Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Board Meeting Report: April 2008

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

I'd like to welcome Ryan Loney to the site - he will be a frequent contributor on HSR topics, beginning with this report from last week's CHSRA board meeting. - Robert

After attending the California High Speed Rail Authority board meeting for the month of April last week, I lost a lot of faith in our state government and their managing of the High Speed Rail project. The meeting accomplished very little, and most of the time allocated for the meeting was spent by board members Curt Pringle and Kirk Lindsey arguing fiercely in opposition to smart growth, transit oriented development (TOD), and public funding of the project. The meeting got off to a somewhat late start and was introduced by co-Chairwoman Fran Flores, as Chairman Quentin Kopp arrived late to the meeting. She brought up a current assembly bill AB3034 related to the high speed rail project. AB3034 will be set for committee hearing on April 14th at 1pm. At the Governor's request, the assembly bill will work to address issues of fiscal responsibility by allowing for a possible public-private partnership for the rail project--likely forfeiting State control of the project to corporate investors.

Other than approving the minutes of the previous meeting and bringing up the issues of AB3034, there was not much else accomplished at this board meeting. Most of the time was occupied by the heated arguing of Curt Pringle and Kirk Lindsey with the other members of the board. After doing some research on these two individuals I learned that they were both appointed to the board in 2007 by Governor Schwarzenegger. Curt Pringle, currently the Mayor of Anaheim, is also a registered lobbyist who has lobbied for several companies that have conflicting interests with the HSR project. I was shocked to learn that while he has lobbied for the oil company Atlantic Richfield and Company, also known as ARCO, Governor Schwarzenegger felt that he was a qualified person to serve on the board of the High Speed Rail project--a project that will significantly reduce our oil consumption. If this doesn't scream conflict of interest I don't know what does. Mayor Pringle was formerly the Speaker of the California State Assembly, the last Republican to hold that position. He and the Orange County Republican Party were sued after he was narrowly elected to the California State Assembly in the election of 1988 for hiring security guards to intimidate Latino voters at polling locations across the county. The guards dressed in uniform with signs in both Spanish and English informed voters that "illegal-immigrants" would not be allowed to vote in this election. He and the Orange County Republican Party paid a settlement of $400,000 dollars to the plaintiffs, 5 Latino voters and the Orange County Democratic Party. Despite all of this, Curt Pringle was hand picked by Governor Schwarzenegger to be a voting member of the California High Speed Rail Authority. From his presentation and attitude at the meeting it seems as if he will fight hard to keep this project from going anywhere soon unless he can stop the board from forcing cities to implement TOD and smart growth plans and force the project to be privately financed.

Despite opposition to project plans from within the board, there were a few positive announcements and accomplishments made at the meeting. According to the board, if we pass the bond measure this fall and immediately start working on the project, they predict all segments and corridors of the project will be complete by 2020. The Deputy Director of the project, Dan Leavitt, made an impressive visual presentation showing the entire rail system and the design, location, and style of all of the proposed stations. The video footage he presented should be available to the public within the next few weeks and I would suggest that anyone interested in California HSR watch it. It will be available on the http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/ website.

Other speakers at the meeting included the Visalia's Mayor Jesus Gamboa, a representative from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) discussing Sacramento's progress in smart growth and TOD to prepare for a HSR station, and a student from Sacramento City College informing the board of CalPIRG's recent Spring Break event to promote High Speed Rail. Mayor Gamboa addressed the board about his City's desire to be included as a stop in the HSR network. He shared the City's efforts to promote smart growth, transit oriented development and their overwhelming desire to have a high speed rail station. Specifically Mayor Gamboa said, "Visalia has been promoting smart growth and transit oriented development for a long time." He also mentioned that many people in the Tulare-Kings County Area would benefit from access to a station in their area. The representative from SACOG praised the practices of smart growth and emphasized the connection between land-use and transportation planning. He continued with, "Sacramento has worked hard to address sprawl. We are worried though about sprawl and development practices around the [high speed rail] stations." He suggested that a transit oriented development plan or TOD plan be implemented in the areas surrounding all of the proposed stations.

The meeting concluded with public comment. However, public comment was very limited and restricted and no response was offered to the comments that I had made nor to any of the comments made by others who spoke. Hopefully at the next meeting more concerned citizens will speak up to the board. The next board meeting will be held at 10am on May 7th, the location is TBD in Sacramento. The committee hearing for AB3034 is set for April 14th at 1pm in Room 4202 at the State Capitol and is open to the public. The text of AB3034 can be downloaded here: http://files.statesurge.com/file/194986.

Ryan Loney contributed to this report. He can be contacted at raloney@ucdavis.edu.


FLUBBER said...

please keep us posted about upcoming meetings! I'm in GA right now, but I get back into Sacramento on May 7 (after the meeting that day unfortunately)
but I'd love to make any and all other meetings possible!

P.S. There's also a facebook group devoted to HSR, it's odd that these events weren't listed on them, or if they were, not clear why a notice to its members didnt go out

FLUBBER said...

D'Oh! I guess Loney is the head of that group!

Robert Cruickshank said...

The board meeting was indeed posted on the HSR facebook group (I'm an admin there as well). In fact, the meeting had been posted for over a month in advance. We will do the same for the next board meeting.

Mike Fogel said...

thanks for the post... informative.

Anonymous said...

According to the HSR website, the next board meeting Date: May 14, 2008. Time: 10:00 a.m.
Location: Anaheim City Hall
Council Chambers
200 S. Anaheim Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805 S.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to see that member Pringle's past disqualify him from being a vaild supported of high speed rail. Do you know (probably not till now) that the Orange County Transportation Authority is providing the CHSRA with $7m this year and next for the EIR work in Southern California?

I'm a San Franciscan lefty, but regardless of Pringle's credentials, is one of the brighter faces on the Authority. The argument over land use was idiotic. The stations, except for the one that Visalia keeps lobbying for, are ALL IN DOWNTOWNS! The idea that the CHSRA should subsidize developers to build near stations is idiotic. The developers lucky enough to build near high speed rail should be paying for it, like the Transbay plan in San Francisco.

People need to know the routes and the stations and all before wasting time arguing about theory. I was sickened at the meeting that no one could come up and explain where the Sacramento station was to the member from Modesto, who should know where the station is.

Enough of a rant for now..... let's get a train built!