De Leon hammers away at key idiocy of CA bullet-train plan

De Leon hammers away at key idiocy of CA bullet-train plan

crazy.trainOver the years, in conversations with friends unfamiliar with California politics and with people I’ve met while traveling or at events or doing talk radio, I’m often asked about the state’s bullet-train project.

When folks hear that the cost is much higher than initially predicted, they’re not surprised. When they hear all the lies used to get voters to pass $9.95 billion in state bond seed money in 2008, they’re not particularly shocked. But what never fails to absolutely baffle them is when I mention that the first segment is being built far away from the state’s population centers in the Bay Area and Southern California.

There may be seemingly logical reasons for this. The Obama administration, and to a lesser extent Gov. Schwarzenegger and then Gov. Brown, were in a huge hurry to get the project going, and it’s easier to fight millionaire NIMBY farmers in the Central Valley than billionaire NIMBY tycoons and CEOs in Silicon Valley or Los Angeles County. Land is cheaper in the Central Valley, meaning eminent domain seizures won’t be as messy.

‘The governor has to be intelligent’

But the idea of starting in Bakersfield just seems stupid no matter what the rationale. And guess who gets this? The incoming president of the California Senate.

Gov. Jerry Brown must be saved from himself, says the next state Senate leader. He needs to be talked out of starting the bullet train in the Central Valley boonies.

“I don’t think it makes sense to lay down track in the middle of nowhere,” asserts Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). “It’s illogical. No one lives out there in the tumbleweeds.”

De León, who will become the Senate leader in October, says he supports the concept of high-speed rail, but with the caveat that track-laying begin in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. …

“If we do high-speed rail,” De León says, “the governor has to be intelligent and invest the dollars at the ‘bookends’ — San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

How do you make that happen? “We’re going to have to persuade the governor,” De León answers. “We’re going to have to save the governor from himself on high-speed rail.”

That’s from George Skelton’s column in the L.A. Times last week.

So did the governor respond? Or one of his surrogates? Nope. Just a Teamsters flack.

First Steinberg, now his successor

JerryBrownSchwWhat’s striking about this is that the Senate leader whom De Leon is succeeding — Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento — also offered broad hints that he thought the bullet train wasn’t something he wanted.

Steinberg focused on the question of whether it made sense to pursue a troubled $68 billion project when he and a lot of other Senate Democrats thought the state had more pressing needs.

De Leon’s objections are far more cutting. The starting point of his argument is that the state is pursuing a stupid plan. That’s far harsher than saying he has other priorities.


Here’s hoping the next Senate president is remotely as candid on other issues — starting with the Grand Canyon-size gap between the needs of teachers unions and the needs of the struggling school kids in his L.A. County Senate district.

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