Rail foes seek to bar further spending on project

Plaintiffs in suit against High Speed Rail Authority submit proposed 'remedies'

After scoring a victory in a Sacramento court last month, opponents of California's proposed high-speed rail system are now asking the judge to bar the agency responsible for the line from spending any money on the $68 billion project until a new business plan is in place.

Stuart Flashman and Michael Brady, attorneys for plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority, this week filed proposed "remedies" in response to an Aug. 16 decision from Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny. The judge concurred with the plaintiff's argument that the rail authority violated the law when it adopted a business plan that identifies funding sources for only the first 140-mile construction segment of the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line.

Proposition 1A, which the voters approved in 2008 and which allocates $9 billion in state funds for high-speed rail, requires the rail authority to identify funds for the fist "initial operating segment" of the line before commencing construction.

Flashman, who represented Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton in prior lawsuits against the rail authority, is now representing Central Valley plaintiffs John Tos, Aaron Fukuda and Kings County.

As part of the proposed remedy, which the court will consider on Nov. 8, Flashman and Brady are asking the court to require the rail authority to set aside its 2011 business plan and return with an updated version that identifies funding for the initial usable segment, as required by law. Until that happens, the rail authority would be barred from approving construction contracts or expending any portion of the $2.6 billion in Prop. 1A funds that legislators approved last year.

In addition, the rail authority would be restrained from spending the $3.3 billion in federal funds it received last year for the first segment of the rail line.

The plaintiffs are also calling for the rail authority to provide, within 30 days, a "full and complete accounting of its use of Proposition 1A bond funds, including its past expenditures of such funds, its current commitments to future expenditures of such funds, and its plans for committing or expending such funds during the next two years," the attorneys' brief states.

The November decision will come at a critical time for the rail authority, which is now preparing to start construction on the first set of tracks, between Fresno and Bakersfield. Under its preferred alternative, the segment would later be stretched south to San Fernando, culminating in the first "initial operating segment." After Kenny's ruling last month, rail officials said they plan to proceed with their construction plans until the litigation concludes.

In their opening brief on remedies, Flashman and Brady argue that the bill authorizing Proposition 1A "added a series of taxpayer protections to the bill" and that these protections should be respected. The legislature "did this in recognition of the need to assure the voters that the money they were being asked to authorize would be used wisely."

"As the Court has already ruled, Respondent violated those provisions by issuing a funding plan that did not comply with Proposition 1A's requirements for adequate funding and prior environmental clearance for the usable segment to be constructed with bond funds," Flashman wrote. "The question of remedy is therefore key to assuring that the promises made to the voters remain meaningful."


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Posted by Mark
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

NO to HIGH SPEED RAIL!!! NO to the UNDERGROUND TUNNELS that are to STEAL EVEN MORE water to irrigate land that the MASSIVELY HUGE agribusinesses ALREADY DESTROYED ONCE with their greed and irresponsible treatment of the environment. High Speed Rail between LA and SF via the San Joaquin Valley is another version of the theft of the Owens River for LA water users. The now useless and environmentally brutalized land in the San Joaquin Valley will become EXTREMELY VALUABLE since there will be not only high speed rail to quickly travel to-and-from the area, BUT ALSO, there will be PLENTY OF WATER TO WASTE thanks to the THEFT OF WATER from the Delta by the 2 proposed "tunnels" that IF they ARE built, will decimate and destroy much of the Delta as the incursion of saltwater will destroy freshwater ecosystems including plants and animals that live ONLY in freshwater ecosystems. NO to High Speed Rail! NO to the diversion of EVEN MORE water to irrigate land that the MASSIVELY HUGE agribusinesses ALREADY DESTROYED ONCE with their greed and irresponsible treatment of the environment.

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Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Too many ALL CAPS. You do realize that if the Delta Levees were to fail tomorrow, the water supply of most of Silicon Valley could be impaired for at least several months. Please go tell all your neighbors to rip out their grass lawns and plant drought tolerant landscaping. Also tell your kids they should not expect to have lawn to play on in the parks or at their schools. Oh yeah, and tell our already limited high tech manufacturing capacity to please come back, after we fix the water supply.

Agribusiness certainly does not water efficiently by urban standards, but most agribusiness in the San Joaquin does grow FOOD. Should we eat less of fruits, nuts, and vegetables? Or should the people who can already barely afford fresh food plan on going without as prices rise. Remember, those who use Delta water would pay for the tunnels, and it turns out most of us use at least some Delta water. HSR is different money (or no money) than the Delta tunnels.

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Posted by @Mark
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Totally agree with you Mark!! Just more way to steal our money that are desperately needed by our schools and infrastructure.

They want to steal our water so that LA can grow more and if we need that excess water, then we will not have it. I'm not for it, using of course money that should be going to our schools and infrastructure. Oh but they will raise taxes even more in the name of the Students. It seems like the govt is a gang of wasteful spender, no wonder, Unions and liberals are in charge. Pretty soon they will want to raise the 2/3 majority of votes for property taxes in order to fund schools. If this happens, those that are already paying 5k for property taxes can see double that soon. And if you are a renter, your rent will go way up. And everyone is wondering why it's so expensive to live here. Until govt gets their spending under control, I will not support any of their ideas.

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Posted by @mark
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Whoops they want to lower the limit of taxes to 1/2 from 2/3 approval for the property taxes.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm

As I said when I first voted for HSR, I told people it will get bogged down in the courts, the NIBMY's will come out and stop it. I was for the El Toro MCAS to become a airport, the runway at Oakland Airport, the SFO airport runway plan or Moffett Field being used as airport. Small planes only to free up space at San Jose.

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Posted by Bill Hough
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

It’s time to cancel the California high speed rail project and disband CHSRA. This is due to the ballooning project costs and continuing dishonesty on the part of the California High Speed Rail Authority. The latest revelation is that claims that high speed rail would create a million jobs have been proven false. The San Jose Mercury explains “The 1-million figure came from the project's technical studies. It actually was the number of "job years," a statistical term that counts years of work rather than actual jobs. One person working for five years adds up to five job years in this parlance.” The high speed rail project now being pushed by the Governor and the High Speed Rail Authority is not the same project that the voters approved in 2008. The Authority is guilty of pulling a “bait and switch” on taxpayers, who live in a state in deep denial of its financial problems.

It sounds nice, but I’m afraid that the whole state’s corrupt and nothing can stop Governor Moonbeam and CHSRA from forcing this project forward. We need to kill high speed rail project, which numerous impartial observers like the state auditor, the LAO and UC Berkeley's ITS have faulted. At the very least it needs to go back to voters because CHSRA is pulling a blatant "bait and switch.' The California High Speed Rail Authority is mismanaged and in bed with the consultants and unions.

Money wasted on high speed rail could be better spent on deficit reduction. We should be given another chance to vote on high speed rail because the project now under discussion is not the project voters approved in 2008. Even with Judge Kenny’s recent ruling that CHSRA did not follow the rules set out in the 2008 ballot proposition, Governor Moonbeam insists it is full speed ahead on high speed rail. What good is this ruling unless the judge orders the project stopped until it conforms to the promises to the voters.

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Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I think the High Speed Rail project will cost a lot more than the current estimate of $70B or so, plus they make up the project as they go along but it of course does not meet what was promised when we all voted, I voted.
Jerry Brown is doing many good things for the state, I just think in this instance he is wrong to support High Speed Rail project, but I still support Jerry Brown.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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