Judge Quentin Kopp, former High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman, has been an avid supporter of High-Speed Rail for decades. But his feelings have changed, not because the concept of high-speed rail is a bad one, but because “the project is not being lawfully executed as it was envisioned or voted on by the public.”
Going one step further, he signed a declaration as an expert witness in the Tos/Fukuda/Kings County lawsuit, also called the Prop 1A suit, writing about the illegalities of the project. Part 2 of the case will be heard later this year.
One of Quentin Kopp’s complaints is that high-speed rail money is being used for local transit: giving bond money reserved exclusively for high-speed rail to Caltrain on the Peninsula. He believes what’s needed is a fully grade separated 4 track system. Kopp says, “It is the only way they could make the speed, the times, the revenue, and not have a subsidy.”
Regarding the ruling of Judge Kenny, retired Judge Quentin Kopp thought, “the ruling was extremely well-written especially on the technical issues concerning mandamus claims and the judge was very clear on the ruling.”
Judge Kopp was surprised at Governor Brown’s comment about there being “lots of room for interpretation when the ruling was unequivocal.“ He thought the governor’s comments were “irresponsible comments of the worst kind.” “On the face of it both the words and actions of both Jerry Brown and the Authority Board Chairman, Mr. Richards, appear irresponsible.”
“Any progression of the project should be after the remedies hearing and perhaps even until after the finish of part two of the Tos/Fukuda/Kings County lawsuit, which could begin sometime in November,” said the former HSR Authority Chairman.
Kopp believes that this ruling could affect the result of the Bond Validation trial set for September 27, 2013 and does not believe that the State Treasurer Bill Lockyer will consider selling the state bonds for the project until the Tos case is fully heard and decided.
Regarding the signing of the design/build contract with Tutor Perini for the first leg of the system in the Central Valley, Judge Kopp thought, “It would be a flagrant action if the result of the ruling was known” [at the time of signing]. The High-Speed Rail Authority reported the contract was signed the morning of the ruling. The ruling itself came down in the late afternoon coincidentally the same day.
Kopp adds, “if the contract with Tutor Perini was signed without an “escape” clause should legal issues stop spending, the Attorney General’s office could be guilty of malpractice, since Tutor could sue for damages later. Kopp hopes the contract contains a cancellation clause.”
Judge Kopp thinks that the legislature, knowing that Judge Kenny’s ruling declared the HSR Authority’s funding plan illegal, should vacate its appropriation for the first segment in the Central Valley until the Kings County case is resolved.
In Judge Kenny's ruling, “The Court further notes that Section 2704.08 (d) requires the Authority, prior to committing any proceeds of bonds for the project, to prepare and approve a second funding plan and submit it to the Director of Finance and the Chairperson of the Joint Legislative Budget committee, along with a report prepared by independent parties [required by statute].“
The Authority has not submitted a second funding plan yet however they have been engaged in property acquisition activities in Fresno. They are also actively working with Caltrans on the construction project for relocation of Hwy 99 in the Fresno area in connection with the High-Speed Rail Project.
In all likelihood this funding is coming to California through the FRA Federal “credit card” with payment coming on or before April 2014 when California is required to “catch up” and contribute their matching funds. In essence they are obligating state bonds now.
Quentin Kopp, attorney and former state senator, does believe that the spending of funds advanced by the Federal Government probably does constitute the obligation of state bond funds, from a legal standpoint.
Does Quentin Kopp think there was a path to a legal project for what the Authority is planning today? He did not think so. He felt a revote about what is proposed today would end up not passing because he said the public didn’t believe in transit.
Mr. Kopp makes two parting predictions. First, under the leadership of Senate President pro tem, Senator Darrell Steinberg, the legislature will attempt to pass a new law that will exempt the High-Speed Rail project from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Second, that a bill will be floated to assign all cap and trade revenue to the High-Speed Rail Project.
If moves like this was attempted, it would be proof positive the Legislature and the Governor believe there is real danger in the court's ruling. This would be seen as attempt to legislate their way out of a court ruling and evade the protections in Prop 1A that people voted for. And last, this would send a message to the public about the damage and danger of what a super-majority party can do. Please contact your legislators and tell them to vote no if these bills are introduced.