Governor's wife made the dumb high-speed rail decision
From California Sunday magazine:
...With respect to investment, Gust Brown has been deeply involved in what is probably her husband’s most controversial project: building the multibillion-dollar high-speed-rail system to connect Northern and Southern California. In 2008, voters approved selling bonds to finance the system, but in the ensuing years, the projected costs ballooned — approaching $100 billion — and public opinion cooled.
After Brown became governor, he deputized his wife to research the high-speed-rail project and help him decide whether to support it. One of the people whose expertise she sought was Dan Richard, a former Brown aide who had also served on the board of the Bay Area’s bart transportation system. He was living in Washington, D.C., and recalls several phone calls with Gust Brown over many months — about the High Speed Rail Authority’s much-criticized plan to start construction in the sparsely populated Central Valley rather than in a big northern or southern city, and the projected cost and ridership of the trains. “It was very clear that she was the one getting into the policy issues,” Richard says.
In August 2011, Richard was bicycling while on vacation in Maine, and the phone rang. It was Gust Brown. “She said, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you saw, but my husband was in Fresno this week, and he announced that he’s supporting high-speed rail,’” Richard recalls. She noted that the governor had said he would appoint a new member to the High Speed Rail Authority soon. “That,” she told him, “would be you.” In February 2012, Richard became the chair of the authority and its public face. “I mean, I was working for Jerry Brown, but, basically, I was working for Anne and Nancy McFadden” — and mostly for Anne, he says. Gust Brown told Richard that she now supported starting construction in the Central Valley and that, while the High Speed Rail Authority’s ceo had developed a reputation as politically inexperienced, she thought it made sense that he stay on for stability. After doing some research of his own, Richard came to the same conclusion.
On the day after Brown’s recent inauguration, he and Gust Brown visited Fresno to celebrate the beginning of construction. “When I first was elected governor, I had some doubts about this project,” he told his audience. “But my wife, Anne, who used to be a Republican, when she said, ‘No, you got to take this money, and you got to build,’ the fact that she was a Republican gave me a lot of confidence...”