This week's issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian has an article on HSR by Steven T. Jones, who was at the CHSRA board meeting last week. Most of it focuses on an overview of where the project is at, which will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. It also has some good quotes from San Franciscans about their support for the project.
Jones also includes some new information on the fate of AB 3034, which failed to come to a floor vote on Monday:
Sen. Mike Machado (D-Stockton) was unhappy with the Pacheco choice and decided to oppose the project, meaning that proponents needed three Republican votes to win the two-thirds needed for passage and only Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) was willing to cross party lines, Capitol sources told the Guardian.
That is both interesting and unfortunate. Machado needs to understand that this isn't about Stockton alone. Just because Altamont wasn't chosen doesn't mean we should block the project. Machado endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primaries but is presumably supporting Barack Obama now - it's not much different for HSR. You can't withdraw support just because your choice didn't win out.
It is welcome news that Maldonado, my own State Senator, did finally back the bill. He had previously expressed doubts about it, supposedly concerned that it gave nothing to his district (a ridiculous concern) but he now saw the light. Unfortunately because Machado voted no that still left two Senate Republicans who could not be bothered to look to the benefits for their own constituents and voted against AB 3034.
Some Senate Republicans tried to go further:
Meanwhile, a project opponent, Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), sought to kill Prop. 1 by doing what's known as a "gut and amend" to an unrelated bill, SB 298 by Senate Minority Leader Dave Codgill (R-Modesto), in an attempt to push the bond measure back to 2010.
If he can find the two-thirds vote in both houses — which most sources consider unlikely — it would be the fourth time the bond measure has been delayed. So barring any unusual political deals, the high speed bond measure is still up in November.
I'm shocked, shocked to hear this. Of course Ashburn wanted to postpone the vote - he wants to kill HSR dead. That's what was behind his absurd 11th hour objections to the lack of a business plan (which AB 3034 would have provided) and his push for a reorganization of passenger rail oversight into a Department of Rail (couldn't that have been proposed much, much, much earlier?). Ashburn simply doesn't support this project but doesn't have the guts to tell his Bakersfield constituents, who will see significant benefits and dramatic economic growth from HSR.
Still, we don't need AB 3034 and never really did. The Final EIR does not include a station at Los Banos and does not include Union Pacific ROW use (so Stuart Flashman's one-man crusade to kill HSR has even fewer legs to stand on). The original plan proposed in 2002 and contained in Prop 1 is fiscally sound and a solid map for building high speed rail.
California cannot meet the challenges of the coming decades without high speed rail. Those who raise objections based on this or that small issue are missing that much larger point. They implicitly believe that the status quo is just fine and we have no need to make major changes. Tomorrow Al Gore will give a major speech attacking just such thinking and calling for a "reset" of how we approach the climate crisis, junking what Martin Luther King Jr called "the tranquilizing drug of gradualism" for a call for a new "hero generation" of dramatic change.
HSR is one necessary part of that bolder, very necessary strategy for dealing with the problems that ail our state.
Note: Beginning tomorrow posting will be more sporadic on the blog, until August 4. I am headed to Austin for Netroots Nation, and from there am going to Seattle where I will be married on July 26. After a week on the Oregon Coast I'll be back in Monterey to renew the fight for Prop 1 and high speed rail.
Over the next few days I'll be putting up a few posts, but mostly you'll have open threads to discuss HSR as you will. I've also got some guest posts lined up, which should be a great way to broaden the discussion. Have at it!