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September 16
1872 - Mitchell adobe home in Soledad Canyon area first used as schoolhouse; genesis of 1879 Sulphur Springs School District [story]
Mitchell adobe


scottwilk_mug2013The High Speed Rail Project is the largest state public works project in the nation’s history and the people deserve to know the truth about its actual cost and if the system is going to be able to deliver the promises guaranteed in 2008’s Proposition 1A.

Prop 1A promised a system that stretched from San Francisco to San Diego and with an extension from the Central Valley to Sacramento all for a price tag of $45 billion.

According to the High Speed Rail Authority the price has climbed to $68 billion just for Phase I which is the San Francisco to Los Angeles segment. But we’ve learned that is not true.

The Los Angeles Times recently published an expose claiming the Rail Authority withheld specific documents in a 2014 report presented to the Legislature. The documents featured in the story revealed that the Authority had projected two separate cost estimates to complete the first segment of the project. The number presented to the Legislature stated the cost of the system from Merced to Burbank would cost $31 billion. However, the private estimate presented four months before the published report stated the costs would be $40 billion. That’s a difference of $9 billion!

In response, I joined three of my Assembly colleagues in sending a letter requesting the Authority provide the accurate documentation to the Legislature. With our efforts as well as pressure from Congress, the Authority came forward with the information.

The Rail Authority’s actions not only violate the public trust, but it upsets the balance of power written into our constitution by denying the Legislature’s ability to provide proper oversight of the executive branch.

Governor Jerry Brown is complicit in the deception as well. Members of the public have complained that the Rail Authority were holding standing committee meetings and barring the public from attending. The Authority’s position was that votes were not being taken, so the public did not have a right to attend.

However, local governments must allow members of the public to attend standing committees. The Legislature added this provision to the Brown Act in 1993.

In response to public concern, this past legislative session I authored Assembly Bill 85, which would require all state agencies to open their standing committees to the public. AB 85 passed both houses of the Legislature with zero “No” votes, but the Governor vetoed the measure.

AB 85 is another example of Sacramento saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” People feel disconnected from government because they don’t see a nexus between the taxes they pay and the services they receive; nor do they believe that government officials are forthright. Governor Brown’s veto reinforces those concerns.

The majority party in the Legislature has joined the Governor in limiting information on the status of the project. In 2012 the Legislature voted (I was a “No” vote) to appropriate funds toward High Speed Rail and the agency was to report to the Legislature twice a year on their spending reports.

However, this year my colleagues on the other side of the aisle made the decision to change those reporting requirements and instead require the Authority to present to the Legislature their spending reports every two years. I opposed this measure.

With a project of this magnitude, you would think we in the people’s house would do everything we can to encourage more oversight and accountability. It’s clear to me that we need to revisit the viability of this project. Personally, I support cutting our losses now and terminating the project.

There is $8 billion tied up in Superior Court because the Rail Authority is currently out of compliance with Prop 1A. In my view there is no way for them to meet the criteria listed in the initiative. That $8 billion could be used for water infrastructure, roads or school facilities.

The Legislature needs accurate information so we can effectively determine the viability of the project. If we determine it’s a failure, we can place the question on the ballot to give the people of California another opportunity to make a decision based upon facts, not false promises.

The 38th Assembly District encompasses Simi Valley, the northwestern section of the San Fernando Valley and most of the Santa Clarita Valley.

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19 Comments

  1. Drop this project now.Its a Money Pit.Estimated projected cost should have been doubled to get a more accurate idea of total cost.Everyone knows nothing comes in at cost because of all the “Hidden Costs of doing Business”

  2. Rebecca says:

    I think your incredibly ignorant! Every Country that has High Speed Rail has successfully used it to diminish vehicles on the road. I bet you’ve never even been on a High Speed Rail. So tired of stupid Americans getting in the way of progress. Let’s make America progressive!

  3. Let’s get this guy to try a High Speed Rail in Europe and Japan then maybe he’d have an idea of what it’s about

    • They just had a high speed rail crash recently. Many hurt . It’s crazy to spend this kind of money to keep union workers in high paying jobs while we look at dead landscaping and tire and alignment damage because of pot holes. We have more homeless than any other state and our school are over crowded. Our illegal problem is getting worse and business is leaving! Now that my understanding of the need to get to San Francisco a little faster.!!

  4. Thanks Scott for giving us the facts typical
    of spending by liberals. Every state run by liberals is in terrible debt. Keep up fighting for more visibility and the truth. After all it’s us, the CALIFORNIA tax payer that will be on the hook for the increases.!

  5. Carol G says:

    Thank you for standing up for the people of California and trying to hold our electeds accountable. I wish we had someone like you representing the people in our district. Instead, we have Mike Antonovich and he has proven to be as corrupt as the HSR folks. But we love Patty Lopez as she, like you, represents the people and is not afraid to speak up against Jerry Browns vannity project.

  6. Why did CA vote for this? CA makes a lot of bad voting decisions. How many times do we have to elect Jerry Brown before we realize he’s an idiot?

  7. what i big waste of money

  8. matt says:

    This will be a monument to stupidity. Interurban HSR befor urban rail is common? This will not reduce traffic on freeways between cities. If your goal is to reduce carbon pollution the best bang for your buck is reducing single drivers in vehicles

  9. Jerry Walgamuth says:

    Brown Act violations, huge cost over-runs, the Liberal majority in the Legislature changes the cost reporting requirements from every six months to every two years, etc. It won’t even be high speed due to design and geography limitations. And the best part? Even if it was built for free, it will have to be subsidized by us tax payers because there won’t be enough revenue from ridership to pay to run it! Pull the plug now!

  10. Steve Thomas says:

    Scott thanks for the concise budget information. I have experienced HSR in Japan and irbid great. But the notion we should spend (borrow) that kind of money is crazy. Hey a BMW handles better than most cars should I buy one because of that…depend on whether I can afford too or not. With all the challenges CA has; water, education, security I vote we bail on the HSR for now.

  11. James Crowley says:

    Thanks Scott Wilk for not supporting this lunatic idea…I believe that I read somewhere the prices do not include and train cars, hardware, stations, etc. in the estimates…let alone employee costs and maintenance…We get a “rail” for $31B, 40B,$68B, $98 Billion – pick you price… The prices would probably quadruple if these other elements are added! This is a political move to promote labor and the California Democratic run Gov. This bond has to be voted to cancel it. You can’t just move the money. Address a new bond issue and build inner city light rail and more convenient rail systems from LA suburbs ie. Palmdale, LA Valley areas, Orange County, Etc. feeding into each other and the downtown areas. There are systems in the USA that work, Washington D.C., Chicago, BART in S.F.O. We were in Spain and they have great city rail systems AND high speed rail. You never have to wait in the city for more than 3-4 minutes for a train….no car needed in Barcelona. The fair was 1 Euro anywhere in town, about $1.00. Yes we need to plan for the future better than we have in the past, which has now guaranteed us grid lock for years to come. Ask if the rail systems they want will give any relief to major cites in CA? NO WAY !! Ask yourself where will we be in 20-30 years if we don’t start now on a proven train system, not Gerry Brown’s CRAZY train.

  12. Jerry Walgamuth says:

    Rebecca, I think maybe you should do your homework on the vast differences between this HSR and the ones in other countries before you start labeling people as ignorant. And, I realize that being Progressive is really cool for you but you shouldn’t let that blind you to the facts.

  13. Linda Harbeson says:

    No to the HSR! We already have Metrolink, anyone ride that? I can see a HSR from Palmdale to Vegas, wouldn’t that be great? The proposed HSR will destroy many small communities and displace many people. One route is planned to go right under my house. Ridiculous that Gov Moonbeam wants this instead of, oh say, helping solve the water crisis CA faces? Pull your head our Jerry. We don’t want your dream train.

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