By Noel T. Braymer
This is not an opinion. The fact is every attempt by those trying to stop or defund the California High Speed Rail Project has failed. The most recent pair of losers are State Senator Bob Huff and George Runner of the State Board of Equalization. They raised $2 million dollars from rich corporate farm owners to try to put a measure on the November ballot which would switch the remaining money for High Speed Rail for the construction of dams. This proposed measure would have also stripped the water rights of most family farms as well as eliminate all water reserves needed to preserve the State’s ecology to go instead to farms with water rights. Huff and Runner recently announced that they won’t be able to get enough signatures in time to place this measure on this year’s ballot. But they claim they be will trying again in 2018. They blame their failure to get enough signatures because of the many other efforts to put measures on the ballot. This has raised the cost for using paid canvassers to collect signatures which is more than they can afford. Perhaps the fact that their measure was being opposed by environmentalists, family farmers and High Speed Rail supporters had something to do with their decision to quit too. Recently polling had shown that the High Speed Rail money for Dams measure was failing to even attract support of a majority of voters.
We have seen this all before. There have been at least 3 campaigns to put on a ballot measure for different elections to shut down the California High Speed Rail Project since Prop 1A passed in November of 2008. None of these campaigns ever collected enough signatures to it even being worth the effort to turn in to the Secretary of State. These campaigns were all losers! In addition, there have been 4 lawsuits again California High Speed Rail brought by Kings County, Aaron Fukuda and John Tos. John Tos is the largest land owner in Kings County of several dairy farms. Two of these lawsuits were throw out of court years ago. One lawsuit was approved by the Judge, only to have his decision overturned on appeal and that decision upheld by the State’s Supreme Court. The final lawsuit which after much sturm and drang from the media that it could spell the end of California High Speed Rail was dismissed on March 8th by the same Judge for the other 3 lawsuits. When you lose 4 out of 4, you’re a loser.
There has been much opposition of the High Speed Rail Project by local residents against route alignments near to where these residents live. Opposition from local residents have been a major reason the project is taking longer than planned to be built. This is common in almost any major construction project today. These local residents generally are not opposed to High Speed Rail. They just don’t want it built near them. Once the final route is chosen and it avoids their property that is usually the end of their opposition to the California High Speed Rail Project in that community.
A good example of this would be in Bakersfield. The city had many issues with the original route for High Speed Rail through Bakersfield from the impacts it would have on different neighborhoods. A deal was finally cut to study an alternative route that the city preferred which impacted fewer people as part of a settlement of a lawsuit against the High Speed Rail Authority.This new route also misses the Amtrak Station in downtown which will prevent transfers with the San Joaquin Trains. This new route will likely be, but has not yet been chosen as the High Speed Rail route into Bakersfield. So now Bakersfield and Kern County LOVES High Speed Rail. They would love to have the High Speed Rail Maintenance Facility and the jobs that go with it in Kern County.
The assumption by the opponents of High Speed Rail over the almost 8 years since Prop 1A was passed was that “the people” would become sick and tired of High Speed Rail because of the high costs and waste of their taxes. It was the assumption that soon “the people” would be eager to sign a petition for a ballot measure to stop the “Bullet Train madness” and throw out the elected bums responsible for it. All that was missing were the torches and pitchforks.
Funny thing, there just weren’t enough people with torches and pitchforks to even get any of these ballot measures on the ballot, let alone passed to stop the High Speed Rail Project. During the 2014 Governor’s race Neel Kashkari ran against Governor Jerry Brown. Running against any incumbent is always an uphill battle in any election. It didn’t help that Mr. Kashkari’s opponent had a good favorability rating with the voters after balancing the State’s budget and achieving at budget surplus. The Governor also enjoyed the good luck of coming to office just before the economy improved and unemployment began to drop. Mr. Kashkari did his best to use opposition to High Speed Rail as one of his major issues. This despite every Governor since Pete Wilson, who signed the legislation creating the High Speed Rail Authority has supported High Speed Rail. The good news for Neel Kashkari is that he has been able to find a job, as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis,
When Prop 1A passed approving the bond money which kicked off the California High Speed Rail Project, it won by a simple majority. All it takes to win most elections is to have one more vote than the other side in most elections: that’s democracy in action. That’s not to say there aren’t quite a few California voters that don’t like the High Speed Rail project. You just can’t please everyone. But it has continued to be a fact that the people who oppose High Speed Rail are in the minority.
Despite all the media attention and constant barrage of alarmist headlines about the High Speed Rail project, a majority, granted a small majority of Californians still support it. By and large it isn’t an issue high on the list of peoples priorities one way or the other. So what is an example of what people are largely concerned with? One ballot measure that has already gotten enough signatures to be on the ballot would raise the minimum wage in California to $15 dollars an hour. This measure most likely won’t be on the ballot now because the Legislature is now working to raise the minimum to $15 an hour by 2022.
The fact is, people are interested in improved transportation and are willing to raise their taxes to get it. Most of the major counties in California have sales taxes for transportation improvements. Theses measures require a 2/3rds majority to be passed. Even when these measures fail to get a 2/3rds majority, they always get well over a 50 percent majority. The opponents of High Speed Rail act as it everything in California to do with transportation is all honky-dory and High Speed Rail is what will destroy that. But the reality is we have congested roads and bridges which are old and need of replacement. We have problems with pollution and the high costs of transportation. Failure to act to improve our transportation will have major impacts on our future economy. What are the solutions or alternatives to these day to day problems from the critics of High Speed Rail?Oddly they have only complaints but have no solutions. An example of this is Mr. George Runner who helped propose the High Speed Rail money for dams scheme. He is on the Board of Equalization. He recently pushed through a reduction in the sales tax on gasoline. This resulted in savings of a few cents a gallon on gas for drivers. But it removed millions of dollars of income that was budgeted to repair roads in the State.