There are letters such as the type you compose and there are letters one uses to form words. In the case of the Santa Clarita, the city council would like to simply use the letters N-O to express their “love” of the high-speed rail project.
“This whole project is a boondoggle,” said Council Member Timben Boydston.
However, the city will resort to drafting two official letters, one to the California High-speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) explaining the changes they would like to the plans, another (at the suggestion of Council Member Bob Kellar) to Governor Jerry Brown stating the city’s objection to high-speed rail and requesting the matter be put to a public referendum.
Last night, members of the California High-speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) met with a standing room only crowd at Sulphur Springs Elementary to update the residents of Santa Clarita and the city council on plans to lay high speed rail through Canyon Country.
Greg Albright, Deputy Program Manager, CHSRA, tried to assure everyone that there is new leadership at the top with an agenda of listening rather than steam (train) rolling over residents with the railway proposal. Dan Richards is the new Chairman and Jeff Morales was just hired as the CEO. Both hires, according to Albright, intended to change the culture and rectify past brutishness.
“I want to just acknowledge right now, this city and many of the folks in this room have spoken numerous times before the board and the response back has not been very satisfying,” said Albright.
Fifteen members of the community submitted speaker cards to be heard by the city council and CHRSA, but the audience in general spoke loudly with their applause of any speaker who denounced the plan.
Perhaps the biggest applause line of the night came for Kellar.
“There’s a lot of discussion and a request maybe letters and asking for what we need to satisfy this community. From listening to the speakers I think it was pretty clear what would satisfy this community…drop this project,” said Kellar.
Albright addressed the council and the audience after listening to the issues raised and asked the council to write a letter explicitly describing the outcomes the city and its residents would like to see on noise, impacts on Vista Canyon, on school safety, ridership and revenue or any other concern. Albright called it the “ask”.
“If you’re willing to write that letter one more time, communicate one more time through a letter from the council we will take action on it and get right back to you and explain what we’re going to do to address those issues,” said Albright.
Although Kellar wanted to just say no to the project, Mayor Frank Ferry suggested the city should write the “ask” letter as one strategy among several.
“We’ve always taken a position on big issues of having multiple tracks — that’s a good analogy with the trains — we always make sure we have multiple strategies, on any given issue that affects our community,” said Ferry.
The mayor recalled past and continuing city battles with CEMEX, Whittaker-Bermite and Elsmere Canyon as demonstrating the resolve of the city, but cautioned that a simple “no” would cut them out of any future mitigation.
“My concern is if we’re just a flat out no in opposition, we’re no longer a voice at the table. And I know as a City Council member when people come at us with just a “no”, not trying to effect mitigation of the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) generally the project goes through. It happens and your voice is never heard in the mitigation,” said Ferry.
As part of his multiple tracks theory, Ferry also supported community efforts that might pursue litigation.
“There should be that separate track, up front, and not waiting for a good result,” said Ferry.
Michael Hogan, Chairman of the High-speed Rail Task Force:
“Some say because of the noise and the vibration this project will be more devastating than the Cemex project.”
“My next door neighbor was prevented from selling his home already because of this high speed train. He was in escrow and it fell out because they found out there may be a train coming by.”
“I’m also a board member of the Sulphur Spring Elementary School District and the most critical concern with the high-speed rail, as it is planned, is that it’s so close to this elementary school and the one next door it will put a thousand students in danger.”
“I don’t know how many of you caught it. It was a great presentation from Metro. In reality we went from two high-speed train tracks to two high-speed train tracks and another Metro track. We’ve got four tracks we’re talking about back here. Which is kind of interesting. At a higher speed and that track is closer to the school.”
Dr. Robert Nolet, Superintendent of Schools, Sulphur Springs School District:
“We have grave concerns as a school district regarding the number of students that will be 320 feet away from a high-speed rail track. We have been assured of the safety of this, but should something go wrong, I doubt that those people who have assured us of the safety will be anywhere to be found.”
Chris Angelo, Chairman, SCV Chamber of Commerce
“The Chamber believes that this does not provide a high quality of life on the east side of this valley, and we are adamantly opposed to how it is currently laid out. And so, we’re open to other alternatives but how it’s currently proposed, we are not, and we are asking for your support to oppose and to consider future litigation on this project with other partners.