Constructive Feedback? What's That?

by Anthony Pignataro | August 5, 2010 10:42 am

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[1] (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[2] on the polling data (click here [3]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[4].

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[5]. “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.”[6] 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 [7]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[8] 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

Think Pignataro is full of it? E-mail him at [email protected] Want to read more of what he’s done? Click here [9]to become a fan of his new Facebook page.

  1. California High-Speed Rail Authority:
  2. press release:
  3. here :
  4. this California Majority Report post:
  5. this scathing July 28 column:
  6. “blog.”:
  7. posted :
  8. official authority press release:
  9. here :

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