Central Valley roiled by Newsom’s bullet-train plans, but some hopeful

Hundreds of millions of dollars has already been spent in the Central Valley on the state’s high-speed rail project.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement in his State of the State speech in February that he didn’t believe California had the resources to complete its $77 billion statewide bullet-train project produced a backlash that Newsom didn’t seem to expect. Within hours after the speech, his aides said the media was inaccurately reporting that Newsom’s only commitment was to build a $12.2 billion, 119-mile high-speed link between Merced and Bakersfield in the Central Valley and nothing more. They said he remained a supporter of the full project.

But nearly two months later, the initial reaction to Newsom’s speech remains the enduring takeaway for most Capitol watchers: He’s off the bullet train bandwagon. Building unions and green lawmakers who believe in the statewide project’s potential to help in the fight against climate change remain among the most upset.

Yet easily the most intense reaction is in the area where Newsom still wants the project to proceed: the Central Valley.

Coverage from The Bakersfield Californian, the Los Angeles Times and small newspapers in the region reflect anger over how the valley has been treated. Valuable farmland and family homes have been acquired with eminent domain for a project that no longer will link the area with the rest of the state – despite promises from Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.

‘My mouth was just open with shock’

“I don’t want to talk political because I don’t do it very well,” Fairmead resident Vickie Ortiz told the Times. “But you know, you had a governor that was pushing-pushing-pushing for the high-speed train, and we started getting used to the idea that we can’t stop a train but maybe we can use it to help the community. But then you get another governor and he says: ‘No, I don’t want to do that any more.’ My mouth was just open with shock.”

In the Antelope Valley Press, retiree Bill Deaver, a former official in the Federal Railroad Administration, blasted the “politics and ignorance” of project critics who he blamed for Newsom’s decision.

“Politicians used [high-speed rail] to score political points rather than supporting something that will be able to handle huge increases in traffic projected in coming years. That sort of behavior is one of the biggest barriers to progress.”

Newsom’s decision didn’t surprise some in the Central Valley who never believed a statewide bullet train would get built. “People lost their homes and businesses. And for what?” Visalia farmer Randy Van Eyk told the Times.

Some see commitment to help region

But other remarks the governor made about the Central Valley have resonated more positively – and created an expectation that he will do more than past governors to help the region.

“The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America as well as some of the longest commutes. And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better,” Newsom said in the same speech in which he outlined his views on the bullet-train project’s future.

Bakersfield Californian columnist Robert Price said if Newsom was serious, he should help Kern County diversify its economy away from “two industries under assault in the Central Valley: agriculture and, especially, oil and gas.”

Anna Smith, another columnist for the Californian, also said Newsom should promote economic diversification. But she also called on him to address the Central Valley’s social ills, including “high rates of illiteracy and obesity, lack of access to quality education and health care (especially in rural communities), water contamination and extreme poverty.”


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  1. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 2 April, 2019, 12:23

    The 99 corridor is deferred, not regionally planned, relies too much on low margin business and unskilled labor.

    This train mess solves nothing….nothing….

    Reply this comment
    • Little Billy
      Little Billy 2 April, 2019, 18:16

      But Mr. Uhaul, way back when our rulers assured us it would work. What went wrong? We all want to ride in a shiny new train.

      Reply this comment
  2. Mr. Pickle
    Mr. Pickle 2 April, 2019, 17:39

    Like in most government projects, cost overruns and miscalculations come into play. Showing a budget from CA is like fairy dust. It blows away, and the poor taxpayer in this overtaxed, over-fee based economy. They spend, we pay…. Like the gas tax, promised for repairs and new construction, it seems to have redirected to other areas….. It is time to change the legislative make up of this state. Now Water Taxes is in the mix. Basic commodities of life are being used for whatever they want. DMV, bridge tolls, hidden taxes, fee’s for things nobody knows about until they run into something. Like other states, we are on the brink of financial disaster for the middle and low income people. It is TIME for Ca folks to wake up or we will truly be the Socialist State of Taxifornia and no way out. Look at the efforts the majority party is pushing, and that is to kill Prop. 13, Property Taxes. Why do you think they stripped the State Board of Equalization to nothing. Open your eyes folks. Even at a 2% Cap on property taxes, that is STILL 10% increase every 5 years. 20% every 10 years. So, if you are LUCKY enough to have a home, and live in it for 30 years, and have a 30 year mortgage – you will be paying 60% more in property taxes than you do now……….even when you own your home free and clear… Simple math folks, 30 years X 2% = 60%. Actually more, as the 2% you paid last year will be figured in next years taxes……… Not to mention additional assessment like School Bond Taxes that pop up every voting cycle. And if you are a RENTER, you DO pay these taxes in increased rents……………Have a nice day!

    Reply this comment
  3. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 2 April, 2019, 19:46

    Ole Uli tries to feel your pain…..The cho cho will with spirit deliver high end item boxes to mini wage fullfillment centers…taxes are low compared to Illinois, New Jersey, CT., Rhode Island , so enjoy the weather and dig deep into your Euro Purses. For your info…..the publicans are cleaning out the poor, entrepenuers….while government workers/teachers etc. count the days to spiked pensions!!

    Reply this comment
  4. colonelbillkillgore
    colonelbillkillgore 5 April, 2019, 06:58

    So old Uly won’t answer you?

    Then I will.

    Son, the reason is your rulers are crooks!

    If you voted for the choo-choo “way back when” you were had!

    And even if you didn’t, you were had!

    Just get back to work so you can pay those taxes that are being sent to choo-choo train heaven.

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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