CHSRA Considers Hiring Disadvantaged Workers, Preserve Farmland

Nov 14th, 2012 | Posted by

The California High Speed Rail Authority held a board meeting today and took some steps that will ensure the HSR construction project helps some of the workers hardest hit by the Great Recession – as well as steps to protect farmland. Tim Sheehan has the report:

Job-creation advocates in Fresno said they moved a step closer Wednesday to ensuring that local workers who need a job can compete for one building California’s high-speed rail system.

Their hopes were boosted during the California High-Speed Rail Authority meeting in Sacramento, where bullet-train planners also took their first step to reducing their system’s footprint on agriculture — approving a $20 million effort to compensate for farmland lost to the railroad right of way.

Representatives from Fresno Works, a coalition of local government and business leaders, pitched a proposal Wednesday to establish a “national targeted hiring initiative.” The program would put a premium on contractors to hire workers who live in communities with high rates of long-term unemployment or other economic hardship, or workers who are considered economically disadvantaged — homeless, single parents who have custody of their children, chronically unemployed or other qualifying factors.

This is a very good thing to do, and I hope the Authority follows through on this commitment to craft a policy meeting these goals. Fresno has some of the highest unemployment in America – 13.1% as of September – and some of the folks described above have been suffering for even longer than the five years that have passed since the recession began in December 2007. High speed rail is not just a transportation system, it’s also a job creator and an economic engine. It’s appropriate that the project deliver immediate benefits to some of the people in the region most in need of help.

Valley farmers are doing comparatively well economically, but the Authority is also working to help them by protecting farmland. Sheehan again:

The farmland-preservation action approved Wednesday authorizes the rail agency to work with the state Department of Conservation to put up at least $20 million to buy farmland conservation easements. For each acre of agricultural land that would be lost to the railroad right of way in the Valley — an estimated 2,500 acres from Merced to Bakersfield — at least one acre of permanent easement would be secured.

Farmers are claiming that the cost of protecting those acres might be higher than the Authority budgeted, but we’ll find out once the easement purchase time comes. This is another good move that will help preserve more Valley farmland – alongside the actual construction of the trains themselves, which will help preserve farmland by pulling development pressure back into city centers and away from sprawl.

  1. joe
    Nov 14th, 2012 at 22:53
    #1

    Fresno again. Good for them.

    Farmers are posturing for more money – that’s in their self interest.

    Bakersfield and their awesome, no-nonsense, hard-nosed City Manager, Mr Tandy, thinks a pot of gold lies with stonewalling and an EIR lawsuit after he sat on the CASHRA’s counter proposal and did essentially nothing. http://www.bakersfieldcity.us/administration/citymanager/

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed, nuff said, but I doubt it will be the last…

  2. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 14th, 2012 at 23:37
    #2

    Off topic, but of interest–Cap’n Transit on the subject of how to pay for walkable streets. The interesting part is his commentary that the opponents of congestion pricing (New York City) that showed up at meetings were almost all over 50–and the observation that in 30 years they’ll either be dead or too infirm to drive.

    http://capntransit.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-grand-bargain-for-walkable-streets.html

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And check out what might be the Republican response to Obama’s re-election–could this be the R’s “front runner?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z8gin9Xkmw&list=PL9DFuBv1gvOpH-4jh2fqZRe3XsvSvybH_&feature=plcp

    :-)

  3. StevieB
    Nov 15th, 2012 at 10:25
    #3

    Christmas present for your local Congressman? The book Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future [Paperback]. There is even a Fast Trains — America’s High Speed Future [Kindle Edition] for synonymouse.

  4. Brian FL
    Nov 15th, 2012 at 15:42
    #4

    Off topic – link to an article in tonight’s West Palm Beach, Florida newspaper about All Aboard Florida (AAF):

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/business/passenger-train-on-track-for-south-florida-company/nS7bJ/

    Items of interest include 40 responses to the FDOT request for proposal for rail service on the toll road right of way between Cocoa and Orlando. I would be interested in knowing who would be willing to propose competing rail services with AAF. Also, AAF stated that they will not operate the service. They are looking for an operator. Possibly one of the European manufacturers that they are looking at buying train sets from?

    Peter Reply:

    Aren’t they applying for an RRIF loan to cover the entire amount? Amuses me that people still say that this is “private money”.

    Brian FL Reply:

    Not that I know of. AAF will build no matter the outcome of their loan application. The environmental assessment report that they submitted (in order to qualify for a RRIF loan) only covers the portion between Miami and West Palm Beach. So it would appear that for now the loan would be for the amount required for that segment, at most. Also, lots of ‘private’ railroads have obtained RRIF loans of many tens of millions of dollars. It is still private money, as the railroad has to repay it. It is not a grant like the money for CA HSR. As with any corporation, they have to do what is best for them. If that includes applying for federally guaranteed loans, so be it. AAF will still bring plenty of benefits to the public and in my opinion, is deserving of these loans.

    Peter Reply:

    Oh, I completely agree that it is private money. The same way the RRIF loan for XpressWest will be private money. Opponents are quick to relabel RRIF loans as public funding simply because the loans are made by the government. The fact that that hasn’t happened to this project is what amuses me.

    Brian FL Reply:

    I’m surprised as well. And shocked that Randal O’Toole (of Cato Institue fame) hasn’t picked up on AAF starting the loan application process. I believe he lives here in the Tampa FL area as well so he should be keeping abreast of AAF. hopefully that won’t happen. It appears that AAF has enough Republican connections here to innoculate themselves against partisan attacks!

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Not that I’ve heard of. They’ve allowed for using one, but haven’t put in an application for it yet.

  5. CaliforniaDefender
    Nov 15th, 2012 at 17:35
    #5

    The Authority greases the wheels in Fresno (one of the few friendly cities), while snubbing its nose at the rest of the valley. There’s no guarantee that the HSR will reduce sprawl (there are no enforceable commitments with local agencies to promote smart growth/TOD, etc.). The $20 M sum now budgeted for ag mitigation is 1/5 the amount the Authority’s staff previously estimated would be necessary, what happened?

    Peter Reply:

    Read carefully:

    The farmland-preservation action approved Wednesday authorizes the rail agency to work with the state Department of Conservation to put up at least $20 million to buy farmland conservation easements. For each acre of agricultural land that would be lost to the railroad right of way in the Valley — an estimated 2,500 acres from Merced to Bakersfield — at least one acre of permanent easement would be secured.

    Emphasis added.

    A reasonable assumption is that as they get close to the $20 million, they will more money authorized.

    Peter Reply:

    “authorize more money” Curse you, lack of preview function!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Google News picked up some unhappy letters over the Vartabedian article:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/la-le-second-thoughts-on-californias-bullet-train-20121115,0,7271581.story

    Since the whole purpose of the DeTour is to snag a free BART Palmdale to LA why not just give the $20bil to Villa and let him spend it in LA. At least it would not go to waste. Who is going to want to purchase the Tehachapi Roundabout other than the class ones if they can find some utility in it.

    Spending money on the Tehachapi DeTour is like spending money on a war, that you lose.

    Peter Reply:

    Why don’t you ever reply to what you’re actually replying to? Do you just look for the first reply button you see?

    joe Reply:

    “The Authority greases the wheels in Fresno (one of the few friendly cities), …”

    Hey! Its Mitt Romney commenting on all the free stuff be given away to secure support.

  6. joe
    Nov 15th, 2012 at 20:32
    #6

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bullet-schedule-20121116,0,1073915.story
    The California High-Speed Rail Authority said Thursday that it was adding 12 months to the construction schedule for 130 miles of track in the Central Valley, easing what some outside experts have contended was an overly aggressive and risky timeline.

    Jeff Morales, chief executive of the authority, said the revised schedule would have the track completed by December 2017 rather than a year earlier as set under the agency’s contracting documents. The new timetable will allow contractors to use less overtime and other practices that were expected under the accelerated plan in place earlier, Morales said.

    ..

    The aggressive schedule had been adopted to protect federal grants under the Obama administration’s stimulus program, which required all the funds to be spent by Sept. 30, 2017. Morales said the agency will still meet that deadline by spending the federal stimulus money first and then completing the later work with state funds and other federal appropriations without the deadline.

    HSR opponents foiled again.

    Jeff Morales, solves HSR-Opposition’s latest Trap – CAHSRA will spend ARRA Federal money first – spending it in time – and then use money which has no expiration date.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh now that’s a brilliant tactical move, perfect. :)

Comments are closed.