Saturday Open Thread

Nov 15th, 2014 | Posted by

Been in New Orleans for the last week and just returned. Probably should have put more open threads and scheduled posts up. Oh well! More HSR posts coming tomorrow.

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Governor Brown Isn’t Worried About Lack of New Federal HSR Funding

Nov 7th, 2014 | Posted by

KCAL 9 caught up with Governor Jerry Brown yesterday in Southern California and asked him if the election results – specifically the Republican capture of the US Senate – meant that the high speed rail project was in trouble:

“Look, we have the ingredients to get this thing launched,” Brown told reporters on his way into an Anti-Defamation League lunch at a Beverly Hills hotel….

“We have the amount of federal money we’re going to get, at least over the next few years,” said Brown, who won a historic fourth term Tuesday. “And we have funds from the state.”…

Brown said Chinese and Japanese investors were “very bullish” on investing in the project. The Japanese ambassador to the United States recently flew to California just to urge him to consider a Japanese rail company, Brown said.

While some in Washington “may be small-minded,” he added, they will come around when heavy construction starts.

“Maybe even some of the Republican congressmen will have to see the wisdom of high-speed rail,” Brown said.

Well, let’s not get carried away here Governor, Republicans will never see its wisdom. But as he pointed out, California doesn’t need them right now. With every passing year, it becomes clearer that the state will have to raise the rest of the money to build HSR on its own.

And that’s fine. California continues to diverge from the rest of the country, refusing to slip into the oblivion of oil dependence and a warming climate. Governor Brown wants a better future for California and will continue to fight for one, especially on high speed rail.

Republicans can hem and haw all they like, but they can’t stop California from building this project. I’m sure they’ll keep trying, and I’m sure Governor Brown will keep fighting to save high speed rail.

What Does the 2014 Election Mean for HSR?

Nov 6th, 2014 | Posted by

Another year, another Democratic bloodbath outside of California. Democrats have lost control of the US Senate, meaning we’re right back to the late 1990s again in terms of DC politics.

As with 2010, California largely resisted the red tide. Jerry Brown was re-elected governor by at least a 19 point margin. Californians resoundingly rejected Neel Kashkari’s attempt to kill high speed rail, proving that California’s political consensus is indeed pro-HSR.

The red tide did come a bit higher on the California beach this year. In 2010, Democrats picked up some seats in Congress and the state legislature. In 2014, Democrats lost the legislative supermajority they won in 2012 – but they still have huge overall majorities in Sacramento.

One of the more stunning races, still too close to call, is in California’s 16th Congressional District. Jim Costa, a longtime rep and one of the key figures in bringing high speed rail to California, is trailing by 736 votes over a Republican who few expected had a chance of winning.

That Republican, Johnny Tacherra, ran as a clone of other Valley Republicans like Jeff Denham and Kevin McCarthy – opposed to Obamacare, opposed to immigration reform, opposed to new government spending. Tacherra also ran against high speed rail, though it doesn’t appear to have been as large a factor in his campaign as the other issues.

Costa’s troubles stem more from Democratic weakness than a voter revolt against high speed rail. President Barack Obama’s appalling decision to delay action to stop the deportations led to a dramatic collapse in turnout among Latino voters, a key part of Costa’s base. Even if Tacherra hadn’t mentioned HSR at all, Costa would have been in trouble. Still, it looks as if Costa may yet prevail.

So what does all this mean for high speed rail?

The loss of the US Senate doesn’t mean a whole lot for HSR, since the federal government wasn’t giving money for it anyway. Which in turn makes it more important that California develop more of its own sources of revenue to fund transit, since a GOP Congress can be expected to defund mass transit as much as possible. Amtrak, however, is in trouble.

The loss of the legislative supermajority in California shouldn’t hurt HSR, since budgets still require only a majority vote. But it does mean that it will be 2016 at the soonest when we see reforms to transportation funding in California. The supermajority failed to act to lower the threshold for passing transit taxes from 66.6%, and unless they find support for doing this in 2015, LA Metro will have to go back to voters in 2016 with the hope they get the 2/3 majority that narrowly eluded them in 2012.

That’s not to say the election was good for HSR. It doesn’t change the status quo, and so far, HSR has found a way to survive a hostile Congress. We shall see how much longer that can last.

Election Day 2014 Open Thread

Nov 4th, 2014 | Posted by

Still about 90 minutes left to vote in California, but expect to see the media call the governor’s race for Jerry Brown when the clock strikes 8. And that means Neel Kashkari’s hopes of riding fading anti-HSR sentiment to victory will go down in flames.

Regardless of what happens around the country, 2010 should still be a very good night for Democrats in California, which is good for HSR since Democrats are the party that favors HSR in the Golden State. HSR isn’t really a factor in any of the higher profile contests, though Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin’s longtime support of HSR forced Democrat Betty Yee to come out for the project. Democrats may lose their supermajority, but that should not hurt HSR, and Democrats will be in good shape to reclaim that supermajority in 2016.

Anyhow, use this as an open thread.