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By Tim Hunt

Time to bury the high-speed rail project

Uploaded: Jun 25, 2020

Taxpayers may find a silver lining in the upcoming state budget.

The Assembly, in a rare bipartisan vote, approved a resolution this month 63-0 calling on the Highspeed Rail Authority to stop issuing contracts and spending the up to $4 billion still available. The authority had been poised to adopt a revised business plan today, but pulled that item from its agenda.

As I have argued from the start, this is nothing but a boondoggle to fulfil former Gov. Jerry Brown’s fantasy of European-style electric trains connecting the state from north to south. Voters passed the bond measure back in 2008 and it came loaded with conditions, including no public funding. None of the promises have been met. And, it will be interesting to see if President Trump can succeed in clawing back federal stimulus money, given in the Obama Administration, because the conditions have not been met.

As for public money, Brown propped up the failing enterprise in 2012 when he negotiated with the Legislature to allocate 25% of the cap-and-trade fund to the train. Again, a questionable—at best—use of public funds.

Nowadays, if you drive Highway 99 in the Fresno area you can see some of the viaducts that have been built. The chances of them being connected to anything is doubtful so perhaps, 100 years from now, our descendants can wonder about them like we wonder about Stonehenge.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, in his first inaugural address, seemed to bury the choo-choo only to dig it up a couple of weeks later as a San Joaquin Valley project. It’s time to put it back in the cemetery and the pandemic-induced budget offers the perfect rationale.

We’ve all experienced many “firsts” during the coronavirus shutdown.

Many of us locally saw Zoom in a new way last Wednesday when Jessica Binzoni and Barham Fadhil were married in Kurdistan. Jessica grew up in Pleasanton and established Hope+Faith International to serve refugees in northern Iraq in 2018. They focus on scholarships for refugee children so they can continue their education. She met her fiancé, Barham, there.

They were planning to get married in March and her parents, Lisa and Frank Binzoni, had planned to travel there just as the pandemic worsened and countries started closing their borders. So, travel was postponed as was the wedding. After many conversations, the couple decided to get married on June 20 at 8:30 a.m. PDT and 6:30 p.m. local time and share the ceremony live on Zoom. The week of the wedding, they moved it up to Wednesday because there was talk the country could shut down.

Only Jessica, Barham and the pastor officiating were present for the ceremony that went off without a hitch. Lisa and Frank were dressed in their wedding best, complete with flowers that a friend had dropped off the night before and many of us were able to join on Zoom. Incidentally, Lisa owns the English Rose in downtown Pleasanton.

GraceWay Pastor Mike Barris shared later that the Zoom ceremony had opened his eyes about how effective a wedding or memorial service could be when done over Zoom or similar technologies. Certainly, there were many of us “present” who would not have dreamt of traveling to Kurdistan.