News

Schwarzenegger vetoes rail 'accountability' stick

Budget provisions would have required rail authority to respond the critical reports before receiving funding

With a stroke of his line-veto pen, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Monday killed a budget provision that would have forced the California High-Speed Rail Authority to improve its business plan and strengthen its outreach efforts by Feb. 1 or have about a quarter of its annual budget withheld.

Schwarzenegger's veto deals a blow to efforts by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and other state legislators to hold the rail authority accountable after a sequence of audits revealed a myriad of flaws in the agency's revenue and ridership plans.

"While the Administration supports these reporting requirements, making the (budget) appropriation contingent upon receipt and approval of this report by the Legislature could result in project delays, jeopardize the Authority's ability to meet already tight federal deadlines and result in increased state costs," Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message.

The penalty for missing the Feb. 1 deadline would have been $55.32 million in state funding.

The provision, which was inserted into the budget by the Senate Budget Subcommittee #2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation, gave the authority until Feb. 1 to update its business plan and provide an analysis demonstrating that the rail project would not require a public subsidy for operations.

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The subcommittee, chaired by Simitian, also called for the authority to respond to a long list of management deficiencies uncovered by the Office of State Auditor. The auditor's office found that the authority's program manager, the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, filed monthly reports filled with errors. The office reviewed 22 invoices and identified problems in 20.

In May, after hearing a presentation on the report from State Auditor Elaine Howle, members of Simitian's subcommittee said they were deeply concerned about the authority's mismanagement.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said he found the litany of poor management practices identified by the auditor "astounding." The authority "doesn't have at this point a coherent program," he said.

"Anybody who has read this audit report cannot help but be disheartened by the authority's mismanagement, or at least some folks' mismanagement of scarce public resources," Lowenthal said.

The auditor's report is one of several recent studies exposing flaws in the rail project. The state Legislative Analyst's Office found major flaws in authority's business plan. One analysis said the plan "superficially addresses many of the most significant risks of the project."

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The Institute for Transportation Studies at University of California, Berkeley, reviewed the authority's ridership projections and found them "unreliable."

This week, three financial experts from the Peninsula released an analysis of the authority's financial data and concluded that the authority's "financial promises can't be kept." The report was reviewed and endorsed by 70 Silicon Valley economists and CEOs.

Simitian, whose Midpeninsula constituency includes some of the most vocal critics of the voter-approved project, called Schwarzenegger's veto of the accountability measures "regrettable."

On Oct. 2, Simitian hosted a Town Hall meeting in Palo Alto, where he lauded the budget provisions as an important step to holding the authority accountable. He alluded to the Feb. 1 deadline, and said "the clock is ticking" on the authority to get its house in order.

Simitian has persistently said he supports the rail project, but only "if it's done right." The authority, he told the crowd at the Town Hall meeting, has yet to make a successful transition from a small advocacy group to the builder of a mega-project currently estimated at $42.6 billion.

He said the agency has been doing "just barely enough" to retain legislative support and pointed to a series of critical audits as indications that the authority "has come up short in terms of its work to date."

The state Legislature as a whole approved the subcommittee's accountability provisions for high-speed rail before Schwarzenegger vetoed the section of the budget outlining these measures. Schwarzenegger said while he supports the reporting requirements he opposes tying them to funding because that could cause possible delays in the overall project.

Jeff Barker, deputy director for the rail authority, told the Weekly that even with the veto, the authority remains "committed to reporting to the Legislature and to the public about the progress of our state's high-speed rail project." He said meeting the deadlines would have been impossible given how long it took lawmakers to pass the state budget. Without a budget, the authority didn't have the resources to comply with the legislators' mandate, he said in an e-mail.

"We had already alerted the Legislature that because of the historically late budget and therefore our inability to hire any additional risk management, oversight, and financial staff as outlined in the budget, it would be impossible to meet the reporting deadlines that were originally outlined in the budget," Barker said.

But Simitian said the governor's veto will make it even more difficult for the agency to restore its credibility with the public.

"The High-Speed Rail Authority desperately needs to rebuild its credibility and public support," Simitian said. "A failure to require accountability measures only makes that task more difficult."

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Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Schwarzenegger vetoes rail 'accountability' stick

Budget provisions would have required rail authority to respond the critical reports before receiving funding

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Wed, Oct 13, 2010, 12:15 pm

With a stroke of his line-veto pen, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Monday killed a budget provision that would have forced the California High-Speed Rail Authority to improve its business plan and strengthen its outreach efforts by Feb. 1 or have about a quarter of its annual budget withheld.

Schwarzenegger's veto deals a blow to efforts by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and other state legislators to hold the rail authority accountable after a sequence of audits revealed a myriad of flaws in the agency's revenue and ridership plans.

"While the Administration supports these reporting requirements, making the (budget) appropriation contingent upon receipt and approval of this report by the Legislature could result in project delays, jeopardize the Authority's ability to meet already tight federal deadlines and result in increased state costs," Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message.

The penalty for missing the Feb. 1 deadline would have been $55.32 million in state funding.

The provision, which was inserted into the budget by the Senate Budget Subcommittee #2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation, gave the authority until Feb. 1 to update its business plan and provide an analysis demonstrating that the rail project would not require a public subsidy for operations.

The subcommittee, chaired by Simitian, also called for the authority to respond to a long list of management deficiencies uncovered by the Office of State Auditor. The auditor's office found that the authority's program manager, the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, filed monthly reports filled with errors. The office reviewed 22 invoices and identified problems in 20.

In May, after hearing a presentation on the report from State Auditor Elaine Howle, members of Simitian's subcommittee said they were deeply concerned about the authority's mismanagement.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said he found the litany of poor management practices identified by the auditor "astounding." The authority "doesn't have at this point a coherent program," he said.

"Anybody who has read this audit report cannot help but be disheartened by the authority's mismanagement, or at least some folks' mismanagement of scarce public resources," Lowenthal said.

The auditor's report is one of several recent studies exposing flaws in the rail project. The state Legislative Analyst's Office found major flaws in authority's business plan. One analysis said the plan "superficially addresses many of the most significant risks of the project."

The Institute for Transportation Studies at University of California, Berkeley, reviewed the authority's ridership projections and found them "unreliable."

This week, three financial experts from the Peninsula released an analysis of the authority's financial data and concluded that the authority's "financial promises can't be kept." The report was reviewed and endorsed by 70 Silicon Valley economists and CEOs.

Simitian, whose Midpeninsula constituency includes some of the most vocal critics of the voter-approved project, called Schwarzenegger's veto of the accountability measures "regrettable."

On Oct. 2, Simitian hosted a Town Hall meeting in Palo Alto, where he lauded the budget provisions as an important step to holding the authority accountable. He alluded to the Feb. 1 deadline, and said "the clock is ticking" on the authority to get its house in order.

Simitian has persistently said he supports the rail project, but only "if it's done right." The authority, he told the crowd at the Town Hall meeting, has yet to make a successful transition from a small advocacy group to the builder of a mega-project currently estimated at $42.6 billion.

He said the agency has been doing "just barely enough" to retain legislative support and pointed to a series of critical audits as indications that the authority "has come up short in terms of its work to date."

The state Legislature as a whole approved the subcommittee's accountability provisions for high-speed rail before Schwarzenegger vetoed the section of the budget outlining these measures. Schwarzenegger said while he supports the reporting requirements he opposes tying them to funding because that could cause possible delays in the overall project.

Jeff Barker, deputy director for the rail authority, told the Weekly that even with the veto, the authority remains "committed to reporting to the Legislature and to the public about the progress of our state's high-speed rail project." He said meeting the deadlines would have been impossible given how long it took lawmakers to pass the state budget. Without a budget, the authority didn't have the resources to comply with the legislators' mandate, he said in an e-mail.

"We had already alerted the Legislature that because of the historically late budget and therefore our inability to hire any additional risk management, oversight, and financial staff as outlined in the budget, it would be impossible to meet the reporting deadlines that were originally outlined in the budget," Barker said.

But Simitian said the governor's veto will make it even more difficult for the agency to restore its credibility with the public.

"The High-Speed Rail Authority desperately needs to rebuild its credibility and public support," Simitian said. "A failure to require accountability measures only makes that task more difficult."

Comments

James
Monta Loma
on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm
James, Monta Loma
on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm

For the rail authority to resotre its credibility, they would first have to recognize the fact that they lack crediility. If history is any indication, I would not hold my breath.


Andrea Gemmet
Registered user
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Oct 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm
Andrea Gemmet, Mountain View Voice Editor
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm

The following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:

Posted by Albert, a resident of the Castro City neighborhood, 4 hours ago

Are people in LA in favor of this project? Lots of stories about how it's messed up and cities on the Peninsula are against it but nothing about LA or Bakersfield or other places.


steve
Old Mountain View
on Oct 13, 2010 at 11:10 pm
steve, Old Mountain View
on Oct 13, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I think the only people for it are socialist tree hugging "we want to be like Europe" hippies... with the exception of those that have realized that it might affect their housing prices.


phm
The Crossings
on Oct 14, 2010 at 9:32 am
phm, The Crossings
on Oct 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

Our lame duck governor thwarted the will of the people as expressed by our elected legislators. Requiring CHSRA to report to the legislature by Feb. 1 seems more than fair. Whether it's federal or state money, it's a waste of public funds if the project fails.

I'm sure I'm far from alone in regretting my Yes vote for HSR, knowing what we know now.

PS to Steve: Check who opposes HSR (at least as it's happening in California) and you'll find many "tree hugging" environmentalists, while big business tends to support it.


JerryG
Cuesta Park
on Oct 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm
JerryG, Cuesta Park
on Oct 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Actually steve, all the hippies I know are strongly against it.
They told me to tell you welcome to their side and they promise not to make juvenile stereotyping insults.


Shannon
Shoreline West
on Oct 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm
Shannon, Shoreline West
on Oct 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Unfortunately, those who are trying to "make decisions" on HSR have no clue what it is all about, just like many other things in this state. While traffic and highway engineering and operations are being done by people from undeveloped countries where they don't even drive, have no highways and traffic culture (sorry PC freaks!), the same way the decisions on HSR are being made by people who most likely have never seen HSR, and consequentially can't explain general population the purpose and agenda of such program. But twhat they are good at is wasting tax money and getting all the government benefits and pensions for doing nothing.

IT IS NOR A COMMUTER RAIL by its nature, and it is not intended to stop at every pole in every small town. The purpose of it is to provide a very fast non-stop transcontinental communications (not because of tree hugging but because it is average 3 times faster than driving) without humiliating nightmare of undergoing airport and airlines cattle herding "services" and being strip searched by those who can't even speak English!
If you want to get FAST from San Diego to San Francisco, from LA to Vegas, or in that regard to upscale City of Boston, this would be an ultimate choice.
The record recently set by TGV (that's similar to Eurostar high speed european train) is 366 miles per hour (miles- not clicks!). That's with no wasting time in aiport, boarding like a cattle, no lost or stolen to Mexico luggage, it's about havign your comfortable seats, your Heineken or else served a notch better than peanuts and soda in little plastic tubs, your wireless and all other amwenities of civilization.
Unfortunately, when idiots take control, even the best idea turns into just another episode of government stupidity and gives tree-hugging Starschmucks-sitting "politicians" a chance to shout out their despair and uselessness to the world.


Shannon
Shoreline West
on Oct 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm
Shannon, Shoreline West
on Oct 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm

By the way, are those hippies still alive and active? Too bad. I though they died out or phased out by natural selection like 30 years ago or something... Sounds like an ancient history.
What about that Mercedes Benz logo they stole and screwed up by adding another stick at the bottom? MB should file a law suit.
When I was a little kid back in 80's I asked my Dad who had MB 500 series at the time why those weird people use Mercedes logo on some old trashy wagons that were still around? My Dad went into a major hysterical laugh.


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