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HSR Gets Dose of Sanity from Judge!

This project finally is being held to account to follow the rules under which it was authorized.

Nov 25, 2013

We don't know if anything can stop the insane high-speed rail choo-choo from eating up the federal money they seem insistent on spending, but at least a judge has put a damper on their plans. This is a refreshing story on several levels. One is the fact that this project finally is being held to account to follow the rules under which it was authorized. Secondly to see the American political system work as historically framed, namely, the third branch of government (the Judiciary) standing up for the people's rights despite the machinations and demands of the chief executive and a compliant legislature.

High-speed rail funding takes a big hit from Sacramento judge

By Tim Sheehan/Fresno Bee

A judge has dealt a dual blow to California bullet-train plans in a pair of rulings handed down Monday in Sacramento.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny denied a request by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to validate the sale of more than $8 billion in bonds from Proposition 1A, a high-speed rail measure approved by the state's voters in 2008.

In a related case, the judge sided with Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford homeowner Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors, who are suing the rail agency over its compliance with Prop. 1A. Kenny agreed to issue a writ of mandate ordering the rail agency to re-do its 2011 funding plan before spending any state bond money on construction of the proposed high-speed rail system.

Kenny did not, however, order the rail authority to rescind its approval of contracts for work on the first 29-mile construction stretch from northeast Madera to the south edge of Fresno.

Together, the two rulings appear to hamstring the rail authority by severely limiting its available state funds and by delaying its spending efforts. The effect may jeopardize the agency's plans to use only federal transportation and stimulus funds to begin building the rail line in the central San Joaquin Valley.

"It's not everything we asked for, but it's a lot," said Stuart Flashman, an Oakland attorney representing the Kings County opponents in both cases.

In an October hearing in the Tos case, Flashman likened the authority's situation to a saying attributed to humorist Will Rogers: "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging."

With Monday's ruling, Flashman said Kenny "hasn't ordered the authority to stop digging, but I think he's telling them they're in a hole."

Leaders of the rail agency cast Kenny's rulings in a glass-half-full light.

"We are reviewing both decisions to chart our next steps, but it is important to stress that the court again declined the opposition's request to stop the high-speed rail project from moving forward," said rail authority board Chairman Dan Richard. "Additionally, the judge did not invalidate the bonds as approved by the voters in Proposition 1A."

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