Judge Kenny rules against the HSR Authority.
Finally! Judge Kenny has ruled the California High Speed Rail Authority plans are not complying with Prop 1A. This should stop the great “California High Speed Train Robbery”.
Those of us opposing the California High Speed Rail project, finally had our day in court, and Judge Kenny has ruled that indeed the project does not meet the requirements of Prop 1A, as passed by the voters in November 2008.
His ruling will surely have a major effect on the HSR Project and hopefully will stop any construction from taking place under the present plan.
Despite surviving at various times, numerous objections from the LAO, the State Auditor, the peer review group, the State Senate Transportation and Housing committee, all of which pointed to the project being flawed and should not proceed, these objections were always cast aside, by the Legislature, and the project moved forward.
The Authority’s present board, now led by the cabal of Chair Dan Richard and CEO Jeff Morales, rubber stamp all actions these two propose. The Board fails to adhere to the statutory rules under which its considerable powers were granted. Why not just quit having board meetings and let Richard and Morales do, without any oversight, what they want, since essentially that is what has been taking place?
Until Judge Kenny’s ruling, the project was proceeding and had been morphed from what was supposed to be construction of a High Speed Rail project into a ordinary passenger “rail modernization” program.
On numerous occasions, the project should have been halted, but the State legislature refused to halt the project, and the lure of 3 billion in Federal grants, and the promise of an enduring legacy for the Governor, was always was able to keep this “boondoggle” moving forward.
A bit of history is in order here.
Even before passage of Prop 1A in Nov. 2008, one could see politicians and their high powered friends designing the project to suit their selfish needs.
Sticking out like a “sore thumb” in Prop 1A, is this statement:
“There shall be no station between Gilroy and Merced.”
Why was this inserted? Well, exposed before Prop 1A was approved by the legislature, it was discovered that a station was being planned in the Los Banos area of Merced County, a pristine, undeveloped area, but an area in which vast real estate holdings had been accumulated by politically connected interests. A HSR station was to be placed on a dairy farm, which the family of a consultant to the Authority owned. When exposed, the environmental community went ballistic, and this restriction was inserted.
The City of San Jose, insisted the routing to the Central Valley, be changed from an Altamont crossing to a crossing via the Pacheco pass, thus enabling a station to be located centrally in San Jose. San Jose would withdraw support for the project, if the crossing route was not changed. The City prevailed.
In 2008, through the efforts mostly of State Senator Alan Lowenthal’s committee, added to Prop 1A were restrictions, that would seem to make sure a true High Speed Rail project would be built. As events have unfolded, the Authority has simply ignored these restrictions and has implemented a project shaped by politics, not a project that conforms to the voter approved Prop 1A law.
Despite explicit wording in Prop 1A, that a business plan had to be submitted to the voters by Oct 2008, well before the Nov 2008 election, the required business plan magically appeared only after the election, and upon examination it was deemed, totally inadequate.
Enumerated below are some high points of Authority arrogance and illegal events.
1. no business plan before 2008 election
2. Prop 1A promoted with the promise of 117 million passengers / year nonsense
3. Prop 1A was promoted with a cost of $33 billion for the construction and to be finished by 2020
4. A politically connected PR firm awarded an $8 million PR contract without due process
5. Legislature voted to withhold Authority funding unless a new business plan is produced by a certain due date.
a. Authority did not produce plan -- Schwarzenegger vetoes only the due date restriction --- not the funds. --- Later his veto was ruled by the court to be illegal. (2010-2011 budget)
6. Despite LAO, State Auditor, and Peer Review panel objections, the project moves ahead
7. Governor Brown replaces CEO vanArk with Morales and Chair Umberg with Richard; purely political. Neither Morales nor Richard have any High Speed Rail experience. vanArk was the only official with any HSR experience.
8. New business plan, revises project cost to $98 billion and finish is delayed until 2033.
9. New business plan, promotes “blended plan” as cost savings
a. illegal under many restrictions in the Prop 1A law.
10 Authority certifies a funding plan which the court has now ruled illegal under Prop 1A
a. no CEQA completed
b. the funding is not properly identified
11 SB-1029 passed with $1.1 billion appropriated to fund non-hsr bookend projects
a. No funding for the bookends was included in the Authority approved funding plan, but the appropriations bill, SB-1029 is introduced with no real debate and passed in 3 days
12 Bidding construction contract process is illegally changed (by Morales) and results in a corrupted outcome.
a. Tutor/Perini/Zachary/Parsons firm should have been disqualified on poor technical ability.
13 CEO Morales makes decisions without Authority Board approval, which by law, is required
14 Authority announces “rail modernization” program which is designed to take HSR funds and use them for ordinary passenger rail, not for High Speed Rail projects.
a. Taking $1.1 billion of HSR funds and directing them to local transit agencies is politically popular and secures the needed votes to pass SB-1029.
The project is all about the money and delivering dividends to powerful interests (certain cities, unions and developers)
Finally the lawsuit in opposition was heard by the court, Judge Kenny will hold a further hearing to determine an effective remedy for the non-conformance with Prop 1A.
From Lee Harper’s “To Kill a Mocking Bird”…. Atticus Finch notes:
“Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers. So finally we have a legal ruling that should stop the project as presently proposed. Maybe a newly constituted Authority might follow the law; this one certainly has not.
a founder of DERAIL (original grass roots group against the HSR project)
Menlo Park, CA