Today's Long Beach Press-Telegram editorializes against Prop 1A. As is becoming depressingly common with newspaper editorials, the Press-Telegram's anti-HSR screed contains a number of out-and-out lies that need to be called out here. The editorial staff does its readers a disservice by misleading them on some of the most fundamental aspects of Prop 1A and our state's high speed rail plan. Some examples:
That's the measure that would borrow $10 billion and spend it on promoting, not building, a high-speed train system. This is a colossal ripoff with no promises of any results except that the money would get spent.
AB 3034 changed the proposition to ensure that no more than 50% of bond funds could be used to build the system to ensure that we must have matching funds to proceed. The editorial somehow turns that into a negative, which is absurd. Their claim that the bond money wouldn't go to construction is a lie, plain and simple.
Worse, it would get spent with no oversight, and participation on the campaign's "finance committee" by nobody other than politicians and bureaucrats. Supporters brag that the $10 billion would not require a tax increase, but what they don't say is the obvious, which is that the money, $20 billion including interest, would come straight from the state's deficit-ridden general fund.
Another lie - AB 3034 created an oversight committee that Republican Roy Ashburn fought hard to include. The editorial misleads readers about the cost - $20 billion would not be spent all at once. The bond has a 40 year life, meaning the cost would be closer to a manageable $500 million per year.
If the project ever actually got built, supporters say the cost would be $40 billion, but skeptics say it would be more like $100 billion. The expectation (which seems more like a fantasy) is that the rest of the money would come from the federal government and the private sector, neither of which is standing in line with checkbook in hand.
There is NO evidence for the skeptics' $100 billion claim. None whatsoever. But there is a LOT of evidence to suggest Congress actually has the checkbook ready - John Kerry and Johnny Isakson are proposing a multibillion HSR funding bill and if he wins, Barack Obama has shown a desire to build HSR as well. As to the private sector, nearly a dozen companies responded with interest in helping fund HSR.
High-speed trains are wonderful assets in Europe and Asia, where they whisk travelers to their destinations at speeds of 180 miles an hour or faster without the misery of airport security lines. It's a concept that works well between Washington and New York, or between Paris and the chateau country. But those aren't 400-mile trips. The ideal travel distance for a high-speed train is a couple of hundred miles or less, or, as in Tokyo, less than 50 miles or so from an airport to an urban center. Trying to connect San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, Sacramento and San Francisco is a far more daunting task, and not likely to put any airlines out of business.
The Madrid-Barcelona AVE train is a similar distance to SF-LA, and is pressuring airlines there. Passenger rail already connects the cities the editorial claims can't be linked - HSR merely provides a much, much faster service.
Additionally, the editorial makes the common media mistake of not explaining the cost of doing nothing. Nowhere are rising oil prices mentioned. Nor are higher airfares, nor are flight cutbacks, nor the environmental savings of reducing carbon and cutting oil consumption, nor the $80 billion price tag of expanding freeways and airports to meet the demand HSR will serve, nor the cost to the economy and the state budget of not creating 160,000 jobs. Instead the editorial board relied on misinformation and lies to give readers a deeply biased picture of Prop 1A.
The editorial board should know better than to write an editorial that has not been fully researched and vetted. Journalistic ethics do not end at the opinion page. The Long Beach Press-Telegram owes its readers a correction and an apology for this flawed editorial.