Revitalizing California (And The Rest Of The Nation) Via High-Speed Rail

In 2009, President Obama announced a plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within the next 25 years with funding from federal, state and industrial sources. To accomplish this plan, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) created the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIPR) to revitalize and update America’s railways. The program focuses on three key objectives (direct from the FRA’s website):

  1. Building new high-speed rail corridors that expand and fundamentally improve passenger transportation in the geographic regions they serve.
  2. Upgrading existing intercity passenger rail corridors to improve reliability, speed, and frequency of existing services; and
  3. Laying the groundwork for future high-speed rail services through corridor and state planning efforts.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, gave $8 billion to railway revitalization efforts. Since then, an additional $2.1 billion has been added to HSIPR, making the program’s total funding $10.1 billion.

One of the many projects HSIPR is investing in is the California High-Speed Rail project, an 800-mile-long route through the heart of the largest US state. HSIPR added a $300 million investment to the $9.95 billion funded by Proposition 1A, passed by CA voters in 2008. It will be the nation’s first 220-mph high-speed rail system and allow commuters and tourists to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours (it currently takes around eight hours via one reeeally long drive). Passengers will be able to travel the amazing system beginning in 2020 and once it’s completed, it will be possible to travel from Sacramento to San Diego by train.

Is high-speed rail expensive? Definitely. To revitalize and upgrade the nation’s railroads, billions of dollars are needed. Current estimates for the California High-Speed Rail project put the cost at around $100 billion. Despite the high cost, high-speed rail investment is most definitely worth it. In the short-term, projects like the one in California put 600,000 people to work constructing the rail line itself. In the long-term, commuting times between cities hundreds of miles apart are shortened (by hours), almost half a million people have jobs working for the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), existing routes are updated and improved, travel across the state – whether for business or pleasure – is clean and efficient, and goods and services can move quickly across great distances. Oh, and the fact that we’re in a bad economy is all the more reason to invest in improving the channels through which our economy operates.

Several nations around the globe have invested in high-speed rail and the results have been positive. Economies are stronger and the world is a little smaller and cleaner. California and the rest of the United States are going in the right direction by revitalizing their national railroad systems, laying the groundwork for a prosperous century.

*As a California resident, I think it’s amazing that my state is once again leading the way in innovation. I cannot wait to travel across the state in such a state-of-the-art, fast train. 🙂

The Big Picture: The CA High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2009 Business Plan

California High-Speed Rail: A Visual Tour

American High-Speed Rail System Plan

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California Election Results

California Attorney General Jerry Brown will serve a second term as governor…nearly 30 years later. With 75 percent of precincts reported, Democrat Jerry Brown had 54 percent of the vote vs. his challenger, Republican Meg Whitman, who had 41% of the vote. I voted for Brown. *check*

Jerry Brown

Incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer will serve a third term as United States Senator. With 74 percent of precincts reported, Boxer had 52 percent of the vote vs. her challenger, Republican Carly Fiorina, who had 43 percent of the vote. I voted for Fiorina.

Barbara Boxer

CALIFORNIA BALLOT INITIATIVES

Proposition 19 (“Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010”) failed. I voted NO *check*

Proposition 20 (“California Congressional Redistricting Initiative”) passed. I voted  NO

Proposition 21 (“Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act”) failed. I voted YES

Proposition 22 (“The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act”) passed. I voted NO

Proposition 23 (suspension of Global Warming Act of 2006) failed. I voted NO *check*

Proposition 24 (Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks) failed. I voted YES

Proposition 25 (“Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act”) passed. I voted YES *check*

Proposition 26 (“Supermajority to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act”) passed. I voted NO

Proposition 27 (Elimination of the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission) failed. I voted YES

 

To see the reasons for my votes on the propositions, see https://micahstwocents.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/my-two-cents-on-the-2010-california-ballot-propositions/

 

My Two Cents on the 2010 California Ballot Propositions

I am not a fan of the ballot proposition but since I’m a voter I will take positions on them.

Prop 19 – “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” – NO

I oppose this but not for the obvious reason; it would create a regulatory fiasco with city governments able to set their own taxes and regulations. Marijuana needs to be decriminalized, not only because it’s a victimless crime with less adverse effects than alcohol and smoking but also because it would reduce the amount of time, energy and money that goes into prosecuting people with marijuana. Legalize it…but not this way.

Prop 20 – “California Congressional Redistricting Initiative” – NO

Back in 2008, Prop 11 established an independent commission (made up of people of different parties and loyalties) that would be responsible for carving out districts for the California Assembly and Senate. Now, supporters of Prop 20 want that commission to be responsible for carving out congressional districts as well. It sounds fair but I have major problems with it:

First: How much money will this commission cost? There is no set price tag.

Second: The commission would be selected by the legislature. So much for an “independent” commission.

Third: The commission would be unaccountable to the public. We would not be able to appeal or challenge newly drawn districts.

*This proposition also conflicts with Prop 27 (see Prop 27)

Prop 21 – “Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act” – YES

This would place an $18 license fee on most vehicle registrations (excludes vehicles registered under the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act). 85% of the money raised by this surcharge would go toward maintaining California’s public parks and beaches, saving the state $130 million a year. Saving the state’s public recreational areas is worth the fee.

Prop 22 – “The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act” – NO

This proposition would prevent the state from tapping into the funds of local governments in California. It sounds great: Keep the state from robbing local government. However, even if the state is in a fiscal crisis (like the one we’re in now) and some cities have surpluses, Prop 22 would prevent the state from taking funds. This ties down the hands of a legislature that can only work with a fraction of the budget as it is.

Prop 23  – “Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006” – NO

As the title says, AB 32 (Global Warming Act of 2006) would be suspended under Prop 23. This is a mistake. We need to continue cutting down carbon emissions to lessen the effects of global warming on our planet and to help make our air cleaner. The time for action is now. Our future depends on decisions like these.

Prop 24 – “Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks” – YES

This would prevent recent, governor-approved tax breaks from benefiting the top 2% of corporations in California, saving the state roughly $1.3 billion annually. This is simply another way for big business to evade taxes.

Prop 25 – “Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act” – YES

Currently, California is one of a few states that requires the approval of 2/3 of the legislature to pass a budget. As we’ve seen, this has been disastrous and cost the state billions of dollars (California has not passed a budget on time for 23 years). Prop 25 brings approval down to a simple majority (at least 51%).

Prop 26 – “Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act” – NO

If you think that the budget is terrible now, wait until Prop 26 in implemented. This would reduce tax revenues for the state, reeking havoc on public services and programs.

Prop 27 – “Elimination of the Citizen Redistricting Commission” – YES

This initiative would eliminate the voter-approved Citizen Redistricting Commission (Prop 11 2008 – “Voters First Act”) and return redistricting power to the California Legislature.

What advantage does the legislature have over this commission? The Legislature answers to us; the Citizen Redistricting Commission (CRC) does not. If we disagree with the way a district is constructed, we can appeal and challenge it or vote our representatives out of office. We lose this with the CRC. We have no control over who is chosen for the commission; we do over the Legislature.

*If both Prop 20 and 27 pass, which ever has more votes becomes law.

Even though I’ll be voting on these initiatives, I’m still against propositions. One of the many reasons why California is in such a horrible condition is because the voters have become the law makers. California voters restrict the powers of the Legislature and then wonder why they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.

The beauty of a representative democracy (republic) is that it produces effective and just government. We elect professionals to govern in place of us. If our representatives are doing poorly, we have the power to vote them out or demand their resignations…or impeachments.

Pure democracy produces chaos, ignorance and inequality. Whether driven by fear, anger or prejudice, the general public can enact disastrous policies that destroy budgets or deny a minority population their rights. Plato was onto something…

Hopefully, California will lead the nation by abolishing the initiative process.

Until then, vote intelligently.