A roar is growing louder across California and it's not the sound of hammers driving rail spikes or a bullet train rolling down the line. That roar is an increasing chorus of voices saying "No" to the state's high speed rail plan.
A bill introduced at the State Capitol would also kill the rail project despite Governor Brown's renewed support for the bullet train. No doubt, backers of both the bill and the ballot initiative will trumpet a new report from the State Auditor. The Auditor's report says the rail project's overall financial situation has become increasingly risky and that only a fraction of the funds needed for construction have been secured. State Auditor Elaine Howie also says the Rail Authority's plan lacks specific details and the Authority continues to struggle to provide the appropriate level of oversight. Valley Congressman Jeff Denham echoed what many opponents are saying about the rail plan. In an email Denham told me: "Yet another independent group is raising many of my exact concerns about this project. There are many claims and many hopes for California High Speed Rail right now, but the facts in no way support it and the project should be cancelled."
The funding issue also lost the Rail Authority a group of major advocates this week. The Madera County Supervisors voted to oppose any future plans for high speed rail. The Supervisors fear the State will have to go deeper into debt to match the billions coming from the federal government just to get tracks on the ground between Fresno and Bakersfield.
The rail project is quickly losing public support as suggested by a recent exclusive Action News Poll. Survey USA conducted the poll... asking 500 adults this question:
Four years ago, California voters approved the sale of nearly $10 billion in bonds to help finance a $33 billion high speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The total cost of the rail line is now estimated at $100 billion and there is a proposal to stop the sale of the bonds. Do you think the bond sale should be stopped... or should it go ahead?
Here are the results:
Stopped 53% Go Ahead 33% Not Sure 14%
The numbers only change slightly among those polled here in the Central Valley.
Stopped 52% Go Ahead 37% Not Sure 11%
Survey USA also asked this question for the Action News Poll:
Based on what you know now... will the high speed rail line ever be built... or never be built?
Will Be Built 39% Never Be Built 51% Not Sure 10%
Again, the numbers change slightly among those polled here in the Central Valley.
Will Be Built 42% Never Be Built 47% Not Sure 11%
A grassroots movement to protest the bullet train is also gaining steam in Kings County... especially in Corcoran. You can read more about it here.
Governor Brown calls the rail project "a wise investment" and other supporters continue to promote jobs, future transportation needs, jobs, environmental impacts, jobs, the lack of viable alternatives... and jobs... as benefits of building the rail line. Many business groups and Chambers of Commerce throughout the state continue to be strong supporters of high speed rail.
Hispanic Chamber CEO Running for Congress
One of those strong supporters of the California High Speed Rail system is the CEO of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, John Hernandez. This week, Hernandez declared his candidacy for the newly created 21st Congressional District which stretches from Fresno County to south of Bakersfield. A news release from his campaign said Hernandez believes the rail project is a bridge to the future and will be a much needed boost to the economy of the Valley.
Hernandez is so far, the only Democrat in the race. State Senator Michael Rubio cited family reasons for ending his candidacy and reportedly, former State Senator Dean Florez is considering a run, but has made no decisions at this time. The Republican seeking the new Congressional seat is Hanford Assemblyman David Valadao. The district leans Democratic with voter registration at 46% Democratic, 35% Republican, and 18% Independent.