Fresno supervisors reject call to renounce high-speed rail

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A local attack on the California high-speed rail program fizzled in Fresno. (KFSN)

A local attack on the California high-speed rail program fizzled in Fresno. An effort to get the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to renounce their support for the project died. It was backed by just one supervisor.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting heard familiar arguments both for and against the Californian High-Speed Rail project.

Some landowners complained they haven't been offered enough money for their property while Fresno State engineering students praised the project for getting them internships and jobs. They all came to talk about Supervisor Debbie Poochigian's proposal to reverse the board's 2012 decision to endorse the statewide project. Poochigian peppered Jeff Morales, the chief executive officer of the high-speed rail authority with questions and accusations.

"What you promised the voters is not what the voters are getting and that's why we are here today," said Poochigian.

But Morales responded that the intent of prop 1 a, the high-speed rail measure approved by California voters in 2008 was being followed.

Morales explained, "I think at the end of the day we are moving forward with the program that was envisioned contrary to assertions it will be perform as required under one a and deliver the benefits as required."

Poochigian wanted her fellow board members to renounce their two year old declaration of support for the project and challenged the authorities' claims about the number of jobs the project would create.

"It talks about 160,000 construction related jobs, and 450,000 permanent jobs," said Poochigian. "That's not accurate."

Morales responded, "Why is that not accurate. It is accurate."

"You think it's accurate?" Poochigian asked

"Yes," Morales responded.

Supervisor Henry Perea then asked Poochigian, "What are your facts supervisor?"

"450,000 permanent jobs," said Poochigian. "You believe that's accurate?"

"Yes," Morales responded, again.

Apparently flustered Poochigian responded, "Okay, alight."

"What are your facts?" Perea asked, again.

Poochigian responded, "I'll go through my stuff I've got a whole list of stuff."

The discussion and debate went on for more than four hours. Finally, three supervisors, Phil Larson, Judith Case McNairy, and Henry Perea indicated they wanted to save all this talk for another day. But Poochigian did not want to stop.

"I have lots of things I would like to talk about the time is running, but I'd like to go on for a couple more minutes, unless you tell me right now there's three people that want to push this off," said Poochigian. "Seven years isn't enough to make a decision today, then basically."

"Let her keep going, let her keep going," Perea added.

"Don't waste my time," Poochigian continued. "If you don't want me to waste your time is what I mean."

In the end, Poochigian made a motion to renounce the boards previous support for high-speed rail, but nobody went along with it. Instead they agreed to resume talking about high-speed rail in a couple of weeks and perhaps introduce additional resolutions.

After the meeting Morales told Action News, Fresno County's endorsement was not necessary, but important.

"I think it's important for the program," said Morales. "This is where we are starting, we've had a good partnership with the county before we want to maintain that partnership and we will take every opportunity to answer questions, and keep them on board."

The discussion over Fresno County's position on the controversial project is slated to continue on July 29th.

In the meantime, demolition of buildings in the path of the train through Fresno began on Monday.

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