Thursday, September 3, 2009

CHSRA's New Pitchmen?

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

UPDATE 2: Shane Goldmacher explains what went down:

Several rail board members demanded more information about the selection process and the winning bid, calling the staff panel’s report inadequate and saying they might want to hear presentations from the runners-up.

“The staff report and recommendation here wouldn’t be adequate in kindergarten,” said Richard Katz, a board member.

Jeffery Barker, a member of the staff panel and deputy director at the California High Speed Rail Authority, said Mercury’s bid scored 91, the runner-up 90.

Commissioner Lynn Schenk said that was “awfully close – within the margin of error of subjectivity.” And she raised questions about the “formal and informal, professional and other relationship with members of the selection team” and Mercury.

A vote was postponed until the rail board’s October meeting.

I'm all for more time to examine the advantages and disadvantages of the two bids. My guess is this will eventually be rebid with a different oversight and decision process.

UPDATE: As I predicted, this contract was anything but a done deal. Shane Goldmacher reports the CHSRA board voted to postpone the vote on awarding the contract.

Back to the original post...

A little while back the California High Speed Rail Authority announced it was putting out for bid a $9 million contract to handle its communications - everything from designing the form (but NOT the content) of the next Business Plan to public outreach to local communities along the proposed HSR line. Kris Deutschmann of KDC Communications had been leading the communications, along with several other project assistants. I have had very good interactions with Kris and those other assistants. But with the passage of Prop 1A the CHSRA saw the need to ramp up its communications strategy, and invited bidders. KDC bid, as did many others, mostly the usual suspects of California political communications. Yesterday, we learned that the winner was Mercury Public Affairs.

Needless to say, this has raised a few eyebrows.

Mercury Public Affairs has some heavy hitters. Adam Mendelsohn is a partner - he used to be Arnold Schwarzenegger's strategist. Steve Schmidt is a partner too - he managed Arnold's 2006 campaign for reelection (and the "senior campaign strategist" for the McCain 2008 campaign). Not all of their partners are Republicans - one is Fabian Núñez, Democratic Speaker of the Assembly from 2004 to 2008.

The choice of Mercury for this contract by a subcommittee of the CHSRA board (the full board will vote on the choice at today's meeting in Sacramento) is being seen by some as a potential "payback" that might raise "ethical" issues. Shane Goldmacher at the LA Times - one of the state's best political reporters - examines this in his article on the contract:

Two members of the staff panel are former Mendelsohn colleagues.

Ethics watchdogs raised questions about the appearance of favoritism.

"You can't help but raise your eyebrows," said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause.

"We are seeing a revolving door of legislators and former state officials and state employees going from public service to private PR firms . . . and pulling on all the personal relationships that they've developed to build up their business."

Kathay Feng, who I know and respect as a colleague, is not wrong to point out the revolving door of state officials and employees. And the personal relationships do count for a lot.

However, in the world of Sacramento communications consultants, virtually everyone has a political relationship:

One member of the staff panel, Jeffrey Barker, previously served as associate and deputy communications director in the governor's office, working daily with Mendelsohn. Barker, who began working for the rail commission in August, also worked with Schmidt....

Barker, now deputy director of the California High Speed Rail Authority, said the panel followed a "regimented process" and that there was no conflict of interest.

"We evaluated these proposals based strictly on communications and outreach abilities," he said.

Barker said he and Bowman "knew members of every single [public-relations] team that came in," not just those at Mercury.

So while my Calitics co-blogger Brian Leubitz reads this as having "that whiff of a payback", I don't think that's exactly right. Virtually anyone picked for this contract would be subject to the same charges.

And yet I don't think it is coincidental that Mercury won the contract. It's not a matter of payback but of political logic. The CHSRA's new chairman is Curt Pringle. He's a Republican, mayor of Anaheim, and close to the governor. Another one of Arnold's key point people on the CHSRA board is David Crane, who I wrote about at Calitics in 2007 (before I started this blog).

From what I am given to understand, Pringle and Crane are charting a more assertive course for the CHSRA in leading the HSR project to completion. They are apparently doing so with the support and engagement of the governor's office, which may see HSR as a "legacy project" for a governor with 18 months left in office.

As anyone who is familiar with my writing at Calitics knows, I am not a fan of this governor. His legacy is going to be a state in ruins, a California dream turned into a nightmare. He has usually chosen to play a governor on TV, but has notoriously neglected the details of behind-the-scenes governance. Further, he spent most of his term in office trying to gut the CHSRA's funding, and delayed the Prop 1A bond not once but twice - it was originally to go before voters in November 2004, and again in November 2006. As it turned out, the delay to November 2008 may have ultimately worked in our favor, but that's no thanks to Arnold. History will not be kind to him, nor should it be.

And yet the California HSR project is in desperate need of political leadership. As a separate Authority, the day-to-day management of the project isn't in the hands of legislators or a department of the executive branch that reports to the governor. This is intended as a good thing - authorities have more ability to cut through red tape and get things done, at least in theory, without political meddling or micromanaging.

The downside is that the independence of authorities like the CHSRA means that politicians don't feel they have the same stake in the project as they might otherwise have. This is a particular problem in our term-limited legislature, which aside from a handful of folks like Fiona Ma and Cathleen Galgiani hasn't seemed to give a fuck about the project, except when Senator Alan Lowenthal ramps up another effort to gut the project and turn HSR into glorified and disconnected commuter rail.

Without strong political leadership the CHSRA has started to get bogged down in places, particularly on the Peninsula. Good leadership, and a stronger communications strategy, would have pushed back much harder against the Peninsula NIMBYs, calling them out as anti-environment nutjobs who put their own deluded notions of aesthetic value above safety, economic recovery, and the fight against global warming - all while doing more intensive outreach to reasonable Peninsula residents who generally like the idea of HSR but want to ensure it'll get built in a good way. And with a broken legislature almost totally unable to shepherd projects to completion - but having just enough power to kill good ideas and strangle worthy projects - it was obvious that the CHSRA needed some more robust communications and better political connections.

So in Mercury they'd get both. Adam Mendelsohn, Steve Schmidt and Fabian Núñez would be contracted to help sell HSR to the public. And it has to be said that Arnold Schwarzenegger did a pretty good job of promoting HSR last year whenever he spoke on the subject. I can see the logic to this.

All this being said, this is by no means a done deal. The board has to vote on the contract today and expect to see some "no" votes. There is clearly a power shift going on at the CHSRA, and those that did some of the hard work to keep the project alive and get it approved by the voters might not necessarily be pleased to see a governor that hadn't exactly been HSR's best friend suddenly want to take over. I can't blame them for feeling that way.

My own view is this: the CHSRA clearly needed to shift its approach now that it has the bond money, now that it has federal support, and now that it has to face some real and difficult battles at the project level. If Arnold, Mercury, Pringle, and their team have a sensible plan to navigate HSR through those waters, then I am willing to join up and support them for the sake of getting this built (which as everyone knows has always been my top priority on this blog).

Of course, I'll continue to watch them closely, and offer criticism where necessary. This blog has never been a rah-rah cheerleader for the CHSRA and we're not about to start doing that now.

87 comments:

Anonymous said...

First
You seem to be churning out drivel at a breakneak pace all of a sudden - perhaps to as quickly as possible bury Morris Brown's previous comment providing the link to the newly released SJ to Merced Scoping document? The document is a fascinating peek into the massive quantity and scope of hard core problems (amazingly little to do with UPRR), and amazing number of government agencies who have something substantive to say about why chsra has their head up their @#$@#%. Your interest in this document is conspicuous in its absence.

http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/images/chsr/20090901150201_Draft%20San%20Jose%20to%20Merced%20Scoping%20Report%20with%20Comment%20Summary.pdf

Second,
"This blog has never been a rah-rah cheerleader for the CHSRA and we're not about to start doing that now." Are you trying out your new set for Rooster T Feathers or something?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Anon, there's actually more HSR-related stuff than we can cover. I plan to write about the SJ to Merced scoping document later today or tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Morris posted at 7:58 last night, and you've already posted two new topics on top of that.

I'll give you that this recent post about 'pitchmen' political favortism is interesting (particularly since PR firm was the subject of a question raised to Eschoo in her town Hall meeting last week), and it actually started to look like you were actually growing a backbone where CHSRA is concerned, but you dispelled that quickly.

The scoping document by the way is 117 pages worth of lawsuits waiting to happen. I thought it was particularly interesting how many of the public agencies stated comments generally along the lines of:

'there is not enough information in the Program EIR for us to understand your plan in enough detail to formulate feedback or questions - provide details of what you plan, and we'll give you questions.'

flowmotion said...

@ Robert - Anon has a point about the pacing. Perhaps you should consider bumping Rafael's What-If engineering projects to a slow news day.

Bianca said...

it was obvious that the CHSRA needed some more robust communications

This. CHSRA has not had the bandwidth to manage communications effectively, and this has allowed opponents to effectively frame the discussion.

I'm not thrilled about the appearances, but if they are competent and effective at what they are supposed to do, I can live with it. So much of politics is about relationships, it would be unrealistic to insist on some idealized purity test that no one in Sacramento could possibly meet.

AndyDuncan said...

Morris posted at 7:58 last night, and you've already posted two new topics on top of that.

Morris wasn't the first to post the Scoping doc, and he did it in several comment threads just to make sure everyone saw. I'm sure Morris can stand up for himself but if he's that concerned with people hearing his opinion, and if there's that many people concerned with hearing it, then let him start his own blog.

Spokker said...

"Morris posted at 7:58 last night, and you've already posted two new topics on top of that."

New rule for the Internet. You can't post another blog entry after Morris posts unless 24 hours has passed. This goes for all of you bloggers!

Anonymous said...

This blog has never been a rah-rah cheerleader for the CHSRA and we're not about to start doing that now.

Now that's funny!

Did CHSRA's check bounce?

Did you finally recognize the level of corruption and incompetence within CHSRA?

Did you not want to get caught in the undertow of CHSRA going under? That would certainly kill any career in politics. Sort of like having "Enron" on your resume.

jim said...

this topic is kinda blah.

off topic- something is buggin me - its the the ridiculously over blown station plans for hsr. as far as im concerned there should be a basic station design as seen here. that can be a stand design, modified per local conditions. and we can saves zillions of dollars. keep it simple please and stop wasting money

jim said...

keep it simple

nicebut simple


speaking of stacking trains stacking

alhtough bart is gettin a little fancy with the berryessa berry

Rafael said...

I find it interesting that some commenters seem to believe that

a) Robert or I are getting checks from CHSRA

and

b) that either of us is under any obligation to write up a post on anything at all.

r. motorist said...

While I don't seriously believe that anyone is getting a check from the CHSRA, Robert is the most pro-CHSRA bloggers out there. So when he says "This blog has never been a rah-rah cheerleader for the CHSRA", it's easy to see why some people find that laughable. Quite often he does do just that.

About the bitching about what is posted and what isn't, it really is kind of ridiculous. If you don't like the post, then write your own damn blog.

Rafael said...

My take on this change in PR firms is that the old lot are being turned into sacrificial lambs.

This isn't about selling the general idea of HSR to the electorate any longer, it's about getting down to brass tacks on the real-world right of way alternatives and the vertical alignments associated with them.

If CHSRA wants to mend fences with communities and other stakeholders, its best bet is to let the engineers do the talking for a while. Not advocating specific solutions, mind you, but simply formulating alternatives and spelling out in considerable detail the pros and cons of each in a trade-off analysis.

And then asking for feedback without expressing a recommendation in the initial iteration.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I'm actually pro-HSR. Loudly, proudly, and vehemently.

The CHSRA has generally done a good job planning this project. Getting voters to approve it was no easy feat.

The CHSRA has had a few missteps. I think they were too quick to dismiss Union Pacific's objections, although said objections have been overstated in their impact on the project (the recent court decision aside).

As Bianca has rightly pointed out, CHSRA's public outreach has been hampered by their lack of funding. That has also hurt some of their other ongoing work, and gave fodder to CHSRA and HSR critics to make unfair attacks on both the project and the agency.

Most of the criticism leveled at CHSRA is unfounded nonsense, and I'm going to continue to call that out when I see it. Just as I'm going to continue to make constructive criticism when it's warranted. Just as I'm going to keep all this in perspective and not let any small issue here or there distract me from the core goal, which is getting this built.

Rafael said...

Re: Update 2

It ain't that y'all shot yourselves in the foot. It's that you reloaded so darn quick.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Could be, Rafael, could well be.

I really need to convince my employers that it is essential to my job duties that I attend these CHSRA board meetings...

mike said...

The scoping document by the way is 117 pages

Shock news: If you give 1 million people a platform to say something, some small fraction of them will, and some of what they say might not even make much sense.

More to follow at 11.

Peter said...

@ Anon 9:24

The entire point of a Draft Scoping Report is to list elicited comments that the agency then uses to determine all the issues it needs to address. Then, after the Draft EIR/EIS is released, a second round of comments is solicited, based on the additional information and analysis provided in the Draft.
Of course many agencies are going to have many unanswered questions. They will have an opportunity for a whole second round of comments.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

exactly, thank you for articulating the process. Anyone who thinks that a scoping process is about all the things CHSRA was supposed to already have completed doesn't understand how CEQA works.

I skimmed the doc diagonally and noticed the following topic clusters:

- ROW suggestions
- noise/vibration general
- vibration in waterlogged soil
- aquifers/creeks in Pacheco pass
- faults (San Andreas, Ortigalita)
- grasslands impacts
- environmental justice (Madera county)

Most of this was requests for details, both qualitative and quantitative. Technical details, reproducible measurements overseas, image/video of overseas HSR, computer simulations etc. will help address a number of the most frequent misperceptions, e.g. faster = more vibration.

Anonymous said...

“The staff report and recommendation here wouldn’t be adequate in kindergarten,” said Richard Katz, a board member.

Speaks also to the kindergartners that hang around in here -- naively believing this dog will ever see an inch of track laid. Get lives, kiddies.

Bianca said...

Ah, the sweet certainty of the anonymous poster...

Robert Cruickshank said...

jim - sorry you don't find this particular topic, the communications contract, to be that interesting. Many others do - this topic has been getting a LOT of attention around the state's political and media circles. Well worth spending some time writing about it.

Not everyone is as interested in curve radii and rights of way as we folk tend to be.

Morris Brown said...

Robert:

You write:


Good leadership, and a stronger communications strategy, would have pushed back much harder against the Peninsula NIMBYs, calling them out as anti-environment nutjobs who put their own deluded notions of aesthetic value above safety, economic recovery, and the fight against global warming


Clearly a comment like this is totally un-informed and doesn't understand the situation at all.

In Menlo Park the vote to join the lawsuit was 3-1 (one council man recused because of his proximity to the tracks)

The 3 yes votes were from Kelly Fergusson --- Kelly led the "green movement" in Menlo Park - she is very much a liberal Democrat.

Richard Cline, perhaps more moderate, but certainly very much in back of the green effort and most issues with which you would agree.

Now Mayor Heyward Robinson, very very much a conservation advocate, a major donor to Barak Obama's campaign and his policies.

Now for you to write what you did about them, calling them "nutjobs", is really appalling and deserves a personal apology from you to them.

I could care less when you label me a "denier", or for that matter a "nutjob". But personal attacks should really be out of bounds. It is your blog, you can do what you wish and you do --- it is a free country. You certainly aren't accomplishing anything worthwhile for the HSR effort or for yourself, when you "go off" like this.

Eric M said...

Or Robert could be like Morris and his cronies before the vote and create a website where no comments can be left with regards to the topics. Then he can spread whatever info he wants and it can stick in your craw whether you like it or not. Says a lot for this site to have it the way it is.

Spokker said...

I don't think anything has ever been accomplished on a blog.

Spokker said...

"Or Robert could be like Morris and his cronies before the vote and create a website where no comments can be left with regards to the topics."

That picture of the train eating the money is still my favorite thing about HSR ever.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Morris, my suggestion was that CHSRA use the environmental and economic benefits of the trains to wedge apart those folks on the Peninsula before they could coalesce into a bloc that could do some real damage to the project. If they'd had the resources to have more robust communications then they might have had a chance to push folks like the councilmembers of Menlo Park and Palo Alto into a corner and paint the debate as one of NIMBYs versus action to solve global warming and maintain a clean environment.

It may not have stopped Menlo Park from suing for Palo Alto from throwing the fit that it did. But such a communications strategy would have more effectively discredited the NIMBYism in the eyes of other Californians and Bay Area residents, limiting the potential for damage that Peninsula opposition could accomplish.

Anonymous said...

Now exactly how many millions is it "we" are paying these puppeteers to ram a berm down Palo Alto's throat?

jim said...

Robert Cruickshank said...
jim - sorry you don't find this particular topic, the communications contract, to be that interesting. Many others do - this topic has been getting a LOT of attention around the state's political and media circles. Well worth spending some time writing about it.


I just like stuff with more pictures.

jim said...

chsra just needs to put reallly good ads on tv and then remind everyone that we would have the train but the people in palo alto are trying to take it away from everyone in order to save their gladiolas.

Why don't we ever see commericals for bart hsr etc on tv anyway?

I sit though hours of commercials for feminine hygiene products, gas x, and swiffers, but nothing about transit.

NONIMBYS said...

The Berm is already in PaloAlto dumm dumm its called a 140 year old railroad Row..look out your YUP mobile the next time you drive OVER the Tracks...Now stop crying BABIE

Morris Brown said...

The PR contract award is just another indication of how the Authority works and again gives it another black eye.

They spent 30 minutes or so finally deciding to delay awarding the contract. At no time did any board member dare mention the LA times article. They all knew about it.

I asked Curt Pringle, in the hallway before the meeting started, whether he had read the LA Times article and he replied "yes -- people have many things to say".

So Robert can write, "it was anything but a done deal", but in fact it would have been a done deal except for the unmentioned LA Times article. They rushed through RFP and had literally little to back up the selection; all this points to what was supposed to be the awarding of a contract without proper process.

You can go today to the Authority's website and find a fluff piece just posted about Karen Bass supporting the Authority's efforts to get stimulus funds. You can find an article advocating that California be awarded all 8 billion of the stimulus funds.

But what you won't find there is any mention of the Atherton, Menlo Park lawsuit and the ruling that was handed down. so much for any transparency from the Authority.

They spent a lot of time discussing on what projects should be stimulus funds be requested. No board member mentioned that the Bay Area section might not qualify since the lawsuit ruling might very well mean delays and delays mean you can't qualify under the guidelines.

If you look at the timelines posted from last month's workshop by Tony Daniels, you find they included times lines for the extensions to Sacramento and San Diego (slides 46 to 50 I think).

What is interesting is they show construction starting in 2014 on these extensions. Yet always stated has been that the construction costs for these extensions would come profits generated by the operation of the train. Revenue service for the train is shown to start in 2019. so how can you start construction in 2014 when you can't possible have funding until after 2019.

I asked Mr. Morshed about this, and he told me those timelines were there just to show the possibility of beginning construction -- that if money was available they could start at that time. Interesting.

During the meeting, time was given for the Mayor of San Diego to tell everyone how much San Diego wants to support this project etc. etc.

This brought our a response, from Pringle that they hoped they could get to San Diego sooner.

jim said...

I don't understand the problem. The authority has hired a pr firm that includes people who have political connections? The point is to get the job done right? Can they do the job? Will their connections help to get everyone on the same page?

I don't understand the problem here.

I do think that the difference between the old america and california, and today's america and california, is that with the advent of 24 hours news and the internet, rather than people getting things done in the back rooms, now everyone and their mother wants to have an opinion on everything. Including millions of americans who don't have any business having opinion on things they don't know anything about.

we see this everywhere.

Just let them get the job done for christ's sake and quit buggin' em.

Morris Brown said...

Well Jim I guess you just don't care how contracts and the funds to pay them are awarded.

If you don't see any problem here, you simply don't care to look. Everybody else, after the process was exposed, certainly saw the problems. Everyone of the Authority's board.

Let me mention one other item. Vice-chair Umberg is having to serve military duty in Afghanistan for the next 6 months. He was hooked into the session via a telecom line.

I would think they should replace Umberg, temporarily until he can return. How in the world can a board member be at all aware and able to function properly, if he is 1/2 a world away?

Anonymous said...

Uh, I didn’t say the stuff in the scoping document should have already been resolved, the point is – gee there are some clues here – should anyone give rats ass about assessing the reality for Pacheco Pass. (But I should KNOW the answer by now, which will contain some dismissals about NIMBY’s and some ignorant arrogant insults about frivolous lawsuits.. (And we know how well that works…)

For example, I would think words like 'sovereign lands' would send a chill up chsra's spine.

But anyway, here's a sampling:
From the Federal EPA:
"The significant loss of aquatic resources associated with the Pacheco Pass alignment is not consistent with the substantive binding requirements of the guidelines to avoid and minimize impacts to the maximum extent practicable (40 CFR 230.10(a) and (d)). The magnitude of impacts to special aquatic sites may cause or contribute to significant degradation of waters of the United States (40 CFR 230.10(c)) and design modifications and commitments are needed to reduce impacts to resources.”

Or this one...
"If the proposed project requires modification of existing grade crossings, road networks and construction of parking lots and transit facilities, the Draft EIS should identify what elements will require funding or approval by the Federal Highway Administration or Federal Transit Administration."
(What you mean this is just all about forcing train tracks through and FRA approval?)

And another from the EPA: "Specify the means by which impacts to sensitive receptors, such as children or the elderly, will be minimized. Identify where implementation of mitigation measures is rejected based on economic infeasibility. Provide the justification behind not committing to ALL mitigation measures."
(In other words, EPA expects you to actually MITIGATE, not just beg off the impacts as being 'too expensive'. Cost of mitigation is NOT going to be an excuse.)

Or here's a whole other line of interesting discussion:
"The Pacheco segment is constrained primarily by the presence of Pacheco Creek. The creek supports one of the few extant populations of Sycamore Alluvial Woodland, a very rare habitat type, designated as G1 and S1.1 (critically imperiled) under the Natureserve ranking system used in California Natural Diversity Database. …

“…Pacheco Creek can support a run of South Central California Coast Evolutionary Significant Unit steelhead, currently a state species of special concern and listed as threatened under the federal ESA. The unit extends from the Pajaro River south to Santa Maria River."

Plus EXTENSIVE commentary onHenry Miller Road alignment, cutting through endanged wetlands habitat, with such comments as " The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network has designated the GEA as one of only 15 international shorebird reserves in the world. GEA was also recognized in Feb 2005 as a Wetland of Worldwide Importance by the Ramsar Convention. GEA is one of only four wetlands in California with that designation and one of twenty two sites in the country. GEA has been recognized by the American Bird Conservancy as a Globally Important Bird Area."

And the commentary about water/hydrology impacts from the Santa Clara County Water District is priceless (p39) - but too much to copy here, suffice to say SCVWD is basically saying - you haven't done any studies on this area yet, the area is way more important to water resources than you've indicated so far, the mitigtions you've discussed are nonsense/WAY too difficult to mitigate - basically the program eir was nonsense with this regard, and you don't have a clue (of course, I paraphrased, but its a great read)

Show stoppers one and all, and SO MUCH MORE.. It seems that someone who actually wanted to see HSR built would give a shit about forcing CHSRA to start making sense. Not cheerleading some pie in sky fantasies about tunneling under the whole city of San Jose, trashing creeks, wildlife, water resouces, (and so many other issues)- with not a toiletload's worth of regard for the truth.

Steve said...

Greetings. You and your readers may find the article from Mikhail V Chester and Arpad Horvath from UC Berkeley interesting (if you have not seen it). It is from Environmental Research Letters and was peer-reviewed.

Here is the link: http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1748-9326/4/2/024008/erl9_2_024008.pdf?request-id=b0f32689-97b8-4843-b1a3-faf58537b55c

This life-cycle perspective is a good one for transportation planning and alternative analysis.

Steve Van Beek
Eno Transportation Foundation

jim said...

@anon

sounds like a lot of BS put forth by lawyers and pseudo enviro-nazi wackos to me.

Peter said...

@ Jim

Just because the birds, water and trees don't care about curve radii doesn't mean they aren't important to the local ecology.
It's very important to build HSR RIGHT. If it's not, then we're in many respects going back to the 50's- 70's where no one cared about the effects of construction.
And building it RIGHT means taking into account concerns from many different interests.
Take some classes in ecology and you'll have some idea of the possible VERY negative effects even very limited development can have on the local ecology when proper mitigation isn't made.

jim said...

The process in california is over run with lawyers and nimbys. There former use the process as a way of making a living and the latter use the process to keep what they have while keeping it way from others. The sierra club is the classic example. For the most part it nothing to do with real science or genuine concern for the environment. Meanwhile nothing gets done, jobs are lost and the economy suffers.

jim said...

p.s. Birds can fly. They can go wherever they want. Meanwhile we are stuck in traffic.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I've seen you defend the tactics you just mentioned when it's in San Francisco as "the process." Hypocrisy galore, may man.

Sun Rises, Sun Falls said...

It seems that someone who actually wanted to see HSR built would give a shit about forcing CHSRA to start making sense. Not cheerleading some pie in sky fantasies about tunneling under the whole city of San Jose, trashing creeks, wildlife, water resouces, (and so many other issues)- with not a toiletload's worth of regard for the truth.

Is "toiletload" a metric unit? If so, Richard Mlynarik would approve. This post is spot-on about how HSR can only be "green" if planned well. The current CHSRA ain't up for it.

The Chester and Horvath study is very useful for considering mode alternatives, but ignorance prevails at CHSRA and on this blog, so it will be dismissed as some sort of NIMBY or oil company conspiracy. Take head, insert into sand.

Spokker said...

Yeah, it's pretty much close to over. The firm should have voted no on the PR firm contract instead of delaying it. Before that they should have recommend a firm where every single employee has never held a job before so they would have no ties to anyone. Hire the worst goddamn PR firm in the world, anything to avoid the appearance of impropriety. What a stupid fucking decision.

And if I were King of the CHSRA, I would stop saying the damn thing is going to be profitable. It might, but it might not be. But who cares because it's a public good in the same way freeways and air traffic control systems are. That's how I would frame it.

But no, they cite other HSR systems in Taiwan that AREN'T making a profit (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and just the other week representatives of the CHSRA brushed off the ICE train disaster. HSR is generally safe, but you don't fucking brush off the worst accident in HSR history! You talk about how you're going to prevent another one!

Fuck!!!

jim said...

Anonymous said...
Jim, I've seen you defend the tactics you just mentioned when it's in San Francisco as "the process." Hypocrisy galore, may man


What hypocrisy? How do you think I know what's really going on, smae is we do it here. That's how I know. I'm just pointing it out. And I se that you agree, that what indeed is going on, is, using so called "environmentalism" to get you way, not because you are worried about the grass in the valley.

jim said...

anon, you think I want to protect san francisco history for some altruistic reason? I never said that. I think I've been pretty blunt about wanting to stop development here to keep out east coast riff raff, and the third world-isation of the place.... never tried to pretend it was for any other reason. I don't want any of you people here. There's too many people in the way as it is and most of them, foreign and domestic, can't speak decent english. and what is it with these kids today who mumble. Speak up for god's sake.

My point being, that most of what is done that involves the so called environmental process is a bunch of BS. SO let's not pretend. You are just interested in killing high speed rail so you a) don't have to pay for it and b) don't have to have in in your neighborhood.

Tell the truth and don't make excuses.

AndyDuncan said...

@Jim: Get off my lawn, you damn kids!

jim said...

and get a haircut, you look like a girl.

Spokker said...

Jim is a strange fellow. He supports HSR, but his other xenophobic and "screw nature" views are completely off the wall. Still, he seems like an interesting guy.

Anonymous said...

"I would think they should replace Umberg, temporarily until he can return. How in the world can a board member be at all aware and able to function properly, if he is 1/2 a world away?"

That's nothing. Rod Diridon phones in from orbit somewhere around Pluto.

jim said...

I'm not xenophobic, I just don't don't dirty trashy obnoxious people and I expect you to speak english if if you speaking to me in my country.

Be legal.
Be clean,
Behave like a civilized human being in public.
Don't push and shove.
Bathe.

I also respect the environment as my family were all huge outdoors people. We put our campfires. We never litter. We respect nature but its there for our use.

Using "environmentalism" to further ones personal means has nothing to do with protecting the environment.
The sierra club is directly responsible for burning millions of acres, including yosemite, to the ground.

and the original greenpeace leaders will have nothing to do with today's frauds.

Meanwhile today's so called environmentalists have views such as:

I suspect that eradicating smallpox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.
—John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal

Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs.
—John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal

The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing....This is not to say that the rise of human civilization is insignificant, but there is no way of showing that it will be much help to the world in the long run.
—Economist editorial

We advocate biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake. It may take our extinction to set things straight.
—David Foreman, Earth First!

Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.
—Dave Forman, Founder of Earth First!

If radical environmentalists were to invent a disease to bring human populations back to sanity, it would probably be something like AIDS
—Earth First! Newsletter

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, is not as important as a wild and healthy planets…Some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 10:57am -

it's the job of federal, state and local officials to pipe up in the context of an EIS/EIR process. Building any type of transportation infrastructure has impacts on the environment, both human and natural.

It hardly comes as news to anyone, including CHSRA, that the Pacheco Pass route runs through sensitive areas between Gilroy and Chowchilla. The program-level EIS/EIR identified Pacheco as the preferred route after study of the human vs. natural impacts.

Altamont-via-Dumbarton would have impacted the DENWR instead of the grasslands and, the modal alternative would have meant somehow adding a runway to SFO, perhaps OAK as well. Pick your poison.

To my mind, a really significant issue that hasn't received enough public attention yet is tunnel construction through the pass. Agriculture on the west side of the Central Valley depends critically on the San Luis reservoir for its water supply and that is fed by the Pacheco Creek (and others).

The Tunneling Issues Report focused primarily on the route out of the LA basin but also includes some information on Pacheco Pass. More is known about the geology in the area because other tunnels have already been dug. It mentions soft serpentine strata prone to creep and mitigation measures related to tunnel construction.

Additional studies will need to clarify if the HSR tunnels can indeed be constructed without significant impacts on the region's water supply. That relates to both uncontrolled water discharge from water-bearing rock layers (if any) and, to changes in dissolved minerals - especially, salt - in the reservoir's feed water.

In an ideal world, those risks would have already been quantified in the program-level EIS/EIR, i.e. factored more heavily into the selection of the route. However, that sort of thing requires money and the Governator twice postponed the ballot intiative and put CHSRA on a starvation budget because its funding concept did not include sufficient private investment for his liking.

Ergo, the requisite detailed geological work will now have to be done in the context of the project-level EIS/EIR. However, since there is some flexibility on the precise lateral and vertical alignments, there is no reason at this moment to believe tunneling through the pass will prove impossible.

Btw: "Provide the justification behind not committing to ALL mitigation measures."

This just means CHSRA can't ignore any one of them. EPA might want them all implemented, but it cannot impose that. If the environmental benefits of any single mitigation effort are out of whack with the associated cost, that may very well be sufficient justification for not implementing it.

Rafael said...

@ Steve -

California HSR will run on renewable electricity. There are CO2 emissions related to construction of both the HSR infrastructure and the power plant(s) that will support it (separate projects, btw), but essentially none during decades of operations.

A full life cycle analysis of CO2 emissions related to HSR vs. the modal alternatives would merely confirm what we already know and voters have already endorsed. As long as you're not running HSR trains off fossil fuels - as will be the case in the UK, for example - this is a no-brainer.

Rafael said...

@ jim

"I'm not xenophobic"

vs.

"keep out east coast riff raff"

and

"I expect you to speak english"

Xenophobic doesn't mean racist. It means opposition to outsiders in general.

Spokker said...

"Using "environmentalism" to further ones personal means has nothing to do with protecting the environment."

Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn't. But you still have to build HSR in a way in which negative externalities are mitigated.

The quotes you posted are absurd, but I suspect some were made in jest. If not, so what. We have been quite the destructive force on this planet. We are in fact living through a mass extinction event, some of which is being caused by us. In fact, we are the ones who probably killed the last Neanderthal, making us the dominant force on the planet.

I'm not saying that's good or bad, that's just the situation we're in.

Spokker said...

Spanish speaking people may in fact be holding up (or slowing the downfall of) this country's social security entitlement program by paying into the fund, but never being able to benefit from it.

Geraldo posits that Hispanic people will save the planet!

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

it's illegal to fire someone in the reserves just he has been called up for a tour of duty.

However, it might be wise for Tom Umberg to consider handing off his responsibilities regarding the CHSRA web site to another member of the board while he's overseas.

Spokker said...

When people say riff-raff, I'm suspicious of what they actually mean by that. Are they referring to criminals or otherwise bad people that we are all afraid of, or are they referring to someone who is different, but not necessarily a threat?

"Keeping out the riff-raff" usually masks racist viewpoints, I suspect.

Rafael said...

@ spokker -

in this case, it's clear that Jim was referring to anyone of any skin color who happens to come from the East Coast.

Spokker said...

I wasn't referring specifically to Jim.

jim said...

Its nothing to do with race. Its to do with a declining level of quality of life due to he bar being lowered. Some of us prefer to evolve further away from the mud huts, not towards them.

Its the pervasive sloppiness and degradation of standards, from any race, white included to which I'm opposed.

Girls how hang themselves out all over the place and use four letter words, and young men with their clothes falling off who slump and mumble. and the list goes on.

We can't be a world leader with such a population.

jim said...

I don't want the hsr train ride to be like a muni ride in other words.

One thing I like about amtrak is that conductors will throw young people off the train for using bad language in mixed company. And no you don't get a refund when you get tossed.

Alon Levy said...

Jim, people swore in the old mill towns, too. There was never a campaign then to deport all coal and steel workers from the US.

Also, Earth First! is a radical environmentalist journal. It's as representative of the views of the environmental movement as NAMBLA is of the gay rights movement.

jim said...

Who are the "real environmentalists" the ones who have there places in the pristine wilderness and won't let anyone else in? The one's who put people out of work?

and who is talking about throwing coal miners out of the country?

Alon Levy said...

Nobody wants to throw coal miners out. That's my point. When white Americans behave like morons, some people express distaste and others express admiration, but nobody proposes not letting them move in near you. It's only with minorities that you see suburban NIMBYs scream, anti-immigrants propose mass deportations, and conservative urbanists support police brutality.

The mainstream environmentalists I'm thinking of are Al Gore, who probably supports HSR, and the Sierra Club, which supports CAHSR on the condition that it have no station in Los Banos.

jim said...

sierra club are just a bunch of lawyers who make their living filing lawsuites and pusding policies that are destroying our forests.

and I never said anything about deporting anyone or anything about minorities. Im talking about illegals, who are here illegally maybe, and who bring diseases in. and legal resident of all races who who act like hooligans in public. Its unacceptable. period.

jim said...

and people like you who scream racism everytime decent people try to make a case for protecting the quality of life in this country are contributing to its decline. Bad behavior is bad behavior and really, lets take a good hard look out my apartment window and see who it is who is doing what....
you can infer that Im racist all you want. I couldn't care less but when I hear bullshit Im gonna say so.

And police doing their job is not police brutality just because you prefer that they look the other way.

jim said...

@spokker n fact, we are the ones who probably killed the last Neanderthal, making us the dominant force on the planet.

Spokker the neanderthals aren't extinct, haven't you been watching the republican party lately?

Alon Levy said...

Jim, Sierra Club isn't destroying forests. It supports let-burn policies, which say that forest fires are a natural occurrence and that the tree species in forests that have fires are adapted for them. In fact, some species can't reproduce except when they're burned in a wildfire. The problem with fire suppression is that it lets flammable materials build up in the forest, which makes it more likely that there will be a huge fire in the future, threatening homes.

If you want one group of people to blame for forest fires, don't look to environmentalists. Look to the architects of postwar suburban sprawl, which expanded urban areas to the point that they border forests. Before WW2, cities were ringed by agricultural land, which is mostly immune to wildfires. Most of those architects, as well as the people who came up with the idea of fire suppression, didn't actually live near any of those forests - they lived in big cities, and looked down on rural whites and Native Americans for not understanding how forests should properly be managed.

jim said...

Jim, Sierra Club isn't destroying forests. It supports let-burn policies, which say that forest fires are a natural occurrence and that the tree species in forests that have fires are adapted for them. In fact, some species can't reproduce except when they're burned in a wildfire"

that is so much bs.

jim said...

forestscience

Anonymous said...

Enthusiasts: With friends like Jim, who needs enemies?

jim said...

read the above anon, if that is your real name....

Alon Levy said...

Jim, you're linking to a guy with a website that says global warming isn't happening - hardly the most reputable source.

jim said...

He doesn't say it isn't happening. His position is that the climate has been warming since the last ice age and the we can and will adapt to it.

jim said...

and again, just go ahead and read the post about the fires. its the truth and anyone can see that.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

@ Jim re "letting them burn"

I challenge you to find a real, peer-reviewed journal article in a reputable journal that states what you're alleging. Posting a random article by some PhD doesn't do anything to boost your point.

There are a lot of PhD's out there who probably shouldn't be PhD's (my father included).

Alon Levy said...

His position is that the climate has been warming since the last ice age and the we can and will adapt to it.

Yes, and said position is total crap. CO2 concentrations were stable from the end of the ice age to 18000. Global temperatures were mostly stable from the end of the ice age to about 1950. There was plenty of climate change when the ice age ended, but there were no big cities located right on the coasts then, or fertile agricultural floodplains.

jim said...

The sierra club has let millions of acres burn to the ground. Its criminal. Do you know the difference between natural fires of long ago and the mess they have created with this policy? It criminal.
The forests need to be clean, thinned and brought back to a state of balance and burning them to the ground in firestorms is neither natural or healthy.

What are you a couple of college age hipsters who thiink you know squat. I spent my youth in those forests and I have seen what's happened to them.

First the phony environmentalists stopped letting them be cleared and cleaned, so that dangerous and unhealthy conditions resulted, and then they set fire to them and let them burn beyond repair.

The policies of the last 30 years have left the forests around tahoe in a state of sickness. Sicker than Ive even seen. Its a total fuck up and the people responsible for it, namely sierra club lawyers, should face criminal charges.

jim said...

and if environmentalists were really worried about global warming they wouldn't have forced most of the world to continue to operate filthy coal plants by putting a halt to nuclear power. We could have eliminated 100 percent of coal plants in the US by now. not too mention that burning coal spews nuclear waste in the atmoshpere among other toxins and the massive amounts of coal waste have to be put somewhere. It kills whatever natural environment is touches.

mike said...

I don't want the hsr train ride to be like a muni ride in other words.

Why? I thought you said MUNI works great as is and anyone who argues otherwise is just a whiner?

jim said...

It does work great. That doesn't mean its pleasant.

jim said...

took the muni 5 times today, twice on the cable car, one metro trip the 19 and the 21.
Worked perfect everytime. Full of thuggy, dirty, pushy, stinky, people who can't follow basic directions ( move back, exit rear, etc ) but that's not muni's fault. That the fault of the riff raff who can't follow simple directions

Alon Levy said...

First the phony environmentalists stopped letting them be cleared and cleaned, so that dangerous and unhealthy conditions resulted, and then they set fire to them and let them burn beyond repair.

Yes, just like Native Americans. Let's just kill them all again.

jim said...

relax drama queen. The world is not coming to an end.

Alon Levy said...

You shouldn't on the one hand claim that forests are about to go extinct and on the other call other people drama queens.

jim said...

I never said they were going extinct. I said the sierra club is responsible for burning them to the ground including massive fires at both yellowstone and yosemite.