Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose ability and apparent desire to “get under the skin” of Gov. Jerry Brown are limitless, now proclaims his opposition to the revised California High-Speed Rail project.
Such opposition is understandable, not because of the meaning of high-speed rail in California, but because the present California High-Speed Rail Authority has violated the November 2008 ballot measure approving general obligation state bonds for high-speed rail in California. In doing so, Newsom makes the unwarranted claim that he was the first California mayor to support such bond measure and campaigned for it with then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Let’s correct the record: Newsom was not the first California mayor to support the measure; the mayors of Los Angeles (Antonio Villaraigosa), Sacramento (Kevin Johnson) and Visalia, among others, preceded him. As chairman of the bond measure campaign and as then-chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, I recall no campaigning by Newsom — or Schwarzenegger, who finally in the summer of 2008 expressed publically his support of the bond measure.
Your weekend story “Newsom says to stop high-speed rail plans” also reports that the governor’s office referred to the authority questions about Newsom’s new opposition, thus inviting Dan Richard, the current authority chairman, to give away the strategy by stating that “voters [in 2008] backed a statewide rail modernization program that is creating jobs that will provide clean transportation for generations to come.” Voters in November 2008 did not back “a statewide rail program”; voters backed high-speed rail, which differs from the conventional rail systems in the Central Valley, Los Angeles Basin and Peninsula to which Richard seeks to divert bond money without voter approval. Voters backed high-speed rail in 2008, not “a statewide rail modernization program.”
Quentin L. Kopp
The letter writer is a retired judge of the Superior Court and a former state senator.