More than a thousand supporters of California High Speed Rail filled the barren lot of what is supposed to become a multistory train station in Fresno today for a symbolic groundbreaking.
Nearly two years after construction was supposed to start, and more than six years after voters approved a bond to help fund California high speed rail, state and local leaders met in Fresno’s historic Chinatown today to mark the start of the project’s construction.
January 07, 2015
FRESNO, CALIF. – California broke ground Tuesday on its $68 billion high-speed rail system, promising to combat global warming while whisking travelers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours.
The bullet train project, the first in the nation to get underway, faces challenges from Republican cost-cutters in Congress and Central Valley farmers suing to keep the rails off their fields. Others doubt the state can deliver the sleek system as designed, and worry it will become an expensive failure.
But Gov. Jerry Brown said high-speed rail is essential to meeting his latest goal: Encouraging the nation's most populous state to get half its power from renewable energy by 2030.
"It's not that expensive. We can afford it. In fact, we cannot NOT afford it," Brown said before signing a symbolic section of rail. "All these projects are a little touch and go. You'll have these critics say 'why spend all this money?'"
January 7, 2015
Dozens of protestors were outside Tuesday's High-Speed Rail Groundbreaking holding signs and expressing their anger towards the project, calling on the city to "Stop the Train."
Ten year old Anna Dayton said she already knows what the new high speed rail will mean for her.
"My friends and I are going to have to pay for this when we grow up," Dayton said.
Dozens, including Anna were out protesting Tuesday's groundbreaking, expressing their frustrations over the controversial project.
"I mean if you think about all of the transportation that we already have, all of this money could be going to better causes," protestor Samantha Arteno said.
Some said the High-Speed Rail Authority has already crossed too many boundaries.
"They had to hop the fence. We didn't give them permission. They sawed off the ladder and covered those doors," Protestor with Chinatown Revitalization Kathy
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A bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature is heralded as a way to streamline a major project to connect San Antonio and Nacimiento reservoirs via a pipeline, but at least two groups are crying foul because of inherent labor agreements written into the language of the bill.
Assembly Bill 155, authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, would OK the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use what's called a "design-build" contract to connect Lake San Antonio and Lake Nacimiento with a pipeline.
Design-build is a method to deliver a project in which the design and construction services are contracted by a single entity known as the design-builder or design-build contractor. Alejo argues that enacting a design-build contract will result in lowered costs and expedited construction.
But the Water Resources Agency Board of Directors in late July reversed course and recommended to the county Board of Supervisors that they request AB 155 be pulled and that they "make no designation regarding the method of procurement utilized for the Interlake Tunnel Project."
The interlake project would move winter water from Nacimiento roughly eight miles to San Antonio. The watershed around Nacimiento fills that reservoir three times faster than San Antonio, so the interlake pipeline would take advantage of unused capacity at San Antonio. The result would be better flood control, additional groundwater recharge and more water storage to help offset droughts.
Citing chronically overcrowded schools and the urgency to provide students with a "21st century education," the Salinas Union High School District Board of Trustees voted 7 to 0 Tuesday to place a $128 million bond on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Meeting in a special session, the board led the Pledge of Allegiance, heard from one speaker in support of the bond, asked one question, voted and adjourned — all in a manner of minutes.
Titled the "Local High Schools Improvement Measure," the bond measure aims to address numerous "urgent and critical" needs for upgrading and repairing existing schools while installing the technological hardware and infrastructure needed to meet the learning requirements in a new era of public education. The new Common Core State Standards greeting students in the 2014-15 school year operate predominantly by computer, on the Internet and via cyberspace.
Included in the $128 million bond plan will be construction money for a highly anticipated new high school, the land for which has already been purchased, off Rogge Road in the north sector of the city.
If approved by voters, the bond would chip away significantly at the district Master Facilities Plan. The plan was compiled in 2011 and contains a long list of prioritized improvement projects estimated at $232 million in needed repairs and upgrades across the entire district.
Last week, the Oxnard Union High School District board of trustees — in a 3-2 vote — tentatively approved a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA, for its $45 million Rancho Campana High School project in Camarillo.
The packed board meeting was charged and divided all because three trustees (Wayne Edmonds, Socorro Lopez Hanson and Steve Hall) put Big Labor special interests before taxpayers, reason and workers’ rights.
This PLA will raise costs substantially while all but guaranteeing that the 85 percent of the local construction workforce who are union-free will be unable to work on a project paid for by their tax dollars.
Last night (November 20, 2013), the board of trustees for the Oxnard Union School District in Ventura County bickered with the school district administration and each other over the terms and conditions of a proposed Project Labor Agreement for a $40 million new school (Rancho Campana High School).
News Coverage: Tension Marks School Building Plans - Ventura County Star – November 22, 2013
Certain members of the school board have been pushing for a Project Labor Agreement at the behest of union lobbyists since their October 9, 2013 meeting. The school district awarded a lease-leaseback contract on October 23, 2013.
In an effort to declare outright victory, it appears that the targets and goals for a power plant in Lodi were altered, with at least one underperforming matrix being dropped from media advisories and announcements.
The project was unable to hire a single veteran, despite the state ranking second-to-worst for unemployed veterans of Post-9/11 wars.
The Lodi Energy Center is a 300-megawatt power plant that was designed to serve 13 municipalities in Northern California with energy. It was recently highlighted by POWER Magazine, the "definitive information source for the power generation market," as a top new plant in the country.
Changes to the state law should be vetted and discussed by all parties.
Gov. Jerry Brown has again raised the possibility of changing the California Environmental Quality Act. That's the sweeping 1970 state law that requires public and private developers to analyze the impacts of their projects, study alternatives and implement mitigation measures.
CEQA is a powerful legal tool, and nearly everyone has a love-hate relationship with it. Developers have used the law to derail projects of competing developers. Unions have sought exemptions from it for projects they liked and then filed CEQA lawsuits against developers who wouldn't commit to project-labor agreements.
Brown has been both a CEQA suitor and snubber. As attorney general, he used the law to pressure local governments into changing their development and transportation plans to reduce greenhouse gases. But before that, as Oakland mayor, he clashed with CEQA litigants who objected to his plans for accelerating the construction of infill housing in downtown Oakland.