by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Seeing photos earlier this week of well(?)-aged Peter and Paul (sadly, no Mary) brings this line to mind as the latest evidence of California’s high-speed rail boondoggle continues to mount. Steven Greenhut of Human Events offers the details.
A superior court’s recent smack-down of the state’s high-speed-rail project raises provocative questions not only about the future of the $68-billion-plus train, but about the integrity of the initiative process.
Do the guarantees in ballot initiatives mean anything after voters have approved them? Or do initiatives offer “carte blanche,” whereby officials can take the concept approved at the ballot box and do whatever they choose with it?
Ruling on a lawsuit against the rail project brought by Kings County and some residents, Judge Michael Kenny agreed last week that key parts of the current rail plan don’t conform to Proposition 1A, the
2008 initiative authorizing nearly $10 billion in state bonds to fund the beginnings of a rapid train line to connect the Bay Area with Los Angeles.
The judge said the rail authority “abused its discretion,” but Gov. Jerry Brown declared that it was full speed ahead, despite the setback.
Few observers seemed surprised by the ruling. Even a father of high-speed rail in California, former judge and Sen. Quentin Kopp, provided expert testimony stating that the current rail plan is so “distorted” it is contrary to the one approved by voters.
For example, Prop. 1A’s language required that the state identify all sources of funds for the 290-mile “Initial Operating Section” of the system, and also complete necessary environmental clearances for that section. The authority couldn’t do that, but said it could comply with requirements for what it called the “Initial Construction Section” — a shorter rail segment that couldn’t initially carry high-speed trains.
But the judge nixed that concoction and noted that the rail authority is relying on “theoretical possibilities” for funding, rather than “sources of funds reasonably expected to be available.” The authority has been unable to lure private investment as promised, and additional federal funding is unlikely to be forthcoming given opposition in Congress.