California Residents and Politicians Ask Gov. Brown to Give Up on High-Speed Rail
It's been nearly six years since California voters approved $10 billion in rail bonds to make a high-speed train line from Los Angeles to San Francisco a reality. The project appears to be on life support, with judges, residents and politicians all expressing doubt.
“It’s time for the [California Gov. Jerry Brown] to pull up the tracks,” U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA), told The New York Times. “Everything he has said has not come to fruition.
"It’s time to scratch the project.”
That statement came nearly two months after a Sacramento County judge's invalidation of the rail authority’s business plan. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the High-Speed Rail Authority's (HSRA) plan is no longer in line with what voters approved in 2008, according to The Associated Press. The lawsuit came from a group of Kings County residents who don't want the project to happen.
The HSRA now needs to show how it will pay for the first 300 miles of construction. Kenny rejected a request from the HSRA that would allow the state treasurer to sell $8.6 billion in bonds.
Fifty-two percent of the respondents in a September survey from U.S.C. Dornsife/Los Angeles Times said they oppose the project. That's the same percentage of residents who passed the rail measure in 2008.
The project is slated to cost $68 billion and be completed in 2029. The state identified nearly $13 billion in financing for the project before the November ruling—about $9 billion in state bonds and $3.5 billion in matching funds. California won't get more than $3 billion in federal matching funds without more state funding. Brown's new budget proposal, which is expected by the end of the week, could include a request that some money collected from carbon producers under the state’s cap-and-trade program be used to help pay for the high-speed line.
“We have confidence that we can comply with this ruling and we can move this program forward, and it should move forward,” said Dan Richard, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority, which is building the line.
“Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s challenging. But we are still committed to it. The governor is fully committed to it.”
However Rep. McCarthy said he doubts voters would approve $9 billion to build it and that private investment in the project has been nonexistent. Democratic State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who voted against the project, said he has yet to see solid evidence of where the money will come from.
“That’s the bottom line: Show me the money,” he told The New York Times. “That is what the judge said, and that is what we promised the voters. And I never heard, sitting through many, many years in the Legislature, I never heard them show me the money in a way that I could feel comfortable. It has gotten worse.”
DeSaulnier may soon get to see some of the money—or progress—once the HSRA is done evaluating qualification bids from five "world-class construction teams" to build a 60-mile stretch of the high-speed line from Fresno to a county line near Bakersfield for about $1.5 to $2 billion.
Based on his comments, it doesn't sound like that would impress McCarthy very much.
“They get so invested in it, they just get blinded,” the U.S. representative said. “That’s why I think this time of year, New Year’s, is the best time to step back and say: ‘I tried. It won’t pan out.’
"I think the governor would get big applause from California voters saying that.”
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By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
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