GOP Assemblymembers Seek More Roadblocks for HSR
Two Republican Assemblymembers from the Central Valley are seeking to throw up another roadblock to completion of the high speed rail project by asking the State Auditor to go on a fishing expedition regarding the purchase of land for the project:
Assemblymen Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, submitted a request Tuesday to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee seeking an investigation into the appraisal process, assessment of land values and the role of private contractors as the rail authority seeks to acquire or seize 356 parcels for the first leg in the Central Valley.
The lawmakers say they want to ensure the rail authority has policies that allow landowners to appeal the property values assessed to their land and “what safeguards are in place to ensure fair and reasonable offers.”…
Chief executive Jeff Morales has previously said high-speed rail officials are following the same procedure used by the state Department of Transportation to acquire land, including allowing landowners to obtain alternate appraisals at the state’s expense before filing an appeal.
“The process is intended to make sure that the property owner is treated fairly and strike the right balance between treating the property owner fairly and making sure that the public taxpayer is not overpaying for property,” Morales told The Associated Press in July.
Caltrans routinely buys property for projects and so the process is straightforward and routine. The two Republicans aren’t alleging any specific problems or wrongdoing, so it’s not immediately clear what justification they have for this request. It seems instead to be a thinly veiled effort to dig up dirt on the California High Speed Rail Authority to use against it as the project continues.
State Auditor reports have not always been fair to the HSR project, so it is understandable that Republicans would turn to the Auditor in hopes of getting a report critical of the Authority.
Their request goes first to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. Absent any clear evidence that suggests a need for an investigation, this request ought to be denied.