Taxpayer Challenge to High-Speed Rail Files Devastating Brief
11/16/15 Filed in: High-Speed Rail
The legal team challenging the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s compliance with the 2008 Proposition 1A High-Speed Rail Bond Measure filed a supplemental brief today. It explains the legal significance of a secret document recently uncovered by the Los Angeles Times. The Authority had resisted releasing it. Pressure from the State Assembly Republican Caucus and several Republican congressmen eventually forced the Authority to make it public. After the Authority capitulated, the court allowed the plaintiffs to file a supplemental brief.
Plaintiff Aaron Fukuda said “We hope this brief puts a stake in the heart of this boondoggle. The Authority’s goal line defense to keep this document secret tells you just how damaging they knew it was.”
Attorney Stuart Flashman said, “It’s understandable why the Authority wanted this evidence kept hidden. It directly contradicts the cost estimates in the Final 2014 Business Plan. The Business Plan’s deceptively lowered costs successfully pulled the wool over legislators’ eyes. Two months later, they gave the Authority billions of dollars in a multi-year gift of climate change mitigation funds. It’s hard to believe that would have happened had they known what a bottomless money pit the project had become.”
A verdict for the plaintiffs would not only prevent HSR bond funds from being used for construction, it would shut off federal grants and state climate change funds as well.
The case Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority was filed by a farmer, a rural homeowner and Kings County back in 2011. The Authority’s procedural maneuvering managed to delay a trial on the merits for the past four years. Plaintiffs are asking the Sacramento County Superior Court to declare that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has failed to meet the statutory requirements of Proposition 1A, the 2008 ten billion dollar rail bond measure.
Proposition 1A included an elaborate set of requirements to protect taxpayers from having to pay for a money-losing or unfinished project. Plaintiffs assert that the Authority has begun building a project likely to remain incomplete and worthless, as it ignores those requirements.
Part 1 of the case resulted in a verdict that the Authority had failed to comply with two provisions of the Proposition. However, an appeal to the California Supreme Court resulted in the elimination of any consequences for that non-compliance. Part 2 is now underway–the Opening Brief was filed November 2.
Part 2 of the case argues four points:
1. The decision to proceed with a blended system, in which HSR trains would share tracks with Caltrain, violates Prop. 1A.
2. The route selected by the Authority cannot provide trips between the Los Angeles Union Station and San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center in the 2 hour and 40 minute maximum travel time mandated by Prop. 1A.
3. No reasonable person could believe the Authority’s determination that the Initial Operating Segment of the system will be financially viable, a requirement of Prop. 1A.
4. The Court should issue a permanent injunction blocking the High-Speed Rail Authority from spending not only high-speed rail bond funds, but also any other state or federal funds, on the project.
The case will go to trial on February 11, 2016. All the briefs filed in the Tos case are available here: