Constructive Feedback? What's That?

AUG. 5, 2010

There are many unanswered questions floating around the state’s proposed bullet train plan. How many tens of billions of dollars will it eventually cost? Where will the money come from? Exactly how many people will ride it once it’s built? Do California’s residents even want to buy the thing?

I’m going to look at the last question in some detail. On July 27, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA to its friends) released a poll apparently showing “strong support” for the planned 800-mile network of bullet trains.

“Some 76 percent of Californians indicated support for the project, with 34 percent saying they would like to see the project move forward ‘as quickly as possible,’ 42 percent saying they would like to see the high-speed trains built despite some concerns over cost and timing, and only 13 percent indicating opposition to the project,” stated the authority’s press release on the polling data (click here to look at the poll itself).

What’s really fascinating is that bullet train supporter Steven Maviglio of Forza Communications looked at the exact same results cited above but came to a wildly different conclusion. He concluded that 55 percent (a majority, the last time I checked) of those polled “do not support” the high-speed rail authority’s plans. “[W]hile 13 percent of voters solidly oppose the multi-billion dollar project, another 42 percent ‘have some concerns about the timing or cost of the project,’” Maviglio wrote in this California Majority Report post.

As far as I can tell, the authority didn’t respond to Maviglio’s analysis in public. Not so with Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters. “We should be as skeptical of the poll, however, as of the [authority’s] ridership projections,” Walters wrote in this scathing July 28 column. “Bullet train poll mostly propaganda.” “We should take the bullet train seriously only when the authority stops emitting spin and propaganda and deals in reality.”


That won Walters a fairly nasty smack-down on the authority’s new “blog.” I put blog in quotes there because it’s rarely updated, contains mostly press releases and doesn’t observe established blogging conventions like hyperlinking to stories you diss.

“I thought Dan Walters considered himself a numbers guy,” authority deputy executive director Jeff Barker posted immediately after Walters column came out. “When it comes to high-speed rail, his logic doesn’t add up.”


All of this polling controversy came at a very bad time for the rail authority. On July 27, the same day the authority released their supposedly great poll numbers, the Orange City Council in Southern California approved a resolution formally opposing the bullet train project.

“[T]he proposed California High Speed Rail (CHSR) plan has come under heavy criticism from many communities like Orange who oppose its proposed path using Eminent Domain powers to cut through neighborhoods and business centers,” the resolution stated. Other problems cited in the resolution included an “unrealistic scenario” for paying for the trains, continuously increasing costs and “inflated” ridership projections. “Therefore,” the city council concluded, “the City of Orange does hereby oppose the construction of the California High Speed Rail. Furthermore, we strongly oppose the construction of any CHSR facilities within the City of Orange.”

Far from merely zinging the city on his blog, Barker responded with cold outrage.

“[I]t is disappointing that the elected officials in the city of Orange have declined the opportunity to help shape this historic project and have declined to represent residents of their city – especially at this early stage in our development when input and constructive feedback is so vital,” he said in an official authority press release sent out on – you guessed it – July 27.

Constructive feedback: seems to be any feedback that wholeheartedly approves of the authority’s plans. Anything other than that is apparently beyond contempt.

-Anthony Pignataro

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  1. calif state worker untold story
    calif state worker untold story 7 August, 2010, 19:03

    I recently saw the colum from June 17th, DMV employees speakout. The stories are real but this was a confidential survey. I am glad it was put into your article. Many people do not know what is it like behind the counter. They see DMV employees as rude and without smiles or personalities. It is all because that is what the Managers and our Director require of us. The want us to work,work,work. We are on constant watch, from the time a person gets their ticket,to when they leave and we call the next person. We are rewarded and told you are doing a good job if you do over 100 people a day. An average is 60-65, but that is not good enough and they do not take into account if a customer takes more time or needs more assistance. The public does not see the whole picture. The managers tell us to tell the customer one thing and when the customer goes to the end of the counter to talk to them, they change what they have said and to the complete opposite. We are not asked if we can work over the 8hrs we are required by the manager. If we have stored up vacation or personal leave you are not allowed to take one day off to go to a graduation for (cousins,grandchildren,or close family friends). Unless you are close to a manager I,manager II or family of someone who is. Not all relatives get hired, unless you know someone, then it is a different story. Sometimes if they do not care for you and your relative is on the list, they will never get hired no matter what. Some offices have rational profiling on hiring, and so they do not show it, if called on it, they will deny it and the next hire will be someone they will not know or of a different race. If you only knew what was really going on you’d be surprised. Many people would be more honest. And to tell you the truth if this is not confidential I will loose my job for talking to the media of any kind.

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  2. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 10 August, 2010, 09:25

    That does not sound suprising at all. As a matter of fact, with the lack of concern for customer satisfaction, nepotism, poor employee moral, profiling, discrimination, etc. it sounds exactly like I had pictured. I’m sure that this type of “management” is more wide spread in our government branches and is not just a problem at DMV.

    The problem is that these government organizations know that no matter how frustrated & dissatisfied a person is with the treatment & service they receive, they are forced to come back because they do not have a choice. Even in a DMV employee spit in my face, I would still be forced to deal with DMV atleast once a year, by no choice of my own.

    Private companies know that if someone is treated in such a manner, they will never do business with that company again, and they will spread the word about how horrible that company is, so it is in their best interest to ensure that every customer is satisfied with their experience.

    The fact that we are treated that way by people who are being given a more than fair salary, benefits, vacation pay, and an exessivly early retirement, all of which is paid for with my tax dollars just makes it sting that much worse.

    Reply this comment

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