That's one way to look at the news that the California High Speed Rail Authority board has a new chair and vice-chair, and they're both from Anaheim. According to the press release:
Earlier in the meeting, the Board elected Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle to be its chairman, replacing Judge Quentin L. Kopp who had served two terms as chairman. Former California Assemblymember Tom Umberg was elected vice-chairman.
Pringle is a moderate Republican; Umberg is a Democrat who narrowly lost a primary for a State Senate seat to Lou Correa in 2006. Both are well-known in Sacramento and may have better relations with the Legislature than Quentin Kopp. Pringle is a strong supporter of HSR:
“High-speed trains are needed in California,” said Pringle. “The state must find a viable surface transportation alternative to ease auto and air traffic congestion between major urban centers and high population growth areas like the Central Valley.
Pringle clearly understands the need for the HSR project and for it to be kept whole, unlike Sen. Alan Lowenthal who wants to chop it into a glorified commuter rail for the Bay Area and Southern California.
I wouldn't read too much into the change of leadership on the CHSRA board. Quentin Kopp has been the chairman for several years now, taking time away from his spot on the San Mateo County Superior Court bench. Kopp's term as chair was a clear success, as California voters approved Prop 1A and the federal government approved billions in HSR stimulus money - and California will likely be largest recipient of that money.
Now it's Curt Pringle's turn to lead the HSR project through this crucial moment. On the plus side the project has the support of the people of California, of the Congress and of President Barack Obama. It has as much as $13 billion ready (assuming we get $4 billion of the HSR stimulus, and that is likely to be the high end of the likely funds) and is well along the way of finalizing the project plans in some of the key corridors.
The HSR plan also has some challenges, from the Peninsula NIMBYs to people like Sen. Lowenthal who want to gut the project. Pringle can help sway more Republicans to support a project that will create a lot of jobs and opportunities for business up and down the corridor. And hopefully he can help navigate the project through the state legislature.
So this blog welcomes Curt Pringle and Tom Umberg to their new positions as leaders of the CHSRA board and of the HSR project. Besides, as an Orange County native myself, it's good to see leadership from OC stepping up for high speed rail.