High-Speed Rail

July 25, 2014

Fresno County supervisors revisit high-speed rail concerns

High-speed rail will likely be a political piñata again Tuesday, as the Fresno County Board of Supervisors takes another swing at deciding how it feels about California's proposed bullet-train program.

The debate comes two weeks after Supervisor Debbie Poochigian's proposed resolution to oppose the state High-Speed Rail Authority's plan -- after at least five years of official support -- failed to gain any traction with her board colleagues following a four-hour discussion including public comments. Several supervisors said they wanted more time to ponder the issue.

In September 2009, board members including Poochigian unanimously voted to support high-speed rail.

While Poochigian is re-introducing the opposition resolution Tuesday, board Chairman Andreas Borgeas is offering a different -- and potentially more substantial -- proposal: filing a court brief in support of a 2011 Kings County lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

An amicus brief (from the Latin legal term amicus curiae, or "friend of the court") "is a unique and cost-free opportunity for Fresno County to express its position in a consequential way beyond a symbolic resolution, without the financial obligation of becoming a direct party in litigation," Borgeas said Friday.

The lawsuit by Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford resident Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors is a multi-pronged attack on the rail authority's business and operating plans. The suit alleges that the statewide rail project violates Proposition 1A, a $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond act approved by California voters in 2008.

The amicus brief proposed by Borgeas would focus on one narrow issue of the Tos/Fukuda/Kings County case: whether the project as it is being developed now oversteps voters' approval from 2008.

"The high-speed rail project of 2014 far exceeds the 2008 authorization of Prop. 1A in every conceivable way: cost, funding and implementation," Borgeas said. "We believe the court should have every opportunity to consider our concerns."

Borgeas said a resolution to oppose high-speed rail "is highly symbolic," but added that "the future of this project is going to be decided by the courts."

Jeff Morales, the rail authority's CEO, is expected to attend Tuesday's meeting. A spokeswoman for the authority said the agency didn't know about the specifics of Borgeas' proposal and was unable to comment.

If you go

• What: Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting
• When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
• Where: Supervisors chambers, third floor of the Hall of Records building near the northwest corner of M and Tulare streets in downtown Fresno
Tuesday's agenda

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