The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino Railway:
Judge Clayton L. Brennan, of the Mendocino County Superior Court, announced on Thursday that he would allow the City of Fort Bragg to proceed with its lawsuit to end Mendocino Railway’s status as a public utility regulated primarily by federal and state law (rather than local law). The City hopes by its baseless lawsuit to wrest control over Mendocino Railway away from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) and to obtain that control for itself. Mendocino Railway has argued that the Superior Court has no jurisdiction to hear challenges against CPUC-regulation of public utilities.
“We are obviously disappointed by the Court’s ruling and have pursued an emergency request to the Court of Appeal to review Judge Brennan’s ruling,” said Robert Pinoli, president of Mendocino Railway. “Sadly, the City Council is determined to waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pursue its relentless quest to destroy the railway and the visitor spending it generates for small businesses and workers in our community. We firmly believe that our community benefits when our City Council works together with local businesses to create jobs rather than engaging in senseless political battles that appear only to benefit our councilmembers’ private business interests.”
The City’s lawsuit is but one of a series of unjustly hostile actions carried out by Fort Bragg’s City Council. The City Council’s vindictive actions also include trying to sabotage Mendocino Railway’s efforts to obtain a $21 million Railway Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Express (RIFF) loan intended to replace ties and rail and refurbish Tunnel #1, repairs that are essential to restoring the historical connection and the movement of freight and passengers between Fort Bragg and Willits. The City Council’s effort to sabotage this loan amounts to pure vindictiveness as the loan has no connection to any prospective mixed-use development project on the former millsite. In addition, the Fort Bragg City Council has also repeatedly defamed Mendocino Railway in an effort to reduce the number of visitors to the Skunk Train, one of the region’s top tourist attractions, which reduces visitor spending at local stores, restaurants and hotels, and other businesses even more so than it does at the Skunk Train.
“If Fort Bragg’s City Council manages to derail Mendocino Railway’s federal loan application, not only will Fort Bragg’s historic railroad connection to Willits remain closed, more than $20 million in materials and labor will not be invested into the local economy,” said Mr. Pinoli. “It’s hard to understand why any city council, anywhere, would do their best to deny their community a fully-functioning transportation network and local investment that would increase the movement of freight and passengers, and benefit so many residents dependent on tourism and visitor spending for jobs. When the City Council’s bizarre actions do not serve the public’s interest, one must question whether their actions benefit their personal business interests.”