July 19--A Southern California politician who served two years as chairman of the panel governing the state's controversial $43 billion high-speed rail project resigned from the board on Monday.
In his resignation letter to project leaders, Curt Pringle -- who heads a public relations and government consulting firm -- wrote: "I would like to focus my attention on my company and my other responsibilities."
Even so, he noted that he "will continue to vocally support developing the California high-speed rail system." He added in the statement: "Even though this project is a challenging one, I have enjoyed the opportunity to play a part in the future of transportation in California."
Pringle -- a former Anaheim mayor and state Assembly speaker -- served on the California High-Speed Rail Authority board for 4 1/2 years, including the last two years as chairman, before his term leading the board ended last month.
Gov. Jerry Brown will appoint a replacement to the board, which has authority over financial and policy decisions for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet train line. It's the fifth time this year that a new official will join the nine-member board, as the project moves from a dream to the start of construction slated for next year.
Pringle's term was marred by a conflict of interest probe by the state attorney general's office late last year. The state's attorneys concluded Pringle should not have sat on an Orange County
transportation board and served as Anaheim's mayor while simultaneously leading the high-speed rail project. Another board member resigned from the high-speed rail board over similar allegations, but Pringle stayed on because his term on the Orange County panel, and as Anaheim mayor, expired in December.
Public opinion of the project swung significantly during his term, especially among fiscal conservatives and on the Peninsula, as the cost of the project soared, with the authority securing a fraction of the funds it needs to build the railroad.
Tom Umberg, the new board chair, noted the state won $3.5 billion in federal grants and hired a new CEO under Pringle's watch.
"Speaker Pringle led the High-Speed Rail Authority through a challenging but rewarding time for the project -- he helped turn this project from an idea into a reality," Umberg said in a statement.
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705.
Copyright 2011 - San Jose Mercury News, Calif.