To Sleep Or Not to Sleep, That Apparently Isn’t In Question


From the Hanford Sentinel:

Video Captures Rail Official Snoozing During Hanford Public Hearing

By Kevin Kennedy | Monday, September 26

A California High-Speed Rail Authority official charged with spreading the agency’s message is drawing ridicule from Kings County residents for nodding off during last week’s public hearing in Hanford in a moment captured on YouTube and quickly spread around the Internet.

Lance Simmens, appointed by the Authority earlier this month as its new deputy director of communications and public policy, was captured dozing in a 33-second video shot by Hanford resident Aaron Fukuda.

The incident took place at about 4 p.m. Wednesday as a five-hour public hearing in the Hanford Civic Auditorium entered its second hour. The hearing was held to discuss a draft environmental impact report for a proposed Bakersfield-to-Fresno rail route.

Local resident Pam Brasel posted the video to the Authority’s Facebook page shortly before noon Thursday, and Simmens responded with a comment apologizing, saying he had not eaten and was dehydraded due to the heat. Authority spokesperson Rachel Wall said Simmens had nothing to add Friday.

“I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to those in Hanford last evening,” the comment by Simmens read. “After arriving just in time to the public hearing from Sacramento, I had not had the opportunity to have either breakfast or lunch and was dehydrated due to the heat. Although I tried to tough it out, it got the best of me and for a while I felt as though I was going to pass out. After hydrating with sufficient liquids, I was revived and attentive to the comments being voiced by all of those attending last night’s event. I only wish I had the chance to do so earlier and want to assure all concerned that I was trying my best to stay alert through the entire hearing. Once again, there was absolutely no intention on my part to either shirk my responsibilities or offend those in the audience. I am sure you will appreciate my embarrassment and ask that you focus on my attentiveness for the bulk of the five-hour hearing and not on the short period where I was struggling to not pass out altogether. Thank you.”

Fukuda, co-chairman of Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability, loaded the video on YouTube a few hours after the meeting. Since then, it has gotten a lot of attention among locals who say it is symbolic of how the Authority has failed to take local concerns into account.

Brasel called the incident “a prime example of how this community has been treated.”

“I can appreciate that the man was not feeling well, but these meetings have been planned for months,” she said

“Everyone in attendance has had to plan their lives around these meetings and be available and alert. … To be honest, I’m embarrassed for him because really there is no excuse for his behavior.”

Frank Oliveira, also a co-chairman of Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability, joined in the criticism.

“We’re all busy also and at least we stayed awake,” said Oliveira. “While Mr. Simmens was sleeping, the public here was just expressing small, annoying concerns about losing their homes, businesses and communities to an abusive, doomed, underfunded project. … It seems to us that (the Authority) really, really does not want our input, but has to sometimes pretend to care to pretend to comply with state and federal laws. Mr. Simmens’ demonstrated attention span for our boring concerns is at least more honest than what (the Authority) has demonstrated in Kings County to date.”

Simmens, 58, joined the Authority Sept. 6 to oversee communications, statewide outreach and public policy. A veteran of more three decades of government positions, Simmens most recently had served as special assistant for intergovernmental affairs for Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

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