Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ashburn Keeps Trying to Kill HSR

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

The State Senate is back in session and Roy Ashburn is continuing his campaign to deny his constituents cheap, sustainable transportation by trying to kill the HSR bonds:

Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, lost his bid Monday to delay the vote now scheduled for Nov. 4 on a bond to help start building a high- speed railroad in California.

The Assembly Transportation Committee turned down Senate Bill 298, which would have pushed the $9.95 billion bond to the 2010 ballot.

Ashburn, who represents most of Tulare County, said he's a supporter of high-speed rail but opposes a bond vote this fall because there isn't adequate information available on such issues as expected use, fares, routes and energy use for the proposed train that would travel through the San Joaquin Valley.

Despite this rejection, the Bakersfield Californian reports he's going to keep trying anyway:

An Assembly committee rejected a bill by Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, to postpone the measure until 2010. However, Ashburn said he’ll try again later this week, when a fiscal oversight bill to be attached to the bond comes before the Senate for a vote....

Ashburn said he supports high-speed rail but the project is too expensive to approve without firm commitments for the rest of the funding. He also feels a September due date for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to produce an updated business plan isn’t enough time for voters to thoroughly assess the project.

“It’s a last-minute, last-ditch effort to put something together and rush it to the ballot,” Ashburn said. “For those of us that are truly supportive of high-speed rail, let’s take it off the ballot, give it time and work on these things.”

I don't believe Ashburn on this for a minute. He is being deliberately disingenuous, and the only thing that is last-minute, last-ditch about this is Ashburn's objections.

Let's think about this for a moment. Ashburn isn't a random voter, he is a two-term State Senator. If he felt there were problems with the Authority's business plan and funding, why didn't he raise these objections sooner? Why didn't he push for an updated business plan earlier? He must know that it's simply not possible for a thorough and complete update to be done sooner than September. And had AB 3034 been approved three weeks ago, the Authority would already be working on the plan.

As he must know, private enterprise and Congress are not going to commit funds to a project that California hasn't already committed itself to building. Not only does someone have to make the first step, but that "someone" can only be the state of California. It would have helped if our Congressional delegation, especially our two Senators, had been more proactive about securing at least a small amount of federal funding - perhaps $45 million for an HSR study, the same amount LA-Vegas maglev got - to show that Congress plans to support this. And private enterprise absolutely will not commit until the public sector has done so, as they explained to the Authority in June.

Ashburn's 11th hour objections are irresponsible. As a public servant he ought to have raised these concerns earlier in the year, instead of holding up the very bill that would address his concerns.

But more significantly, Ashburn is using this fear, uncertainty, and doubt strategy to try and kill the project outright. If he merely wanted an improved bond measure, he would have spoken up sooner. Instead he's using these last-minute objections to block AB 3034 - he already delayed past the deadline to alter Prop 1 - in hopes that either the bond will be pulled or the public will turn against a plan he's labeled as inadequate.

Even a delay is not a financially sound move, as Sen. Dean Florez explained to the Bakersfield Californian:

“Every year we put off moving forward with this ... we not only watch the overall cost of the project rise,” he said, “but we run the risk of losing investors who are unsure of our commitment to making high-speed rail a reality.”

We've already delayed this vote twice. It's time we let the voters of California have their say. Especially those in Bakersfield, in Ashburn's district, who desperately need a non-oil based affordable method to travel around their own state.


Brandon in California said...

Ashburn is being irresponsible about our future. He's also one of the many republicans blockign progress on the state budget.

I'd like to see recall efforts on some of these politicians.... b/c they are being too partisan and not workign with others to solve these critical problems.

If Ashburn and others have not heard, we need an efofrt similar to mobilizing for war to fight our dependance on foreign oil and global warming.

What is Ashburn and other State republican's doing? They are sympisizing with the enemy by delaying mobilization efforts.

Perhaps that is an extreme interpretation... but it was entertaining thinking and writing it.

Anonymous said...

What people need to do is start calling and making your sure he knows The PEOPLE want this system.not his ideolgy thought! It is time for a MARCH!!! in Sac and

Anonymous said...

Give your Senator a call about HSR..I just did..Tommorrow call Senator NO-RAIL and tell him to stop playing games!

Anonymous said...

As noted on our website, the City of Menlo Park and Town of Atherton councils both voted this evening to join in a CEQA lawsuit to invalidate the EIR/EIS for the High Speed Rail project. The legal action will be filed very shortly. will be filed shortly.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you have found a good hobby for your retirement Morris, good for you. Proof an old fuddy-dud really can screw it up for the rest of us.

How many people from the east side of 101 Menlo Park at your meeting?

Spokker said...

Hey Cruickshank, if this bond passes does that mean construction will definitely start on the SF-LA segment, or is construction contingent on something else?

If the bond measure passes, could that still mean no HSR, at least for SF-LA?

Tony D. said...

MB 10:28,
What a bunch of selfish, NIMBY B.S.!! There's frankly no other way to put it. A lawsuit from a spoiled few trying to thwart progress for the rest of us. Well,
hopefully your lawsuit dies on a vine so that this state can move into the future with high-speed rail. MB, isn't loud, lumbering, smog belching Caltrain already in your backyard? Wouldn't Caltrain be better if it was electrified, grade-separated, and fenced off for safety? Robert, please tell us that this stupid, frivolous lawsuit will go nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Morris, for putting your personal interests ahead of the rest of the state.

Robert Cruickshank said...

spokker, the way Prop 1 is worded, LA-SF will indeed be the first portion built and opened.

As to the lawsuit, that will be the topic of today's post. Although I don't know if I can top nikko's short and sweet response.

Anonymous said...

Advocates for this project should think about who is joining in the lawsuit. PCL is one of the most admired environmental groups in the State and has been responsible for a lot of excellent legislation.

The pro Rail groups joining in the suit, as they have been trying to explain, support High Speed Rail; they don't support this project.

Senator Ashburn pleading to delay Prop 1 on Monday,finished his presentation with an elegant summation. I have posted the audio to our website. Its worth listening to for anyone interested in the project. Its not very long.

Anonymous said...

From editorial page of the Orange County Register today:

Rail bond should be derailed
High-speed train finance measure deserves to lose in November

president, Howard Jarvis Taxpeyers Association

Few proposals on the November ballot make as little sense as Proposition. 1, the so-called High Speed Rail initiative. Why is Prop. 1 so bad?

Let's count the ways: First, Prop. 1 is a boondoggle that will cost taxpayers nearly $20 billion in principal and interest. Taxpayers will foot this bill – it's not "free money." According to the measure (Article 3, Section 2704.10). "[T]he full faith and credit of the state of California is hereby pledged for the punctual payment of both principal of, and interest on, the bonds"

This measure will take $20 billion out of the state's general fund over the life of the bonds. That's over $2,000 for an average family of four.

Second, California can't afford higher budget deficits. With our budget crisis, billions in red ink, pending cuts to health care, the poor, parks and schools, now is not the time to add another $20 billion in state debt and interest. The state already has over $100 billion in voter-approved bonds, and our bond rating is already among the worst in the nation. This could lower it further.

Third, there are much better uses for taxpayer dollars. California has higher priorities than this $20 billion boondoggle. What would $20 billion buy?

•22,000 new teachers, firefighters or law enforcement personnel for 10 years.

•Health care for all children in the state for many years.

•An updated California water system to provide a reliable supply of safe, clean water.

•An upgraded and expanded existing transportation system including roads and transit throughout California, which would really reduce traffic and carbon emissions.

Fourth, there is no accountability in Prop. 1. Politicians and bureaucrats will control the money. There is not one citizen member on the new "finance committee." They are all politicians and bureaucrats. There are no reporting requirements so the public can see how the money is spent. No independent, outside audit is required.

Fifth, As bad as Prop. 1 is, it still would be only a fraction of the cost of the entire project – a blank check for more government waste. The total cost is estimated to be over $40 billion and some experts expect it to reach $100 billion ($10,000 for the average family of four).

Section 1(d) says the bond funds are "intended to encourage the federal government and the private sector to make significant contribution toward the construction." Note the word "encourage."

That's bureaucratic language for, "We will spend taxpayer money regardless of whether we ever get a penny from the private sector or the federal government." In fact, $58 million in taxpayer money already has been spent on this project and not one foot of track has been laid. Now they want us to trust them with $10 billion more.

Sixth, Prop. 1 reflects the worst kind of special-interest promotions. The Association for California High Speed Trains is promoting this boondoggle. Their Board represents out-of-state special interests (France, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, New York City, Texas and Illinois), many of whom stand to make millions if this measure passes.

Finally, even if one thinks that high-speed rail projects hold promise for the future, Prop. 1's plan is still only half-baked. Indeed, even though the language of Prop. 1 is set for the November ballot, there is a bill currently pending in the Legislature that proponents are trying to jam through that would alter the original plan in many substantive areas.

Prop. 1 is simply not ready for prime time.


Spokker said...

"spokker, the way Prop 1 is worded, LA-SF will indeed be the first portion built and opened."

I know, but my question is, if prop 1 passes, is there still a chance that a high speed rail line will not be built in California?

If that happens, where does the money go? Does it just not get borrowed? Does it get diverted to other projects?