The date of the California High Speed Rail Authority Board Meeting, June 9th, was a special day for our Foothills Communities in our fight against high speed rail. Thank you to everyone who helped plan the day, made the trip, testified, were with us in spirit, donated to help defray various costs, have written letters and watched on various websites.
The turnout from the Foothills area and other affected communities far exceeded our expectations given the meeting was held in downtown Los Angeles on a work day. Most of us left this area at 7:30 for a meeting that lasted until 4:30 and did not get home until after 6 pm. Over 400 people attended and more than 150 people testified, including at least 50 people from our Foothill communities alone. The meeting room overflowed the entire day. The poise, intelligence, community-spirit, compassion and brilliance displayed by our residents and others throughout the region, demonstrated that unity is the best and only strategy against this “big government” boondoggle and the “transportation zombies” trying to impose their view of the world on our communities.
Two special acknowledgments go out to Julie Tarnawsky, Shadow Hills, who despairingly asked the CHSRA Board “Are you just completely uncaring?” and to Kelly Rose, Lake View Terrace, who gave probably the most difficult presentation of all with her 5-year old daughter standing at her side. Kelly’s words to the CHSRA Board linger, “When you go home, I hope you think of us, because we think of you.”
To many of us, the following things are becoming clear:
First, our most urgent, short-term strategy is to make sure this project is not studied and/or built above ground in densely populated or sensitive environmental areas.
Second, it must not be allowed to put any of our water resources or communities at risk during either construction or operations phases.
Third, it must not damage our natural and cultural resources – the National Monument, National Forest, Rim of the Valley, Big Tujunga Wash, Cesar Chavez Memorial, Bike Paths, Horse Trails and more.
Fourth, it is going to collapse of its own weight as opposition grows and it will die a slow death in the years ahead.
Everyone who attended and supported our community’s efforts should know that CHSRA Chairman Dan Richard called the downtown meeting the “biggest protest rally” to date and he called it the “high-water mark of all the communities affected.” He’s not seen anything yet; wait until he schedules a meeting in the San Fernando Valley! But first, we must continue to work with our local electeds to host their own community input meeting, one that the high speed rail organization does not control. Only by removing control of the meetings from the High Speed Rail Authority will our electeds, the press and our communities, themselves, witness the true anger and opposition in our communities to high speed rail.
We have listed the media coverage on the “S.A.F.E.” website (www.dontrailroad.us) for anyone who wants to read, view or listen. Also, the CHSRA website has video of the meeting. There are two segments that include testimony from your friends and neighbors from our Foothills communities:
segment that starts at 35:06 – http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/63415007
segment that starts at 74:47 – http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/63412968
We urge you to be ready to help out in any way you can as this battle moves forward. Whether it’s volunteer time writing a letter, attending a hearing or donating to either our legal or public education/information fund, your help is needed. Please visit our website.
What Progress Has Been Made Fighting High Speed Rail?
Lobbying for Elimination of Proposed Routes
E1 has been moved further away from most of Kagel Canyon, and plans for above ground portions of E1 have been replaced by tunneled routes.
E3 has been moved slightly to the east toward Angeles National Golf Course, and plans for above ground portions of E3 have been replaced by tunneled routes.
E2 was rumored to have been eliminated; yet remains under consideration. S.A.F.E. is very focused to force removal of E2 as soon as possible.
Nearly all above ground plans for routes through the National Monument and National Forest have been eliminated in favor of tunneled routes;
Lobbying for Political/Elected Official and Environmental Organization Support
Congressman Schiff and Congresswoman Chu have called for elimination of all Forest routes, above ground or tunneled.
LA City Councilman Fuentes, County Supervisors Antonovich and Kuehl, Senator Liu and Assemblymember Lopez have expressed support for elimination of E2 and other above ground high speed rail routes.
Local Sierra Club members overwhelmingly support S.A.F.E. despite its Transportation Committee’s support for High Speed Rail.
Lobbying for Independent, Upfront Environmental Studies
LA City Councilman Fuentes, County Supervisors Antonovich and Kuehl, Senator Liu and Assemblymember Lopez have expressed support for advance/upfront, independent environmental studies of water resources, tunneling phase construction impacts and seismic conditions so that major impacts for proposed routes are studied as early in the process as possible.
Building a Regional Coalition to Increase S.A.F.E.’s Strength
S.A.F.E. includes about 50 actively involved community leaders and residents who work on this issue on a daily basis to plan strategy and execute all aspects of our community’s opposition to high speed rail.
S.A.F.E. has joined with communities including Acton, Agua Dulce, Santa Clarita, Sylmar, San Fernando, Pacoima, Sun Valley and Burbank to oppose high speed rail. Unity is the best strategy in dealing with both the high speed rail Authority and local elected officials.
S.A.F.E. has leveraged donations of time and materials from dozens of residents, local businesses and generous donors so that local funds for community organizations are not depleted.
S.A.F.E. has successfully raised thousands of dollars to support a legal defense fund and a public information/education fund.
Providing Information to Residents and Businesses
Information related to high speed rail is distributed regularly via:
i. Website – www.dontrailroad.us
ii. SHPOA’s Daily Fodder
iii. Email to residents
iv. Email to elected officials
v. Email blasts from Neighborhood Councils
vi. Speaker’s Bureau appearances at many community meetings
vii. Social Media/Facebook
S.A.F.E. has garnered extensive media coverage in the LA Times, Daily News, news radio and TV news.
Why Bother Fighting High Speed Rail?
Some people say it is going to happen no matter what. Some people feel it will run out of funds and die a slow death. If only we knew the answer, but we don’t.
The reality is probably somewhere in between, unfortunately. While the demise of HSR is possible, it won’t happen for a few years at least. That means, every aspect of high speed rail is in play right now. So we cannot afford to be apathetic and exhibit wishful thinking. Those who do not engage on this project in some helpful form are hurting themselves and their community.
To beat high speed rail requires a multi-faceted strategy:
Ongoing input and protest into the public, environmental review process
Ongoing communication to and dialogue with local elected officials
Ongoing communication with the media
A strong legal strategy
Support of legislation and ballot measures that would replace high speed rail
Support of elected officials who OPPOSE high speed rail
Fundraising to sustain the opposition effort
Most importantly, unity with surrounding impacted communities. No one community can go it alone against the high speed rail Authority.
A mature, community-minded and big picture perspective of not trying to dump high speed rail into other communities.
Unfortunately, the irresponsible behavior of state legislators, the Governor and various special interest groups duped voters into supporting a ballot measure in 2008 which has now been reconfigured by politicians and bureaucrats into a financial and environmental disaster. The environmental benefits touted early on are a complete sham; supporters hide behind the veil of those false claims, along with baseless claims of local job creation and local economic stimulus. We have to treat it as real and we have to fight it as hard as we can.
Because the project represents a HUGE threat to the day-to-day life of our region as well as its long-term survival. This is not a case of paranoid people crying that the “sky is falling.” High speed rail is real, it’s very well funded (right now), it’s got big political support, and their mindset is to push aggressively forward. If we do nothing, we’ll get railroaded. Count on it, and if you do nothing this region will be destroyed.
Before reviewing the damaging impacts, let’s get one thing clear. There is NO benefit to the Foothills area presented by high speed rail. No jobs, no economic stimulus, no transportation relief, no air quality improvements, no funding….NOTHING!
Let’s review the damaging impacts. This just an overview and not all inclusive:
Quality of Life
The decade-long environmental and construction impacts are already sucking the energy out of your community leaders and community organizations, many of which are devoting a significant amount of their volunteer time to fighting high speed rail at the expense of projects that help our communities.
The ongoing ruckus and chaos of any construction activity will be far worse than anything we are presently experiencing with 210 freeway construction. The Foothills will resemble a war zone for nearly a decade during testing and construction even if tunneling is the only option developed.
Creates massive construction phase noise and visual blight, as well as ongoing daily noise and visual impacts when operational. This is government intrusion into our daily lives at its worst.
Outdoor activities – equestrian, biking, hiking, etc. – will at the least be significantly inconvenienced and, at worst, will be eliminated by construction activity.
Rail construction and operations would forever alter the character of our region. Whether it’s E1, E2 or E3, or the SR14 route, all proposals will create huge visual, aesthetic, economic, environmental and quality of life impacts. The train would be the equivalent visual/character changer that the windmills are out near Palm Springs. Huge infrastructure, huge blight right in the face of hundreds of thousands of people a day.
Threatens water supply in the mountains, in the Big Tujunga Wash and along San Fernando Road.
Creates massive construction phase noise and visual blight, as well as ongoing daily noise and visual impacts when operational.
Threatens air quality due to construction phase dirt excavation, truck movement and conveyor movement.
Creates untenable risks for wildlife, horses, birds, fish and other living species.
Already, property values, real estate investments, real estate transactions and business investments are being negatively affected by high speed rail. Your wealth is being diminished DAILY by the threat of high speed rail.
Your tax dollars are being wasted on this boondoggle. In addition to the billions of federal and state dollars originally earmarked for the project, thanks to the Governor and our state legislators, every time you put gas in your car, about 10-15 cents of what you pay for each gallon of gas goes to the State Cap and Trade program, 25% of whose funds serve as the lifeline of funding for high speed rail.
Far more important local and state needs, such as water supply solutions, education, health care, etc. would benefit greatly if high speed rail funds were repurposed.