Jerry Brown refuses to give up on high-speed rail

January 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Gov. Jerry Brown affirmed Friday that he is not giving up on his high-speed rail dream for California, even though two key leaders of the program resigned.

Brown reiterated his commitment to California's High-Speed Rail project, one day after the resignations of CEO Roelof van Ark and Tom Umberg as chairman, though Umberg will remain a board member. The jolt at the top brings louder cries to scrap the plan, but the governor says he's not backing down.

"We're going to build, but we're not going to be stupid. And we'll listen to the critics, and we'll fix things, and we'll do the right thing, and we're not going to go overboard. We're going to be very careful and build incrementally as we go," said Brown.

Brown immediately elevated one of his appointees, Dan Richard, as chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority while the search for a CEO takes place. Questions swirled over van Ark's departure and whether he was forced out amid a rash of bad publicity over the project's $100 billion price tag and viability. The governor sees the vacancies as opportunities.

"I'm putting my own stamp on state government slowly, but surely," said Brown.

Others say van Ark found the political climate tough to maneuver despite having considerable international high-speed rail experience.

"Unfortunately, he's not from California, and a lot of the things that us Californians take for granted, he had to learn," said Michael Quigley from the California Alliance for Jobs.

"When the Titanic hit the iceberg, the smart and lucky ones got off," said Jon Coupal from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Taxpayer groups say van Ark's departure in two months signals the continued downward spiral and that this is the perfect time to pull the plug.

"I think there's a growing sense that this project is doomed, and I think, given that, the sooner we do it, let's not drag this out, let's just go ahead and terminate it now," said Coupal.

Lawmakers will soon decide whether to approve the sale of about $3 billion in voter-approved bonds to begin the project in the Central Valley. A growing number of Democrats may be joining Republicans to say no, but remember governors have veto power.


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