Did governor file bid for quick appeal to block bullet-train revolt?

by Chris Reed | March 24, 2014 6:00 am

train_wreck_num_2-203x300Why did Gov. Jerry Brown abruptly abandon his “stay-the-course” path on the $68 billion bullet-train project in late January? I’ve been poking around a bit and have come up with a theory and some evidence as to why the governor filed a plea[1] with California Supreme Court to quickly resolve legal battles over the project.

Remember, until January, Brown and rail authority board chairman Dan Richard had been dismissive of the huge court losses suffered by the state in August and November in Sacramento Superior Court.

In those decisions from Judge Michael Kenny — the first a tentative finding pending a state response, the second definitive — he held that the project would break state law if it used state funds on construction because it didn’t have enough money in hand to finish the 300-mile initial operating segment and because it had not completed adequate environmental reviews. Both requirements were laid out in the ballot language of the 2008 measure providing $9.95 billion in state bond money for the project.

CalWatchdog readers may have heard my theory that Brown has wanted to surreptitiously pull the plug on the troubled, almost-certainly doomed project since late last summer — just without getting any of the blame. Of late, the dean of the Sacramento press corps is offering up[2] my theory, though typically without giving credit.

My theory tidily explains the bizarre actions of the rail authority’s legal team. Kenny’s August ruling identified the funding and enviro deficiencies with the state business plan, but in the state’s “remedies” brief, no remedies were offered to these deficiencies. This means the state didn’t challenge the fundamental finding of Kenny in August — that the state had an illegal business plan.

Without any challenge to his core findings, Kenny reaffirmed them in his November final decision. As noted above, Jerry pretended this was no big deal.

But then in January, the governor did his U-turn, demanding quick resolution to the project’s legal battles. The legal brief the AG’s office filed on behalf of the governor and the rail authority was strange, even insulting — essentially arguing that the courts had no standing to block a big state project.

Accelerating the legal ‘dominoes’

So why would Brown do this instead of just letting the doomed project play out — the course set in motion in the fall when the “remedies” brief offered by the state contained no remedies?

Here’s a theory that makes lots of sense: It wouldn’t hurt the gov’s strategy of trying to kill the project stealthily. But it would stymie a mini-revolt of Democratic elected officials who either have lost patience with the headache-riddled project or who perceived it as a political risk to keep backing the boondoggle.

“I heard … that there was about to be a revolt; but then the Gov. directed this writ to be filed and told everyone to shut up,” an insider told me in an email.

This didn’t stop Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom from bailing on the project[3] on Feb. 15. But it apparently held off the mini-revolt by showing the governor wanted a decisive resolution of the issue.

Checkers vs. chess vs. barking dogs

media-blackout-efxThe people covering Sacramento who are playing checkers buy the nominal narrative that this isn’t strategery, it’s just a legal fight playing out with no hidden motives.

The people covering Sacramento who are playing chess absolutely can see that asking for a swift resolution of legal challenges was driven by the motive of protecting at-risk Dem electeds from having to defend an insane project.

But my god, I have to hope that the people covering Sacramento who pay attention to the dogs that didn’t bark[4] will eventually look at October’s smoking gun[5].

In August, Judge Kenny said the state’s business plan (Jerry Brown’s business plan) for the bullet train broke the law. In October, the state (Jerry Brown) responded essentially by saying, “OK, you make a good point, we’ll just use federal money for now.”

Yet three months later, the state (Jerry Brown) said the judge was nuts.



Sacramento media: Isn’t this, yunno, news?


Dumb DE dumb dumb. Dumb de dumb dumb DUMB!

  1. filed a plea: http://www.cahsrblog.com/2014/01/jerry-brown-appeals-hsr-bond-decision-to-ca-supreme-court/
  2. offering up: http://calwatchdog.com/2014/03/04/dan-walters-figures-out-gov-brown-wants-bullet-train-dead/
  3. bailing on the project: http://www.mercurynews.com/california-high-speed-rail/ci_25151931/lt-gov-newsom-stop-california-bullet-train-redirect
  4. dogs that didn’t bark: http://calwatchdog.com/2014/02/26/the-dog-that-didnt-bark-more-evidence-top-dems-want-bullet-train-gone/
  5. smoking gun: http://calwatchdog.com/2013/10/12/state-offers-no-remedies-for-bullet-train-plans-legal-flaws/

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2014/03/24/did-governor-file-bid-for-quick-appeal-to-block-bullet-train-revolt/