Bullet Train L.A.-San Diego: A debacle already?

Bulletin on the bullet train: It's already getting mired in sleaze, and the "routes" being eyed are beginning to cause rage, fury and protests in beautiful cities like Palo Alto that would be cut in half with a huge "wall" to support the high speed rail.

And this is unfolding just in the first year of what is expected to be a decades-long project.

If you want to see the often-bizarre proposed routes that will  create towering, elevated rail bridges through communities and require massive takings of property via eminent domain, you can go to the 3 p.m.-7p.m. hearings on October 30 in Corona, October 31 in Monterey Park (that's the closest one to greater L.A.), October 26 in West Covina, October 28 in El Monte, October 29 in Pomona, and Nov. 2 at Ontario Airport. Addresses can be found here.

Here's the news that's going to enrage folks:

First, $9 million in public money is being spent to hire a fancy PR

firm (Mercury Public Affairs) filled with friends of Arnold

Schwarzenegger's. The overpaid PR folks at Mercury will create a lot of

slick spin regarding what the California High Speed Rail Authority is up to.

Incredible! $9 million to let this rail commission tout itself? Right away, something smells.

California voters, without reading the fine print, last November approved a $10 billion bond to "begin" construction of a high-speed rail system linking Sacramento, the Bay Area and much of Southern California.

In a story in the Los Angeles Times recently, reporter Shane Goldmacher quotes a guy named Jeffrey Barker, who works on the bullet-train commission's "staff," and who explained in all seriousness that the bullet train commission (which has achieved zilch so far) is spending $9 million on PR right out of the gate because, he says:

"There hasn't been enough outreach, and the public doesn't have the information about this project that they demand and deserve."

Well the public doesn't deserve such a ripoff.

Why not pay a couple of college grads $20 an hour to Twitter and blog about the commission's non-existent achievements so far, and to let us all know about the upcoming hearings this month?

That shouldn't cost more than $100,000 a year or so and would create a great entry-level job for somebody graduating from UC with a communications/social media degree.

But instead $9 million is gifted over to Arnold's PR pals who work at Mercury, and who include longtime political insiders Steve Schmidt, Adam Mendelsohn and Fabian Nunez?

If Rod Blagojevich's pals were getting the same pointless job in Illinois, it would be called graft.  What an ugly beginning for high-speed rail.


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