HSR Opponents' Audit Request Denied
By Robert Cruickshank
Earlier this month two Republican Assemblymembers requested an audit of the California High Speed Rail Authority’s land acquisition process in the Central Valley. As expected, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee denied their request last Thursday:
Assemblymen Jim Patterson, of Fresno, and Frank Bigelow, of O’Neals, said they feared Central Valley landowners were being treated unfairly as the California High-Speed Rail Authority moves to acquire land for the project.
Their request failed on a party-line vote. Democratic lawmakers said an audit is unnecessary because information about land acquisition can be obtained directly from the rail authority.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said an audit would have taken about six months.
So it was an obvious attempt to throw up a roadblock to the project and it was predictably rejected. Still, Republicans continue to try and derail the project even as construction nears. Their main attack is in Congress, as Republicans in the House have successfully blocked new HSR funding since early 2011. The result is that the HSR funding plan has been thrown into uncertainty, leading to things like Judge Kenny’s ruling last Friday that made the project look bad.Photo credit: California High Speed Rail Authority
Reflecting on the recent ruling, the San Francisco Chronicle has editorialized that “answers are needed” for the project’s perceived problems. They hold Governor Jerry Brown responsible for “coming up with serious answers to reassure worried voters.” This is unfair since it’s the House Republicans’ fault that there are any problems to worry about, not Governor Brown’s.
Still, Governor Brown can provide leadership to address problems that are not of the state’s own making. It’s time to explore a California-only solution to the funding of high speed rail, along with other mass transit needs. SPUR has shown that it is possible for California to do it alone, and the funding sources they identify could be augmented to provide badly needed funding to expand transit service across the state.
Whatever the specific method is, California has the opportunity to provide its own leadership without waiting for saner heads to prevail in DC.