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Richard Katz resigns from California's high-speed train board

November 16, 2010 |  6:49 pm

Los Angeles transportation official Richard Katz is stepping down from the state panel overseeing development of California’s $43-billion high-speed rail system.

Katz, who also serves on the boards of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Metrolink commuter rail system, said Tuesday that he submitted his resignation to the governor and will leave his state post Dec. 1.

Katz and California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Curt Pringle have been the focus of a state attorney general’s review to determine if the state and local positions they hold are legally “incompatible” due to potentially overlapping interests on rights-of-way, station locations and other matters. 

Pringle is mayor of Anaheim and a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority board, but he will relinquish those offices next month.

Katz has argued to the attorney general that his public offices are compatible. But he said he did not want to risk being able to continue work on local transportation projects, including a plan to leverage county sales tax receipts to build 30 years of transit projects in the next decade.

The so-called 30/10 proposal “is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been involved in,” Katz said. He said he also wants to see through a major collision-avoidance system and other safety improvements at the five-county Metrolink system.

“I’m not willing to risk all that for high-speed rail,” Katz said.

The state Legislative Counsel opined that offices held by Katz and Pringle are incompatible. And some key lawmakers have criticized the multiple hats worn by the pair, who are both influential former state lawmakers. If a court ruled against Katz, he might have to forfeit one or more offices.

But Katz said that barring officials from urban areas that would be traversed by the bullet trains, and who are likely to have more knowledge of complex transit planning, from the statewide rail panel makes little sense.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said a formal opinion on the Pringle-Katz question is still in the works. She said she did not know if the issues would soon be considered moot because Pringle and Katz are leaving potentially conflicting offices. 

-- Rich Connell

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