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Vern and I are having one of our occasional power struggles, in that we both want to write about what happened at today’s OCTA meeting so badly that we’ve had to come up with a complicated arrangement of how to divvy it up. Here’s what I think we agreed upon (in that I whispered it at him while his back was turned and he didn’t whirl around and say “no”): given that we have accidentally become a responsible source for breaking news on the 405 tolls issue, I’m giving you the bottom line here and now — see the above photo caption — as well as a further reflection on what I had to say at the meeting, then Vern will give his analysis later today, and then I’ll give my analysis later tonight or tomorrow, and who knows if and when and how often Quimby might weigh in. It’ll be fun!
Yes, this means devoting a lot of our story space to this issue — but this issue deserves it. And, as you’ll see, the Game of Tolls is going into overtime.
I get to give you the bottom line right now: no final decision was made today. The Board is deeply divided — in more than two factions and in more than two issues. It was really, really interesting hearing people speak, but now most cards are on the table — and not everything that we thought we knew turned out to be true.
There are, depending on how you count, somewhere between four and umpteen proposals on the table. Here are the basic ones:
Alternative 1: build one new “general purpose” lane in each direction.
Alternative 2: build two new “general purpose” lanes in each direction.
Alternative 3: convert the HOV lane to a general purpose lane and built two new toll lanes.
Alternative 0: the almost unthinkable but still default (and not entirely unthinkable) option of doing nothing.
It’s way more complicated than just these four — but I think that Vern gets to tell that part of the story.
It’s hard to characterize the Directors as simply being in one of these four camps. Some strongly support one option, some support one but could live with another, some could be happy with either of two, some favor some alternative that they have just cooked up, and in one case the only thing that can be said for certain is that they strongly oppose one option and would prefer anything else (including possibly the dreaded “Alternative o.”) So, to oversimplify greatly, here’s how they seem to shake out.
Alternative #1: Herzog and Nelson. This isn’t just playing around for them; they seem to mean it. Herzog favors #1 for positive reasons; he thinks that it makes strategic sense right now because it’s not clear whether #2 or #3 will ultimately make more sense. Nelson favors #1 for negative reasons: he thinks that the Board cannot support #2 without funding and cannot support #3 without know where the profits go. [2 votes]
Alternative #2: Crandall, Nguyen, Galloway, Moorlach, Dalton, Bates*, and Cavecche**.
Vern gets first shot at distinguishing between the first five of the above. I put an asterisk next to Bates because she could favor either #1 or #2. I put two asterisks next to Cavecche because I could see her favoring #1, #2, or even #0 — it’s simply clear that she will not support #3. (Don’t think that #1 is a slam-dunk compromise, though. It has its strong opponents.)
Alternative #3: Hansen, Amante, Hennessey, Campbell*, Pulido, Winterbottom, and Glaab.
Campbell’s asterisk comes from the fact that he has devised a rococo alternative that would authorize #3 contingent on the state imposing a 3+ requirement on HOV lanes, without which it would default to #1. I am not entirely sure that this is possible.
As you’ll notice, that’s a 7-7-2 split — you need 9 votes to win and Herzog and Nelson aren’t necessarily going anywhere. (If Nelson can be convinced that the money to build Alternative 2 is available after one scales back the second-lane extension between the 22 and 605, he could switch. If he did, Herzog might go ahead and follow — and if he didn’t it’s conceivable that the house of cards could fall in such a way that he got the “Kick the Can Down the Road” Option #1 approved.
(Note: that “Kick the Can” term, used by someone on the Board about Alternative #1, is a bit unfair to Herzog, who seems to have thought it through. He thinks that what is an unclear choice about the future now could become more clear in the future. If only there were some way to build two lanes and have the option of changing one or both to tolls in the future! Of course, there is — but that will await my next report.)
I’m posting this now; to be revised with Part 2 on my perceptions of the lack of populism in the debate.