California Gov. Jerry Brown spent much of his youth and early adulthood in the shadow of his famous father, former two-term California Gov. Pat Brown. Whereas Pat left a legacy of the California Aqueduct for generations to come, his soon wanted one too.
Its history was covered in my Newsmax column of May 3, 2018.
This is a continuance of the related topic — his son’s proposed legacy.
The aqueduct Pat built has supplied water to an ever-growing Southern California population for decades. The mammoth project, through controversial at the time, allowed the southern part of the state, and its many investors, to thrive and grow.
The bullet train project his son wishes to leave as his legacy was sold to voters in 2008 as a $33 billion ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours or less. It was son Jerry’s idea that would bond the huge state together like it has never been.
However, since the project began, it has been scaled back dramatically eliminating the Sacramento and San Diego segments. The estimated cost has gone from $77 billion to $98 billion and still growing. It can be ascertained at this juncture that the current High-Speed Rail Authority has no complete or viable funding plan.
The original thinking was to fund the project through bonds, federal funds, and private investment. The problem was private investment monies never materialized and the project flew into the fiscal stratosphere in every aspect.
There didn’t appear to be any viable leadership and California politicians ran away from any fingerprints on the fiasco known as the bullet train. It became a patchwork of blunders my public projects agencies that turned a blind eye to the catastrophe at the expense of endless taxpayer dollars.
Like so much of what has turned the Golden State into a genuine fiscal nightmare, liberal government concerned first and foremost with government to make decisions, failed miserably. Californians have been left to clean up the mess in a state more blue than the Pacific Ocean it borders.
The ongoing history of incredible bungling by those in charge is monumental. One such story involves some of the first state contract awarded for construction in 2013.
It was for the portion of the proposed railway from Fresno to Madera counties.
Located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it seemed like a good place to begin far from the urban centers of the state. The cost to simply move power lines, construction cables and other utility components out of the way was estimated to be around $25 million.
That is a very routine part of any construction project.
In five years, that number jumped to nearly $400 million. Bear in mind, this is far from the bustling cities to its north and south. Yet it appears that no one involved with the project could foresee the immense difficulties that would arise when dealing with far more populated areas of the project.
Obviously, the rising price tag has fueled concern for critics. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, complained that, "Bullet train cheerleaders and their allies in the California Legislature have worked hard to conceal the true status of the project as well as its viability."
That could be the understatement of the year. But there were virtually no calls of alarm from the governor’s mansion in Sacramento. This was Jerry’s legacy and no sign of panic could be seen. Most critics were calling the entire project a fiscal train wreck, but the elected officials were virtually silent on the matter.
But the bullet train is now a huge political issue in the November elections to come. Jerry Brown is forced tom step down because of term limits, and not a moment too soon considering the political heat that has arisen. Aggressive oversight is being demanded and an audit of the project by the federal government most certainly will see heads roll.
The combination of the federal government looking into the high-speed rail project and the state is also conducting a review may make Jerry’s legacy one he will not relish. But those presently in charge seem unfazed. "We will cooperate fully in this and any other audit of our funding or program," Brian Kelly, chief executive officer at California High-Speed Rail Authority, said in a statement. Kelly added, "We look forward to working closely with our federal partners to deliver the nation’s first truly high-speed system."
Pending the conclusions of the federal audit on the project, Kelly may be the first of many casualties of the crippled endeavor. Most responsible people involved with the fiscal implications of this massively over-budget fiasco believe the whole idea is impossible.
The bullet train is plagued by billions of dollars in cost overruns and fiscal mismanagement. It has been an abject failure since the onset. Billions have been wasted that could easily have been invested in current infrastructure such as water storage, flood control, highways and bridges.
But like so many other government-funded projects, it is not the money of any one person. It is the money of many handled by people who are not directly affected by the success or lack thereof for any plan. Like many government ideas, if they were privatized and built with private investment for profit — the results would be very different indeed.
It is a lesson that deep blue California has not learned as of yet. But the mass exodus occurring with its middle call to other states to avoid the skyrocketing taxes and involuntary enactment of a massive welfare state, change is coming.
While diehard supporters say the project should continue because so much money has already been spent, others say it’s time to cut and run before it gets that much worse.
At this time in the boondoggle’s history, one can only guess how much money the proponents have on the line.
Dwight L. Schwab, Jr. is an award-winning national political and foreign affairs columnist and published author. He has spent over 35 years in the publishing industry. His long-running articles include many years at Examiner.com and currently Newsblaze.com. Dwight is an author of two highly acclaimed books, "Redistribution of Common Sense - Selected Commentaries on the Obama Administration 2009-2014" and "The Game Changer - America's Most Stunning Election in History." He is a native of Portland, Oregon, a journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, and a resident of the SF Bay Area. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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