Who You Need to Call to Save California High Speed Rail
This week is the make or break week for the California high speed rail project. The legislature is still
likely to vote on the project in a few days’ time, probably on Thursday. If the voter-approved bond money is not released by the legislature, California will forfeit the federal stimulus money as it will be redistributed around the country. Governor Jerry Brown is pulling out all the stops, now planning to link HSR funding to other rail projects, according to Matier and Ross at the San Francisco Chronicle:
In a move some see as an attempt to round up badly needed “yes” votes for the project, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, are insisting on an “all or nothing” vote on both the $68 billion rail line and millions of dollars for local “connectivity” projects.
In the Bay Area, those connections include:
– $140 million for new BART cars.
– $105 million to modernize Caltrain.
– $61 million for San Francisco’s Central Subway.
– $46.5 million to improve the tracks on the Capital Corridor commute line between Oakland and San Jose.
High-speed rail needs 21 votes in the state Senate to get the green light to start spending voter-approved bonds in a major way.
So far, however, insiders say it’s falling short by at least six votes.
It should be appalling to all of us that the California State Senate, led by Democrats, would consider following the lead of Tea Party Republican governors in rejecting $3.3 billion in federal stimulus and the thousands of jobs it would bring. California is in no position to turn down stimulus, to refuse jobs, and to reject a badly needed transportation project that would reduce the state’s dependence on oil. These Democrats would also be doing Mitt Romney’s work for him, dealing a major blow to President Barack Obama by validating right-wing arguments that HSR is wasteful and unpopular.
But that may be what happens. Three anti-HSR Senate Democrats, espousing Tea Party rhetoric, remain vehemently opposed to economic stimulus and mass transportation, are continuing to organize to defund the project:
Both Simitian and DeSaulnier are skeptical of the current plan, especially the idea that the first phase of construction will be the 130-mile “train to nowhere” stretch in the Central Valley.
Instead, the senators want the first round of money to be spent building up high-speed rail in the Bay Area and L.A., then move into the valley.
How will the “all or nothing” deal affect their vote?
“I’m a ‘no’ on all or nothing,” DeSaulnier said.
As for Simitian: “I’m voting for what’s best for the whole state,” he said. “Local considerations will be part of that, but I can’t let them drive my decision on a project of this magnitude.”
Senator Alan Lowenthal meanwhile is busily undercutting his future colleagues in the Congressional Democratic Caucus by organizing anti-HSR forces to lobby key State Senators. The anti-HSR Community Coalition on High Speed Rail today sent out an email to their list asking people to lobby certain Senators to kill the project and destroy jobs. The list is a useful guide to HSR supporters – here’s who you need to call tomorrow morning to help save this project, along with your own legislators:
1. State Senator Christine Kehoe (San Diego) – 916-651-4039
2. State Senator Noreen Evans (Santa Rosa) – 916-651-4002
3. State Senator Michael Rubio (Bakersfield) – 916-651-4016
4. State Senator Curren Price (Los Angeles) – 916-651-4026
5. State Senator Jean Fuller (Bakersfield) – 916-651-4018
6. State Senator Bob Huff (Walnut – Los Angeles County) – 916-651-4029
7. State Senator Lou Correa (Santa Ana – Orange County) – 916-651-4034
8. State Senator Loni Hancock (Berkeley) – 916-651-4009
9. State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (San Bernardino County) – 916-651-4032
10. State Senator Leland Yee (San Francisco) – 916-651-4008
11. State Senator Fran Pavley (Santa Monica) – 916-651-4023
And here are your talking points:
Jobs: California is still suffering from high unemployment. The high speed rail project will create thousands of jobs in the next few years across the state, good jobs that California families need to help the economy recover. Please do not kill these jobs – please release the high speed rail funds voters already approved.
The project is sound: Do not believe the anti-rail people – instead believe the facts. High speed rail systems all over the world cover their costs, including the Acela in the US Northeast. The independent peer review study of the California high speed rail project showed it would cover its operating costs through ridership. Californians want to ride this train, and the demand is there. Please do not kill this project – please release the high speed rail funds voters already approved.
The Central Valley is a good place to start: The idea that the Central Valley segment is a “train to nowhere” is a lie. Nobody plans to build track just in the Valley and nobody plans to run trains just in that area alone. It’s the starting point of a statewide system, just like the first segments of the interstate freeway system. The current HSR plan includes funding for rail projects in the Bay Area and Southern California, which is going to be helpful. But you can’t build HSR between SF and LA without going through the Valley. It’s the missing link and the best place to begin. Plus, the Obama Administration has said they will take away our stimulus money if Senators do not release the voter-approved project.
HSR is necessary for the environment: (especially useful for Hancock and Pavley): High speed rail is a key piece of California’s environmental efforts. The California Air Resources Board declared it essential to meeting the AB 32 carbon reduction goals. Motor vehicles are responsible for 57% of the pollution in the Central Valley and a key cause of asthma in Valley children. If the legislature kills high speed rail now, it would saying that California is not serious about addressing climate change or improving public health.
HSR is good for the state budget: (not useful for Bob Huff) The argument that infrastructure stimulus is bad for the budget is a right-wing talking point. HSR funds will create desperately needed jobs that in turn contribute new tax revenues to the state. Further, the interest payments will come from truck fees, not from schools or health care. Legislators voted for bond funding to build bridges and dams in the depths of the Great Depression and it did not hurt schools or other public services. We should follow that proven path.
Feel free to add your own points, but keep it friendly and civil. These people all should be on our side, so let’s not alienate them by being unpleasant to a staffer on the phone. We can win this fight, but only if we get active now.