As consultant, bullet-train boss helped write doomed business plan

As consultant, bullet-train boss helped write doomed business plan

high-speed-rail-map-320A lengthy Comstock’s profile of Jeff Morales, the former Washington D.C. and Chicago political operative brought in to save the bullet train by Gov. Jerry Brown, gets some little details about the high-speed rail project wrong and has some dubious premises. But it’s a good read.

Its main angle is that Brown brought in a political fixer for the project instead of an engineer. This is really telling point: It illustrates anew Jerry’s mistaken belief that it is mostly political obstacles impeding the project, not its fundamental and illegal shortcomings.

The most interesting parts show that Morales used to be a key official of a private company that has long raked in funds as a consultant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, often by insisting the project was wonderful despite all the evidence it was not. In late 2003, Morales left state government after the Gray Davis recall, not wanting anything to do with Arnold, and …

“… instead took a job with Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international consulting and engineering firm and a longtime project manager for California high-speed rail. ….

“In late November 2013, a Sacramento judge ordered the authority to go back to the drawing board with its business plan — a plan that was authored in part by Jeff Morales during his time at Parsons Brinckerhoff and as the authority’s CEO.”

This is the same plan that Morales promises will be easy to repair. Yeah, sure, there’s $25 billion lying around somewhere to make this mess legal.

Will Brown direct extra state $ to folly in coming budget?

yes-prop-1Jan. 10 is a key day in this saga. When Brown releases the 2014-15 state budget, will it direct funds the gov says are discretionary to the bullet train, perhaps AB 32 cap-and-trade auction dollars? The rail authority could then go back to Judge Michael Kenny and say hey, now we have additional funding.

But I don’t know how Kenny could see that as solving the $25 billion problem — the fact that the rail authority has $6 billion in hand and needs to have $31 billion in hand to meet the legal requirement that it have secured funds for the first 300-mile segment before proceeding with construction. The governor can hardly assert he has made a decision binding on future Legislatures to always provide additional annual funding to the project.

Good. I offer a toast to Prop. 1A — finally, a ballot measure in which the taxpayer protections actually are paying off.



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  1. eck
    eck 4 January, 2014, 20:38

    Wow, there’s enough cronyism, graft, and corruption in this high speed “fail” story to make a good case that we’re not the CA, but the Banana, Republic.

    Reply this comment
  2. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 4 January, 2014, 22:04

    The slow speed fail is done, there is no saving it now. I am surprised Clown is still backing it.

    Reply this comment
  3. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 10 January, 2014, 19:46

    I know Jeff Morales. He is a smart, funny guy. He’s also not an asshole or especially greedy, which for a guy that at this point is in fact a democrat political operative, is saying a lot….I think he sleepwalked into this project, which would have been doable in the 1960’s, and now like a La Brea cat he is stuck. What has changed since the 60’s, you may ask? Well, California is not open for business, armies of lilliputian activists and attorneys scour the landscape looking for litigation targets, the cost of everything has exploded, etc. And, of course, in the long term California could really use cheap, reliable rail transportation. Especially when gas is north of $5 a gallon. But forget high speed bullet trains-for some reason these are a major wet dream with planners and politicians. Think cheap, reliable diesel or electric. More Switzerland, less Japan.

    As for Jeff, he should ingratiate himself with the Dowager Empress Hillary, then he could be appointed mayor of, say, San Francisco. This would rehabilitate his career. Then maybe on to Congress…

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