Editor's note: Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert, a weekly newspaper created by the California Farm Bureau Federation
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge heard arguments last week about what legal remedies should be imposed on the agency responsible for planning and construction of the California high-speed rail project for violating funding and environmental requirements of Proposition 1A, the rail bond measure approved by voters in 2008.
In a case brought by Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford landowner Aaron Fukuda and Kings County officials, Judge Michael Kenny previously determined the California High-Speed Rail Authority "abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with requirements of the law." Plaintiffs argued before the judge last Friday about whether to bar the rail authority from spending or committing any state bond funds for construction until the agency has complied with Proposition 1A.
One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Stuart Flashman of Oakland, argued that construction contracts approved by the authority commit bond funds without a proper funding plan, which violates a requirement under Proposition 1A.
"An obligation is an obligation," Flashman said. "These are commitments that have been made. They have been obligated and committed."
On behalf of the authority, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Michele Inan argued that it has not spent any state bond money for construction and that otherwise it has so far used only federal funds not subject to the bond requirements. She added that obligating state funds for future use does not mean the funds have been spent, and therefore does not violate the bond measure at this time.
Flashman responded that the committing of funds obligates the authority to pay.
"When you find yourself in a hole, it is time to stop digging, and the authority doesn't seem to understand that," Flashman said. "The problem is that the authority has committed bond funds improperly. Those are violations because they haven't done a funding plan."
After hearing arguments from both sides, Kenny took the case under submission for a later ruling.
Doug Verboon, chairman of the Kings County Board of Supervisors and a walnut grower, attended the court hearing and said, "It is hard to say what the judge is going to do.
"It seems to me if you sign a contract to do some work, you are obligated," Verboon said.
Tos, who said he would like Kenny to place an injunction on the high-speed rail project and let voters decide its fate on the ballot in 2014, said, "This is typical of what's been going on for the past three or four years. The authority pays no attention to what they've been mandated to do. Whatever they want to do, they do."