Friday, September 30, 2016
Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday vetoed a bill to strengthen the California legislature's oversight of high-speed rail. The measure, introduced by Assemblyman Jim Patterson from Fresno, would have simply required the High-Speed Rail Authority to provide more information on the cost and schedule for each planned segment of the high-speed rail system. The provision of this information had been recommended by the Legislative Analyst's Office.
It's no surprise that Governor Brown would resist attempts to infuse some transparency into high-speed rail. Projected construction costs have already doubled from the initial $33 billion estimate, and the final bill will surely top $100 billion. The Governor is even raiding his cap-and-trade fund, but that has not been enough to cover the project's $43.5 billion shortfall.
So where will the money come from to keep this boondoggle going? According to the Los Angeles Times, the rail authority chief "has said repeatedly this year that it should not be necessary to specify where all of the money will come from, noting that backers of the project were surprised by some sources of the money now available. He said there’s no reason to doubt that unanticipated sources will provide additional money."
So the financing plan, it seems, is to hope and pray that a giant pile of money will appear out of nowhere. Meanwhile, I leave it to you to decide whether the billions being shoveled into this absurd scheme would be better spent building new water storage projects and improving the state's road and freight-rail infrastructure.
In his veto message, Governor Brown called Assemblyman Patterson's bill "unnecessary." Seeing as the bill passed unanimously in both the Assembly and the Senate, it appears that every member of the California legislature disagrees.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Today is the 15-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The images of bodies falling through the sky, collapsing towers, a plane wreck in an empty field, and a giant hole in the Pentagon are permanently seared into my memory.
In the wake of the attacks, our nation set out to lead the world in a campaign to eliminate al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups that seek to attack us, kill our citizens, and impose their twisted ideology on every country on Earth.
Fifteen years later, it's clear we have more work to do. Despite some initial successes against al Qaeda, the group is once again expanding its network throughout the Middle East and beyond. Meanwhile, their close allies, the Taliban, are resurgent in Afghanistan, seizing wide swathes of once-liberated territory from the Afghan government.
And then there is ISIS, an organization spun off from al Qaeda whose atrocities are beyond belief. Its members' bloodlust is known intimately not only by their legions of Middle Eastern victims, but throughout Europe and the United States, where the group has developed expertise at conducting or inspiring terror attacks on innocent civilians.
It is a heavy burden to lead this fight, but history has shown that when America withdraws from its leadership role, unstable forces and malign powers fill the resulting power vacuum. There is no quick and easy solution - we are engaged in a generational fight against ruthless enemies. We have already paid a high price in this war, but 9/11 demonstrated that in today's interconnected world, threats halfway across the globe cannot always be confined to a safe distance.
On this anniversary, I'd like to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who perished on 9/11 and to the members of our military who died in the ensuing battles. I also hope you'll take a moment to thank the everyday heroes of today - the servicemen and women, first responders, and police officers who go about their jobs, often in dangerous circumstances, with little recognition or reward. On 9/11, when I saw these heroes run into burning buildings and get crushed in the carnage, their sacrifice stunned and humbled me - and filled me with pride to be an American.
Friday, September 2, 2016
I'd like to thank all my constituents who came to my water forum on Wednesday—with nearly a thousand people attending, the event was an extraordinary demonstration of our community's commitment to overcoming our government-made water crisis.
As I argued at the forum, our best hope for resolving our 2.5 million acre-foot water shortfall is for our elected officials, ag groups, and water districts to unify behind a common agenda of reforming the Endangered Species Act, the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, and the San Joaquin River Settlement, as well as building myriad new water storage projects. Without this sort of concerted action, a million acres of farmland will be forced out of production.
Although the radical environmentalists believe they've already won this fight, the great turnout at the forum has renewed my conviction that it's not too late to turn things around—if we act fast and smart.
Special thanks to Rep. Valadao, Westlands' Johnny Amaral, Friant's Jason Phillips, Kole Upton, and KMJ's Ray Appleton for participating in the panel at the forum, and to all my constituents who submitted questions for the Q&A period. You can read about the forum here, here, here, and here.