officials.

    March 14, 2012 – Last day for county elections officials to complete raw count totals and certify raw numbers to the Secretary of State.”

    Ooopppss!!! That was last week! And the signature gathering hadn’t even started!
    That’s no way to run a railroad… Oh yeah, these clowns are the ones that are afraid of trains. Booo!

    Too late, too bad. Sssoooo SAD!


  4. Roger Christensen
    Mar 19th, 2012 at 23:28

    Screw this shit.
    Let’s take a moment to reflect on something truly glorious.
    Today the Metro released the Final EIR/EIS of the Wilshire subway extension. Nine more miles and seven more stations that will truly transform Los Angeles. Many of us have waited more than fifty years for this. Our hearts were broken many times. And in 1998 it was supposedly doomed forever.

    Not today. And the announced station decisions are awesome. Right in the middle of Century City. Right at the corner of Wilshire and Westwood with portals on both the north and south sides of Wilshire. Wow.
    When those HSR trains (or connecting Metrolink) arrive at Union Station, you can take the subway to Westwood in 25 minutes or light rail to Santa Monica in 45.

    And the first segment is going to be La Cienega not Fairfax.
    Great great news!

    slackfarmer Reply:

    One of the best things about this project: there will be no parking added. “Metro is not planning on building any parking lots or garages at any of the seven stations along the Westside Subway Extension . . . all of the stations are served by multiple bus lines.”

  5. Peter Baldo
    Mar 20th, 2012 at 10:47

    This referendum might not be such a bad idea. It’s now obvious that no private company is going to volunteer to negotiate with the towns and farmers along the route, and fight their unending lawsuits, and deal with real and imagined environmental problems. No private company wants to get mixed up in America’s culture wars, which have now spread to mass transit. The best that can be hoped for from the private sector is private companies will pay to run their trains on the public roadbed.

    So the public will probably have to authorize the sale of another $10 Billion in bonds to match the federal $ needed to complete construction of Phase I. This is still a good deal for California. If the public decides to continue with the project, knowing what they now know, the additional bond authorization will probably be forthcoming. And maybe, at long last, the two political parties will work together and get this built.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Why would a private company have to negotiate about any construction issues? The Authority would be taking the lead on construction. All a private company would need to do is provide funding for further construction as part of its contract to operate HSR.

    StevieB Reply:

    If a private company pays to run trains on the initial operating segment it will pay a fee up front to collect fares for a period of time. That fee of perhaps $20 million can be used to match federal grants to complete Phase 1.

    Jonathan Reply:

    million, billion, what’s three orders of magnitude between friends?

  6. J. Wong
    Mar 20th, 2012 at 11:23

    Actually, Robert, I think you discount the risk of a repeal if the initiative managed to get on the November 2012 ballot. With the negative drumbeat of press the HSR project has been getting, I think it would be an uphill battle to get a “no” vote.

    On the other hand given turn out, the 2012 election might make it easier to defeat the initiative while an off-year 2014 election might make it easier to pass. Still, it looks hopeful that the initiative won’t be on the 2012 ballot, and once funds are disbursed and construction starts it will be much harder to pass the initiative.

    synonymouse Reply:

    LaMalfa and his friends in the relatively non-corporate GOP know full well this initiative will not qualify as the requirements have been set too high to quash the notion that the little people can have any input whatsoever in the running of government. The initiative process is effectively only available to the affluent, the corps, and the unions. The elite used the ruse of keeping out crackpot props.

    But LaMalfa and co. need to do something to stay on the radar, for the same reason patronage machine hacks keep cranking out nanny laws in the Legislature. They have to look busy. And LaMalfa has one thing on his side which can make losing fun – he is right. The CHSRA scheme is crap and will be on permanent taxpayer-subsidized life support for the duration, just like BART and Amtrak.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Oh, really? This would be news to the proponents of Prop 8, and the interests who got Prop 23 onto the ballot. (The last, admittedly, got lots of corporate dollars.)

    Guess Synon really does live in a different world.

    synonymouse Reply:

    500,000 registered voters is excessive. Who cares if a few loonytunes props get mixed in with the more substantial measures. It makes voting more interesting. The voters are much smarter than the pols anyway.

    Yes, indeed, I do inhabit a parallel universe, wherein Tejon-I5, Altamont would have been adopted by acclamation several years ago and mining the Quantm tunnels would already be underway. The Chandlers would be trumpeting how great it is going to be to have hsr down on the Ranch. Palmdale would be excited at the prospect of being on an an electrified regional “reseau” and the UP would be studying cantenary on the 99 trackage, with guvmint financial aid offered.

    Caltrain would be electrified to the TBT and BART utterly and supinely repentant of its past multitude of sins, replete with a lengthy mea culpa and a repudiation of Bechtel and all its works.

    It is a happy world characterized by a modicum of competance.

    synonymouse Reply:

    except for misspelling competence.

  7. morris brown
    Mar 20th, 2012 at 18:16

    More on Honolulu’s rail boondoggle:

    synonymouse Reply:

    Steel wheel tech on hollow core aerials is too noisy and blighting for a tourist area. Either spend the money for a surface ROW or go to rubber tire or how ’bout the Chinese cheap slower version of maglev?

Comments are closed.