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August 29, 2006

Comments

larry gilbert

As a co-author of the "REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF MEASURE M" I am extremely grateful to the OCGOP Endorsing Committee for their fair hearing followed by a 6-1 vote to oppose this NEW tax. And it would be a NEW tax when the current Measure M expires in 2011.

Take note that OCTA fails to mention that the "SR 91 toll lanes will bring in billions over the next thirty years. Let's use that to improve SR91 and other freeways."
VOTE NO on NEW Measure M.

Larry Gilbert, co-author

Meg Waters

Jack, I appeciate your careful scrutiny of Measure M, and your efforts to bring to light the various aspects of Measure M's Renewal that should be fully vetted before voters go to the polls. I'm sure we are going to have a lively discussion.

Like you, I hate to pay taxes--I'm a small business owner, single mom, and proficent shopper, so I think if you add it all up I am probably working until Halloween before I stop paying taxes and start paying myself. The only thing I hate more than paying taxes is sitting in traffic.

No one is going to support Measure M because they like to pay taxes. But, I also remember many evenings in the late 1980's when it took over an hour to drive on the 405 from Jamboree to Oso. I remember when the only way to go north from Lake Forest to Irvine was to take I-5. We all know there is still traffic, but it is a lot better now, and we have options that we didn't have 15 years ago. To build the roads we need in Orange County, we have to rely on ourselves, because the money we might get from the state or the feds won't be nearly enough to keep pace with growth both from our own population, and people driving to Orange County for jobs.

So, what we have now is a situation where we have had 15 years with this 1/2 cent sales tax. The Measure M-funded projects have eased traffic congestion. The job is not done by any means, and there were some bumps in the road, as you rightly point out Centerline was the biggest. But we have all learned.

The broad based committee that reviewed Measure M, was very conscious of the Centerline issue and went to great lengths to make sure that it would not be ressurected. If you will look at the Project S language, it states specifically that a transit/rail system must connect to the Metrolink corridor, and it may not be redundant to it.

That's pretty clear. Centerline or whatever new name it might be given -- is a pretty big project and, barring any Harry Potter-esk cloke of invisabililty, I don't think you can sneak it into the plan without anyone noticing... Do you think the elected officials and the Citizen oversight committee would want to incur the wrath of voters by trying to spring it on us?

But, whether you use Metrolink or not, however limited it may be now, it carries a lot of people who otherwise would be on the road. I've used it many times, and love it. My brother commuted on Metrolink to work from Riverside to Lake Forest every day for over a year. Making it better, connecting it to buses etc. will help remove peak hour congestion.

But, I'm glad you raise the question. It underscores just how important the citizen oversight committee will be, and how important it is for people like you to hold everyone accountable.

Re Larry -- I don't know exactly how the 91 financing works, but I will find out. But, having worked with TCA on Foothill south, I know that the TCA board nearly came unglued when, a few years ago, an Anaheim rep to the board suggested that the tolls continue on indefinately to pay for infrastructure throughout the county. I don't think south county drivers want to pay tolls for street improvements in Anaheim, just as 91 commuters would be ticked if their tolls went to widening Crown Valley in Mission Viejo. The tolls are there to pay for construction. That was the deal. If Measure M, or any other user-fee based system is to succeed, we need to stick to the deal, or put it to the voters/taxpayers.

I'll enjoy bantering with both of you as we get close to the election.
Meg

larry gilbert

Good afternoon Meg.
You make an interesting point that conflicts with OCTA's explanation as to why Mission Viejo is a donor city to the County.

You state: "I don't think south county drivers want to pay tolls for street improvements in Anaheim, just as 91 commuters would be ticked if their tolls went to widening Crown Valley in Mission Viejo." Those are your words not mine.

When I questioned our city donating roughly $200 million that was collected in Measure M taxes over the past 15 years, and only receiving back approximately $27.1 million in take back and competitive Grants, I was told that we all travel around the county and use all of the roads that are getting Measure M funding, be it the El Toro Y and El Toro Road.

Sorry Meg. You can't have it both ways.

As to the Bond Debt for the 91 Toll Road. It is payable over 20 years and has a current balance of around $98 million.
That's "chump change" when compared to the revenue receipts and future increased tolls to keep traffic flowing.

To the readers of this blog. I urge you and all of your friends and family to simply Vote No. Send a strong message to OCTA that we will not support their 30 year tax plan.

Thank you! Larry Gilbert, co-author of the Rebuttal opposing this NEW tax!

Jeff Flint

Larry:

Like Meg (and I assume you, Jack, and others) I enjoy the debate. But let's use real numbers. The $200 million (I'll assume your number is correct) collected in Mission Viejo cannot be compared to that share of the share of a program that goes to local turnback. For your comparison of $200 million in cost for Mission Viejo to $27.1 million in benefit, you would have to calculate the value of the benefit of widening I-5 and fixing the El Toro "Y" as $0 (yes, ZERO) to the residents of Mission Viejo.

Certainly you are not arguing that the benefit of these projects is ZERO to the residents and taxpayers of Mission Viejo?

Jeff

Jeff Flint

Jack:

Good to finally meet you in person last night.

I would again ask you, in your attempts to claim that "Project S" could somehow become CenterLine Reborn, to quote the entire control language and not just a small part.

Here it is:


Proposals for extensions must be developed and supported by local jurisdictions and will be evaluated against well-defined and well-known criteria as follows:
• Traffic congestion relief
• Project readiness, with priority given to projects that can be implemented within the first five years of the Plan
• Local funding commitments and the availability of right-of-way
• Proven ability to attract other financial
partners, both public and private
• Cost-effectiveness
• Proximity to jobs and population centers
• Regional as well as local benefits
• Ease and simplicity of connections
• Compatible, approved land uses
• Safe and modern technology
• A sound, long-term operating plan

This project shall not be used to fund transit routes that are not directly connected to or that would be redundant to the core rail service on the Metrolink corridor. The emphasis shall be on expanding access to the core rail system and on establishing connections to communities and
major activity centers that are not immediately adjacent to the Metrolink corridor. It is intended that multiple transit projects be funded through a competitive process and no single project may be awarded all of the funds under this program.


This control language was written by the people who helped defeat CenterLine, including Reed Royalty (OC Tax), the Auto Club of Southern California (AAA), and the anti-CenterLine majority that makes up of the OCTA Board today.

I do not believe you can credibly state to the voters in Orange County and the readers of this Blog that CenterLine could meet the criteria listed above.

Project S contemplates very reasonable projects like Anaheim building some type of "people-mover" from their MetroLink station near Angel Stadium to the Disney Resort area.

By the way, fellow readers, the language governing transit funds in the old Measure M - the one that Jack called "heroic" - was much looser than this language, which allowed for the CenterLine misadventure. It took changing the makeup of the OCTA Board and public pressure to stop CenterLine.

With the new Measure M, the control language above ensures that even if a pro-CenterLine majority sometime in the future takes over the OCTA Board, they still could not build it.

Right now, TODAY, we have a pro-freeway, pro-property rights, anti-Centerline majority on the OCTA Board.

Can you really say that there is some mythical "perfect version" of Measure M out there that will be on a future ballot for you to vote on if you reject this version?

The experience in our neighboring counties suggests that the plan before us is quite good, and you run the risk of a future version moving to the left, not the right, if this version fails to get a two-thirds vote.

Jeff

larry gilbert

Good evening Jeff.
I too was glad to see the man behind the OCTA curtain. Nice of you to stop and say hi at the GOP meeting last night. Perhaps you can inform the readers of last nights vote by the OCGOP nominating committee. That vote was taken after your oral presentation.
There is a major difference between you and myself. Being bald is not what I am referring to.
You are a paid consultant while my efforts are that of a citizen volunteer trying to protect Orange County residents from a bad tax plan. Take off your rear view mirrors. What was accomplished at the El Toro Y and other intersections is yesterday's news that you can only find in the archives. We paid a heavy price for those projects, not including the mega millions wasted on the Centerline. Oh but Larry, that's an old story. So too is the El Toro Y and the Orange Crush with it's ridiculous car pool lane as you approach the 22/57 driving northbound on Interstate 5 where the motorists in the car pool lane sit and watch as the adjacent single occupant vehicles pass them by.

Larry Gilbert, who says Vote No on Measure M

Jack Mallinckrodt

Jeff: You keep saying that CenterLine would not pass the list of criteria you reprinted, yet it seems to me that except for the “no one project …..” clause, every one of those euphemistic properties have in fact, at one time or another, been claimed for CenterLine.

Let’s do this: Let me postulate a hypothetical scenario: It’s year 2015. Based on a valid preliminary study, city of Santa Ana establishes the need for an 6-mile long light rail system called “Not CenterLine” which has a NW-SE alignment along the major axis of Santa Ana, similar but not identical to 2003 CenterLine light rail, connecting to the Santa Ana Metrolink terminal, and making full use of the wide parkway now built into the recently widened Bristol Street for ROW, and proposes it for part of the billion dollar prize.

Question: specifically, which one or ones of that criteria list would you claim they did not satisfy?

Another question. During the considerations leading up to the measure, the Citizens Advisory Committee struggled with this same issue. At one point in the discussions it was suggested that if OCTA wanted to clearly and convincingly quash this concern, that they should simply add the clause: “no part of this project shall be used for light rail” (I would now add - or any other exclusive, at-grade guideway system). They chose not to do so. Why?

Look, I believe that most of the board and staff that I have worked with sincerely don’t want to regress to the light rail fiasco, but that's not good enough. I am just as certain that others do lust for light rail and will try to move heaven and earth to do so make it happen. Board members change. Board sentiments on light rail have changed in the past. They can change back again. I can see no valid reason for taking this risk

calwatch

While this "Project S" is a nice gesture at keeping the door open for new technology, I have to agree with Jack that it is way too vague. I ride transit more frequently than most posters here, and Measure M does little for transit. No money for bus service and lots of money to expand high priced, low value Metrolink service to midnight. I realize that Metrolink is the only rail option left on the table, but it does little to nothing for the average bus rider, or driver for that matter.

I don't agree with the hard and fast rule against rail, though. I would, on the other hand, have had a provision in the ballot saying that any money spent on rail must voted on by all voters, so that if Orange County decides to support light rail in the future, they can do so. But they must be given the choice.

Lurk

Jack's point is well taken: if OCTA wanted to clearly and convincingly quash this concern, that they should simply add the clause: “no part of this project shall be used for light rail”.

There's no reason this statement could not have been made -- it's certainly clear enough, and defining light rail is not difficult or especially arguable.

One has to speculate that this easily included statement wasn't made in order to leave the door open. Let's not forget that even though the CenterLine never saw the light of day, it was tangible enough that the OCTA spent about $67 million on promoting it. That causes us light rail opponents to distrust the OCTA's real intentions and any weasel language that isn't clear and specific. Simply put, if they meant no light rail, they should have said NO LIGHT RAIL.

larry gilbert

Follow up comment to Meg Waters.

In your posting you mention someone suggesting the use of TCA revenues for infrastructure outside their toll roads.
There is a major difference today. Unlike the privately owned TCA toll roads, the 91 Toll Road is now owned by the OCTA. As such all revenues from the 91 should go into the same big OCTA pot to fix all those pot holes as well as our other roads.

Have a great day. I plan to.
Larry Gilbert

Meg Waters

I really hate ballot box planning -- but sometimes politcs makes it necessary. The language in Measure M Jeff quoted is clear about the parameters of what the funds can be used for, while not being so restrictive that future planners and policy makers can't adjust the plan to fit current technology and the needs of travelers. The world 20 to 30 years from now will be very different, and OCTA or whatever planning entity is entrusted with the planning and constuction of transportation is going to need to be able to plan projects that make sense in the current context, not what makes sense to us in 2006. OCTA staff can't do any project without the political will to do it. The combination of strong language that outlines the projects to be funded under Measure M, the fact that $1 billion isn't enough to build any kind of usable light rail system and strong political opposition to light rail with its attendant cost and comunity impacts associated indicates that it's not going to happen.

LArry -- to your comment re the paying for road improvements with toll revenue from the 91. I was relating an incident that actually occured -- and the view of the TCA board that they didn't want to have TCA tolls pay for infrastructure other than what the tolls were intended for. The vast majority of OC Toll road drivers are residents of south county. I believe the same sentiment would hold true for the riders of the 91. You can't compare that to measure M -- which is a county wide tax for county wide improvements that everyone pays into and votes on (no one voted for toll roads by the way). In fact, if there really was a proposal on the table to use toll revenue to pay for other road improvements, I would expect you to be one of the strongest voices against such a plan. In short, you can't compare apples and oranges on this one.

Meg

larry gilbert


I share Jack's concern regarding a possible new "light rail" system based on the wiggle room in the OCTA brochure and Supervisor Bill Campbell's response to me on KOCE.
However, let me also share text from a 16 page document which reads: Measure M Assessment 1990-2005 In the upper left hand corner is a logo and words ORANGE COUNTY BUSINESS COUNCIL. On the bottom it reads: OCTA Board of Directors, April 24, 2006.
On the bottom of the page whose heading reads Transit-Findings is a bullet point which reads: "A new approach for the abandoned Centerline program in underway."

Need I say more?

Larry Gilbert

Meg Waters

Larry -- what document are you referring to? April 17, 2006, the OCBJ submitted a very lengthy (much longer than 16 pages) analysis of the original Measure M, but I can't find the quote you are referring to in that document. In the OCBJ report, page 45 item 16, "Summary of Findings" the report concludes "The OCLTA Board of Directors has abandoned the Centerline light rail program and is now developing a new approach for the High Technology Advanced Rail line item. The new appraoch focuses on existing rail rights-of-way, existing rail transportation stations and the transit visions of ORange county communities."

No centerline...need I say more?

ok, I will. The next item, 17. states that the infrequent amendments to the original Measure M "have been consistent with the voter-approved intent of Measure M."

I think we can assume then, that it is highly unlikely, based on past experience, that there is a secret plot to ressurect Centerline. Policy makers have been faithful to the will of the voters, and therefore, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we have to assume that they will continue to be respectful of the voters directives. Also, keep in mind that the original Measure M did not require a super majority vote. If Measure M gets the 66.7% approval it is a pretty clear sign that the people are behind the plan and any intelligent elected official, or staffer, who wants to stay in office or employed would be ill advised to bring up a clearly unpopular plan that is inconsistent with the will of the voters as expressed in Measure M.

We can all concoct a lot of hypothetical "what if" scenarios, but the public dialog is better served by sticking to the real facts on the table.

larry gilbert

Meg.
Please re-read my post. The date on the referenced document, that is in my hands while hitting these keys, is dated April 24, 2006. I never mentioned April 17th. The quote which I reference was on the 11th page whose headline reads Transit-Findings.

The first bullet reads:
"Commuter rail programs exceeds service goals, meets ridership projections."

The next bullet reads:
"No ridership metrics to guide future growth"

The third bullet reads:
"Fares for Senior Citizens and disabled are capped."

The last bullet reads:
"A new approach for the abandoned Centerline program is underway"

Trust me when I say that I did not create nor alter the document referenced above.

The last page of the report is entitled Summary.
"Measure M is a major success story that can be improved now and improved more in the future."

I will gladly show this document to anyone wishing to see it.

Larry Gilbert

Meg waters

Larry, I believe you have a real document. I just want to know what it is because I have the business council's real report. So you must have something else. Is it online?

larry gilbert

To Jeff and Meg

Your "team" needs to get on the same page.
As an invited guest to appear on the May 11th "Orange County on the Go" program with Pat Haslam I asked a follow up question that was taken by Supervisor Bill Campbell.

I asked: "Is the door open for any city to receive around $1 billion dollars for a new 'Center Line' called 'Light Rail'-be it Irvine or Anaheim?"

His response: "Mr. Gilbert. A great question.
It was raised because in the preliminary draft Plan--that we released for Measure M that appeared that, pardon the word, Center Line could be resurrected--In the Plan we have just approved as a Board in April--that has really been stopped. There is $ one billion dollars for individual cities to come forward and seek grants for--but not one city, to be able to connect their rail stations to their job centers and their homes--so we're utilizing facilities and the entrepreneural spirit and talent of individual cities to best define how to connect to those depots."

Notice that any city might receive a grant for 90%, just not 100%. Based on Bill's reply keep your eyes on Anaheim, whose Platinum Triange, Disneyland, Arrowhead Pond and the Block could all be connected with a Light Rail.
Are we paying attention to land acquisition for a new rail station in Anaheim? I am!

No OCTA may not create 'Son of Center Line' "directly" but, according to Supervisor Campbell, it will be our tax dollars that fund it for one or more of the major cities on the backs of the smaller and unrepresented cities and their tax paying citizens. We have nearly 100,000 residents in Mission Viejo but have "taxation without (local) representation." Our OCTA rep's are from Lake Forest and San Clemente. As such we don't even have a vote in any distribution of OCTA's mass transit funding decisions. We are not alone. More than half of the 34 cities in Orange County are in the same boat. Check it out for yourselves.

Enough food for thought for today.

I will again urge you to Vote No on extending the Measure M tax for another 30 years! Thanksfor listening.
Larry Gilbert

Jeff Flint

Larry:

Sounds like your team needs to get on the same page. Jack says that CenterLine can be resurrected, you say it can't, at least not "directly." Whatever that means.

Meanwhile, what Supervisor Campbell said is entirely consistent with what we've said. The first draft of Project S, unintentionally, might have allowed a single city to grab the whole project and use it on a light rail project. So the opponents of CenterLine, who make up a majority of the OCTA Board and a majority of the people running the Yes on M campaign, insisted on the additional control language which now prohibits Centerline.

So thanks for helping us rebut Jack.

I'd also like to know if you agree with Jack that we should support a version of M that has massive emiment domain takings throughout the county and billions of dollars spent by the taxpayers seizing residences and businesses?

Maybe the two of you should talk?

Jeff

larry gilbert

Previewing your Comment

Nice try Jeff.
Jack's team and our team are on the same page. Your splitting hairs on Center Line. It can be resurrected. The major difference is that unlike OCTA's past indiscretion, of wasting multimillions of our Measure M money directly on Center Line, OCTA member cities will still have access to $1 billion dollars of our tax money to play with for a light rail to connect to Metrolink. That's been confirmed by Supervisor Bill Campbell as reported by me above.
Once you install a single mile of track it is a lot easier to extend that service. That was the Plan for Center Line and is the hidden agenda of this new effort. It's time to pull the plug on your attempts of social engineering. For whatever reasons, and there are many, "76.5 percent those of us living in Orange County drive [alone] to work in our cars." Source. Public Policy Institute. Time to Work. Feb 2006. Ref. 2000 CTPP.

Larry Gilbert

larry gilbert

Jeff.
A postscript.

Or, as Paul Harvey would say: for "the rest of the story." Check out page 9 of the PPIC Time to Work report. You will discover table 3 which breaks down "modes of transportation to work" by workers in Orange county. My focus will cover the non automotive, bicycle or walking alternatives. "2.5% of workers in Orange county use a bus or trolley bus, 0.1% use a streetcar, trolley or subway and 0.2% use a railroad or ferryboat to get to work." I guess the ferryboat must be in Balboa Island.
Now please tell us how you can justify, with a straight face, why the proposed 30 year Measure M extension allocates 25% of revenue to "mass transit" when less than 3% of us are using it.

Larry Gilbert

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