Opponents heard at high speed rail celebration

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A couple dozen protesters got their voices heard during the ceremony kickstarting California's high speed rail in Fresno. And some Valley politicians complained the rail is too similar to a failed project very nearby.

Gov. Jerry Brown's enthusiasm for high speed rail didn't carry far outside the fences of the location for the bullet train's first depot.

"We need water not a train," they chanted during the ceremony.

Tea party activists, fiscal conservatives, and even a family of three from Monterey wanted to make sure the governor knows not everyone wants the project.

Former Fresno mayor Jim Patterson told me he speaks for the Republican caucus in Sacramento when he calls the groundbreaking a phony media event and compares high speed rail to Chukchansi Park, the city's minor league baseball stadium.

"Isn't it ironic we're standing in the shadow of a stadium that proved to be too expensive, over-borrowed, over-indebted and built for the San Francisco Giants who have now taken a hike?" he asked rhetorically.

Kitty corner from about two dozen protesters stood a solitary woman with a single sign. Kathy Omachi is the vice president of Chinatown Revitalization, which owns a tiny property connected to a couple buildings the California High Speed Rail Authority already owns. She says some of the prep work for the rail included trespassing at the onetime Japanese restaurant and damage to a ladder installed in the 1930s.

"So they just cut it and dropped it on the ground so we did a police report," Omachi said.

But even among the protesters, a few rail supporters lined the fences, hoping to glimpse history in the making.

"I wanted to see what my governor has to say about it," said one supporter.

Assm. Patterson says the cost of high speed rail is really going to be more like $100 billion and the governor needs to re-do the plan, then go back to voters and ask their permission. The initial bond for almost $10 billion passed in 2008.

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