The Moorlach, Don Hansen & Larry Crandall on the 405 Tolls. [with Crandall UPDATE!]


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1. The Moorlach Reasons His Way to a Healthy Skepticism on 405 Tolls.

It is lonely being The Moorlach at times of great decision for The County.   Alone on the 5th Floor with his Ponderous Thoughts, The Moorlach must isolate himself from human contact, refusing to take calls from his constituents, from lowly bloggers, even from fellow Republican electeds who wish to weigh in on the matter from highly impacted Seal Beach.  But if The Moorlach’s latest dispatch from on high is any indication, he has reasoned his way to the correct conclusion and will be opposing the “Alternative Three” Toll Lanes on the 405 Freeway.

Or at least, it’s hard to see him voting in favor after what he’s written here, and we will now file him safely away in our NO column:

The OC Register has a story on the conclusion of the public comment period for the proposed I-405 San Diego Freeway widening.  It was picked up by NBC News – Santa Ana and is provided below.  I’m receiving many, many e-mails, phone calls, and letters on this topic, with nearly unanimous opposition to Alternative 3.  This article provides a sense of where my current position on Alternative 3 may be leaning…

That’s about as far as any of these Board members want to go, giving “a sense of where their current position may be leaning.”  They claim they’re not supposed to commit to voting one way or the other until the actual vote happens, and all “evidence” is in;  and maybe they’re right.

Those “many many e-mails, phone calls and letters” that “nearly unanimously” oppose Toll Lanes – those are from YOU, dear reader, and keep them coming!   Again, here’s a link you can click to simultaneously e-mail your thoughts to ALL the Board members.  Mr. Moorlach should and will remember, like MOST of the other Board members, he’s an elected official who will some day soon be running for re-election, so it’s entirely appropriate to take near-unanimous public opposition into account.  Not to mention, in the Second Supervisorial District which he REPRESENTS, the City Councils representing about 2/3 of the district’s population have ALL come out in opposition to Toll Lanes on the 405.  (Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Rossmoor, Seal Beach, and La Palma.)  What else saith The Moorlach?

…Nearly every freeway in Orange County has been improved in the last thirty years, except for the stretch of the San Diego (I-405) Freeway going from the Santa Ana River to the Seal Beach border.  Adding one lane on each side makes sense.  However, it would require significant modifications to the bridges that cross the freeway.  …  If you need to widen the bridges to accommodate one lane (Alternative 1), then you may as well do it for two lanes (Alternative 2).

Alternative 3 was proposed as a funding source to finance the construction of the widening.  We were informed that only $600 million was available and the first two alternatives would cost up to $1.4 billion.  This premise changed on June 25th, which the reporter below astutely recognized, and we are now being told that the toll-lanes will be built from a separate financing of $400 million and will not require utilization of Measure M sales tax funds. 

“Which the (Times) reporter below astutely recognized?”  I reported here, a week before June 25, that we had $1.3 billion not $600 million, and tried to inform Mr. Moorlach as much.  There was quite a bit of time there – quite an interregnum between “premises” – where OCTA knew we had all the money we needed for Alt 1 or 2, but were still purposely giving everyone the impression that we needed the Toll Lane revenue to get ANY construction done.  This was another instance of OCTA’s deceptiveness, in the cause of their great love affair with Toll Lanes.

But, you have to widen the freeway with Measure M funds in order to put the toll-lanes in.  Consequently, everyone will be paying for the widening, but only those willing to pay the tolls will benefit from these lanes.  But, the OCTA will have revenue-generating managed lanes to allow for more efficient through-put on this segment of the I-405.  Unfortunately, managed lanes built by debt are still toll-lanes.  And the OC has a sad history of poor performing toll-lanes, with the 91 Express Lanes being an exception…

THANK YOU, The Moorlach, Thank you! You are making sense. OCTA flacks and their puppets (*cough*Chairman Glaab*cough*) have been spinning that “No Measure M taxpayer money will be used to create Toll Lanes” – but, as I put it at several recent Council meetings, “Really?  Can you tell me HOW these lanes would be built without FIRST using our $1.4 BILLION to build two new lanes, and then taking those lanes AWAY from us?  Sure, the toll revenue would cover the new surveillance equipment, accounting systems, transponders, and enforcement systems for the Toll Lanes – but the whole project would ride on the taxpayers like a monkey on our backs.”  Glad you see that.

Mayor Quimby adds:  “Moorlach understands the idea that 80% of the funding for the project that gives us the toll lanes will come from taxpayers – including the $277 million already committed through the West County Connectors project currently under construction, and another $1.3 Billion from Measure M tax dollars.”

Strangely, like Fiddler on the Roof‘s Tevye with his perpetual “on the other hands,” The Moorlach inserts into this sensible paragraph a small dollop of OCTA koolaid with the claim of “more efficient through-put” for the Toll Lanes.  This blog has shown at length the dubiousness of that claim, and how OCTA cherry-picks stats from widely divergent studies to manufacture their case.

And then The Moorlach waxes didactic:

Building toll-lanes within developed urban areas is a new trend.  In April, Fitch Ratings provided a study on the topic and cited the 91 Express Lanes as an example (see http://www.fitchratings.com/web/en/dynamic/articles/Not-All-U.S.-Managed-Lane-Projects-Are-Self-Supporting.jsp).  The 14-page report is a thorough document on the topic, but if you cannot explain it to constituents in 30 seconds or less, you’re in trouble (a concern I raised at the July 9 OCTA Board meeting).  This is the biggest hurdle in the psychology for such a major change with Alternative 3.  Consequently, we will have to see if Orange County wishes to continue this embryonic trend or if it is more comfortable following the tradition of “free ways.”

I hope the Wise Man is not suggesting that we are resisting Toll Lanes on the 405 because we are slow-witted.   I trust that if he secretly knows of a good way to justify them, he will let us in on it, even if it does take five or ten minutes.  But, with apologies to a man I know is a fervent opponent of Planned Parenthood, if this “toll-lanes within developed urban areas” is an “embryonic trend,” Orange County is where it will come to be terminated while still an embryo.

The San Diego Freeway (I-405) Policy Working Group, which I Chair (see http://www.octa.net/pdf/pwg_roster.pdf), will be meeting on August 22.  From the sound of this article, it should be a lively meeting.

Yeah it will, and it sounds like The Moorlach is off on the right track.  Quimby reacts to a few of his more credulous comments and his apparent dependence on our third-rate local press as opposed to the first-rate work we do here, at the Voice of OC, and elsewhere in the blogosphere:

“[The Moorlach] obviously needs to read something a little more penetrating than the third-rate Orange County Register.  He might actually use that accounting experience he always mentions and try to reconcile the two sets of books that OCTA is maintaining.  OR he might try to take a close look at the 60-page Phase-2 Stantec Revenue and Traffic Forecast that OCTA paid for. That report shows that each free lane carries 94% more traffic than each toll lane, when you look at the actual projected usage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, instead of cherry-picking numbers from one inflated report for one segment in one direction in one hour for the year 2040.”

2 & 3. Huntington Beach’s Don Hansen and Fountain Valley’s Larry Crandall

Moorlach’s Second Supervisorial District, which is the area which would be most affected by what happens on that part of the 405, has two other representatives on the OCTA Board (chosen by the Mayors of the area) – Surf City Mayor Don Hansen and Fountain Valley Councilman Larry Crandall.  The city councils of both those fine towns just recently came out against Alternative 3 and in favor of Alternative 2 – HB 4-3 and FV 4-0 – but how will these two men actually vote on the Board in September?  Will they follow the wishes of their councils, the representatives of their constituents, who are the same people The Moorlach has been hearing from?  Or will they vote for Toll Lanes in defiance because they know so much better than the rest of us?

In Huntington Beach a bipartisan majority of well-informed councilpeople – Dems Joe Shaw and Connie Boardman and Reeps Matt Harper and Devin Dwyer – came out against Toll Lanes, making many good penetrating comments.  But clueless lunk Joe Carchio and often-petulant liberal Keith Bohr joined Mayor Hansen in supporting them.  “Toll Lane Donny” really does seem to be a true believer in toll lanes – he believes they are the wave of the future, and something to be embraced – which is something OCTA also says when we’re not listening.  They do want to do this to ALL our freeways, which is why we like to tell people outside our area, “First they came for the 405…”

Donny even manages to reconcile it with his conservative/libertarian ideology:  Having two toll lanes available for anyone who chooses to pay extra to go fast, is more CHOICE for Americans!  He refuses to see how the EXISTENCE of those two lanes is a THEFT from the REST of us taxpayers and drivers.  He loves to use as an example, a working mother who really needs to rush down to the South County on this particular day to get her kid from day-care before they close or whatever, and how it’s worth the extra ten bucks for her to be able to use that lane.  I say, that woman is sponging off the rest of us taxpayers.  I say she is the new Welfare Queen, that Cadillac-driving Welfare Queen that Reagan used to hate on.

It’s hard to picture “Toll Lane Donny” changing his mind on this, and I have no problem with a politician occasionally doing what they REALLY BELIEVE is right even if it goes against their constituents’ wishes.  But still, Don is a very ambitious young politician, who smart money expects to be next in line for the Moorlach’s supervisorial seat.  He might want to think about how it will feel to wear these Toll Lanes about his neck like an albatross for the rest of his career, and to read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Then there’s Larry Crandall who is happy to be a cipher.  At the Fountain Valley meeting, council, staff, and commenters were unanimous – Alternative Three was a taxpayer ripoff and a voter betrayal, and NO.  But Crandall sat on his hands and abstained, claiming that he needed to do that in order to keep the freedom to vote the way he felt right on the Board.  Funny – then why didn’t Don Hansen abstain?

The signs were – well I don’t know really know Larry – but he seemed to feel like he knew better than all the rest of us including all of his colleagues.  He seemed to prefer not to lower himself to listening to us or even letting us know what he thought, as though he wished he were back with people like himself – BOARD type people.  When I spoke, when Diana Carey and others spoke against the Toll Lanes, he wouldn’t look at us, just fidgeted and kept busy with whatever was at hand, while his four colleagues listened, smiled at us, nodded and laughed at our wisecracks.

At the end he finally spoke up to correct one thing in my speech that he claimed was wrong – I said the money raised by the Toll Lanes, once they had paid for themselves, could be spent by OCTA on anything they felt like; he said that was wrong, that it would have to be spent “within the corridor.”  The jury is still out on who’s right there, me or Crandall.  He had no other comments beyond that.

So we get the impression that Larry Crandall wants to vote for Toll Lanes, but would like to do it in the dark when nobody’s paying attention, and would like the rest of us to shut up.  He probably shouldn’t do that.  That was a busy Tuesday for him.  Earlier in the day he had filed papers to run for the Water Board against incumbent Wayne Osborn.  He obviously loves being on Boards.  Does he think it will be good for his election to run as the guy who JUST VOTED (in late September) for Toll Lanes, or against them?  Osborn will have the attack mailers ready to go.  WE can make that happen.

UPDATE, 7/25

Since meeting with Crandall in person, we are happily switching him in our official running whip count to a “NO” vote on Alternative 3.  I must have misinterpreted his body language and terse comments at the meeting.  Three cheers for Larry!

So you see, Jerbal?  The Orange Juice Blog does NOT have to hold a bake sale to fund attack mailers for Wayne Osborn.  MAY THE BEST MAN WIN THAT RACE.

Our Coverage Thus Far:

AND NOW, somebody has created the excellent…

No 405 Tolls.Com!

E-mail ALL the OCTA Board Members by clicking HERE.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.