In same spirit as ‘courtesy flush,’ ‘courtesy vote’

March 18, 2013

By Chris Reed

train_wreck_num_2The fact that on March 6 a member of the bullet train’s board of directors — former San Diego congresswoman Lynn Schenk — had blocked approval of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plan to integrate bullet trains with regular trains in the Bay Area barely gained any attention in the state media.

Part of the reason is because, as Schenk acknowledged, it was only because of board absences that her opposing vote carried the clout of a veto. But part of it is also the California media’s mindset on the bullet train.

Every now and then, it will carry pieces that show just how cockamamie the project is, but they never connect all the different ways it is cockamamie.

‘Mother of high-speed rail’ bails on CHSRA plan

Even when the cockamamieness is exposed by the most significant figure in the history of the bullet train in California. This is what Dan Richard, the chair of the CHSRA board, said in December in announcing her reappointment to the bullet-train’s governing panel:

“Lynn is much more than a stalwart member of this Board. It was Lynn Schenk who originally proposed the high-speed rail network in the 1980’s when she was the Secretary of California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency during Governor Brown’s earlier tenure. As a member of Congress she authored legislation signed by President Clinton establishing high-speed rail corridors across the nation. Lynn Schenk is known as the ‘Mother of high-speed rail’ for very good reason. I am so pleased that she will continue to provide her guidance and leadership as we move forward.”

But Schenk, who says she will be a good soldier and support whatever the CHSRA board approves, now says she thinks it’s crazy to spend so much of the approximately $12 billion in remaining bullet train funds to upgrade regular rail lines. She says that is not high-speed rail as outlined to Californians for decades.

This is not a minor detail. The upgrading of Bay Area/Silicon Valley and the Los Angeles region’s rail systems to create a “blended” CHSRA system in which true high-speed rail only exists from San Jose to the northern reaches of Los Angeles County is what allowed Gov. Jerry Brown and Dan Richard to cut the estimated cost of the project from $98 billion to $68 billion. And now Lynn Schenk has disassociated herself from this scheme.

CHSRA board chair seeks to ‘reduce the aroma’

All of this is a long detour before getting to the incident that prompted the headline on this blog item. The Fresno Bee has details on what happened at the March 6 meeting:

“Schenk’s announcement took the board’s chairman, Dan Richard of Piedmont, by surprise, even though she had previously expressed skepticism over the blended Caltrain/high-speed rail plan in the Bay Area.

“‘I probably should have anticipated this conversation,’ he told Schenk, before asking her for a ‘courtesy vote’ to approve the agreement while recognizing her reservations. ‘If we could move this forward, I would appreciate it because otherwise we’ll just have to come back next month and do it,’ he said.

“After a short break, during which Richard conferred with Schenk and the agency’s chief counsel, Tom Fellenz, Richard withdrew his request and announced that the vote would be postponed until all of the members could attend. …

“The maneuvering over the Bay Area stretch of the line dismayed high-speed rail opponents here in the San Joaquin Valley. Aaron Fukuda of Hanford said Richard’s request for a courtesy vote from Schenk reflected ‘the heavy handed and truly tainted process that is unfolding.'”

But, boy, is it fitting. According to, a “courtesy flush” is “a flush in the middle of the toilet-sitting process in order to reduce the aroma.”

In this case, a “courtesy vote” would have allowed Dan Richard and the rest of the bullet-train board to reduce the aroma that’s produced whenever California’s high-speed rail system is discussed by serious people.





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  1. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 18 March, 2013, 09:31

    as one commenter to the original Fresno Bee story stated (re. the fact that this meeting was conducted via teleconferencing):


    Thank you, big spending HSR bigwigs (who have been telling us that HSR will be great for business travel), for personally demonstrating how you don’t even need HSR to conduct business by having a teleconference from three different locations in the state.

    And this is in 2013, and it doesn’t even consider how much better teleconference technology might be 30 years from now, if HSR even happens to be built by that time.

    Read more here:

    Reply this comment
  2. Hondo
    Hondo 18 March, 2013, 22:12

    I still don’t see how this thing passes muster. By law, it was supposed to get from LA to Frisco in a few hours, averaging close to 200mph. And there was supposed to be private investment too. That was written into the law. How this project has passed any court test, someone explain to me. I don’t get it.

    Reply this comment
  3. MJF
    MJF 18 March, 2013, 22:41

    Yeah…I am still trying to figure out how on March 6, 2013 there were 5 High Speed Rail board members in PHYSICAL attendance and Mr. Rossi the 6th member was NOT physically in attendance and when Mr. Dan Richard discovered that Ms. Schenk was NOT going to vote with the MAJORITY in PHYSICAL attendance he blew it off and instead set up an EMERGENCY board meeting conveniently for today, March 18, 2013 at which time Ms. Schenk was NOT PHYSICALLY present and neither were most of the board members and guess what, they did the meeting via teleconferencing with board members in at least 3 if not 4 other locations and Ms. Schenk was in Eastern United States at another meeting and apparently was not able to be contacted to vote (conveniently for High Speed Rail) and I guess THEN they didn’t need her vote as they now had Mr. Rossi with his “yes” vote!!! Hmmmmm!!! I guess you just keep prolonging the vote to you get the RIGHT vote??

    Reply this comment
  4. Maybe they need a High-Speed Train CZAR
    Maybe they need a High-Speed Train CZAR 19 March, 2013, 12:36

    Ms. Schenk did not call into the March 18 teleconference meeting. Peninsula rail deal approved 5-0 with one absence (Schenk) and three vacancies. Does this board have any legitimacy?

    Reply this comment

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