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The Madera Tribune

High-speed rail was a good idea

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webmaster | 08/26/13

I do not oppose the idea of a useful high-speed rail system. What I do vehemently oppose is the utterly arrogant and disrespectful manner in which the High-Speed Rail Authority has shoved it down our collective throats. I oppose the “bait and switch” tactics, the criminal and unconstitutional disregard for property owners, agriculture, the environment, the voters, and the taxpayers of our county and state. I am disgusted with the financial deceit and morally bankrupt non-elected individuals who have been placed in charge of our destiny. I am saddened over the irreparable pending effects on our farmland and rural communities such as Chowchilla and Fairmead.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington, D.C., are insisting that The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is too restrictive and should be set aside for HSR but not for the development and delivery of more (new) water to Madera County and California. The California High-Speed Rail Authority filed a brief with the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento claiming that federal environmental laws — typically considered less stringent than the California Environmental Quality Act — supersede state regulations.

Therefore, we are told to swallow that high-speed rail is much more important than our environment or collecting and storing the water that will create thousands of real jobs and billions in economic benefits.

I would like to ask the local wonks who are still so loudly promoting the much talked about, but never pinpointed, jobs issue to step up and personally guarantee that there will be 1,500 high-paying permanent HSR jobs that will all go to Madera County residents.

“Put up or shut up,” as my grandfather was fond of saying to the posers.

Awarding construction contracts to a poorly rated company that just happens to have ties to a sitting senator because they were able to tender a low bid knowing full well that they traditionally collect much more in cost overruns? What have they not learned by the Bay Bridge fiasco? They must know better than we commoners. After all, we elected them. Ironically, whatever good there may have been in the original HSR idea has been morphed and marginalized by elitist and socially inept bureaucrats. I have heard it sometimes referred to as “criminal stupidity”.

In 2008, the voters approved a $10 billion HSR Bond against a $40 billion total estimated projected cost. So much for another promise made to voters deciding whether to award the project $9.95 billion in initial bond funding. That soon ballooned to nearly $100 million and was “pared down” to today’s favorite underestimate of $68 billion by making compromises to their stated performance goals and promises. Some recent revised estimates have run as high as $200 billion and the state hasn’t yet secured all of the additional funds needed. The voters were told it would meet the highest environmental standards; that it would cost $43 billion; that the ticket to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost $55 and the trip would take no more than two hours and 40 minutes.

Quentin Kopp chaired the state Senate transportation committee for years and co-wrote legislation that launched the bullet-train project. He later served as board chairman of the state agency overseeing construction of the system. In a recent legal declaration, he filed in a civil suit seeking to halt the project. Kopp, a retired judge, said the project as now planned violates the law. “They have just mangled this project. They distorted it. We don’t get a high-speed rail system. It is the great train robbery,” Kopp said.

The HSR project is no longer anything like what Californians approved and should, at the very least, be brought back to the voters in its current bloated and divisive form for reconsideration.

How many voters would have approved the initial HSR bond issue if they had known it would trigger the governor’s 10-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and the stripping of surface water storage language out of the water bond to help pay for it. It is the mid- and lower-income families that are now being penalized by higher fuel costs and lack of employment to finance an aging politician’s attempt at a legacy to equal that of his late father, a former governor.

We must also be reminded of the lessons of the recently threatened BART strike. The voters will have no say as to whether or when the train will run or not run. Depend on that.

Recently, Sacramento effectively influenced the three-to-two decision by our own Madera County Board of Supervisors to abrogate their solemn promise to participate in the Farm Bureau’s lawsuit against the HSR. That kind of flip-flop almost assures that those responsible will not be doing as much future business based upon their word or their handshake.

The federal stimulus grants are scheduled to run dry in 2017. Which of our local social, educational and safety programs will have to be cut in order to pay for the continued expense of a train that will likely not stop in Madera nor make it over the Grapevine?

Jim Patterson, member of California Legislature Assembly District 23, states, “Proposition 1A promised existing rail routes would be used, prime ag land would be spared, average speeds would be 250-plus mph, and at least a third of the capital and operating expenses would come from private investment. None of those promises to the people have been kept by the High-Speed Rail Authority. That is why thoughtful people ought to oppose this mess, re-think and re-vote on this entire proposition. Even Judge Quentin Kopp, one of the founding members of the High-Speed Rail Authority, agrees. There is still time for cooler heads to prevail. We all want more jobs and a better economy, but this is not the way to do it.”

We are told that we must swallow it or be forced to choke on it.

I, and more than a few other clear thinking folks, prefer to chew on it for a while. At least until we can wash it down with some new water.

Ray Krause,

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Krause is a candidate for Madera County supervisor, District 1


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