Eric Bever, a former Mayor of Costa Mesa who helped bring the “405 Corridor Cities” together last year to fight the proposed Toll Lanes, sent this into the local papers last week. Costa Mesa’s Daily Pilot ran a truncated version of it; we don’t expect the Register or Times to touch it, so with Eric’s permission we reprint it in full here:
Why is OCTA pushing so madly for Toll Lanes on our freeways? Why does OCTA believe Toll Lanes should be paid for with monies duly voted for specific purposes that do not include Toll Lanes? Why is OCTA so strongly motivated to turn our free Freeway lanes into Toll Lanes that they would ignore the very people who pay for everything: the Orange County taxpayers.
From whence does OCTA’s zeal for this major shift in social policy emanate? And more to the point: When did our public agencies become our masters, and our elected officials their toadies? Why does it seem impossible for OCTA to simply do the right thing?
Thorough analysis of 405 Alternative 2, (which adds two general purpose lanes both north and south from the 73 to the 605), has demonstrated that the project, which is has received near-unanimous citizen support, can be completed for the same amount as what the agency has budgeted for its single-lane version of the project (“Alternative 1.”) This development should come as welcome news, but not everyone is smiling, because it does not fit “the plan”.
According to OCTA’s Attorney, the 405 project’s newfound savings cannot possibly be applied to enhancing the project for which they have in their entirety already been budgeted. Gotta spend that money elsewhere… It’s “the law”, by golly! Of course, this is the oldest bureaucratic trick in the book.
This is a very questionable position for OCTA to take when applying same project savings of roughly 8% to their originally budgeted project literally DOUBLES the effectiveness of the taxpayer money being spent…
The benefit of applying these savings to the project at hand is so substantial that one has to wonder whether OCTA not taking advantage of these savings to build two new free lanes for the price budgeted for one lane represents a failure to meet the agency’s fiduciary responsibilities to the public?
Meanwhile, OCTA dangles the carrot of $100 million available “extra” MM2 dollars (those 405 project savings!) to encourage its Board members, (most of whom are not 405 project adjacent), for their support of immediate or eventual tolling on our freeways as the agency’s official goal.
OCTA has also attempted to “incentivize” the six 405 corridor cities, all of which vehemently oppose tolling on the 405, by proposing to throw an unnamed quantity of money around in the 405 “corridor area.” This cynical offer has been repeatedly refused by all six cities in unison, who see it as a bribe. The ethical leaders of the corridor cities refused to play any part in OCTA’s scheme, and have refused to sell out the county taxpayers for their own gain. How refreshing!
Is there nothing wrong with these unseemly financial politics in which OCTA’s unelected bureaucrats use the peoples’ tax dollars to bribe our elected “leaders” into supporting their bureaucratic vision and ignoring the public position? Is it appropriate or ethical for these leaders to engage with a local public-supported bureaucracy, which offers direct monetary incentives to their cities in exchange for board member participation in the OCTA Toll Road scheme?
Assemblyman Allan Mansoor recently collected and submitted thousands of taxpayer letters opposing toll roads on our freeways to OCTA, and standing-room-only crowds pack OCTA’s hearings to voice opposition to Toll Roads. This literal outpouring of public opposition provides clear evidence that the vast majority of OC voters still support the positions they took when they voted to open their wallets for Measure M and Measure M2: Freeway congestion relief, NOT Toll Roads on our freeways!
Considering its keen ability to turn a deaf ear to the legally binding MM & MM2, the will of the county’s voters, one ponders – just what is OCTA’s mandate these days? Why would the agency take such a negative stance in relation to its longtime financial supporters, the people of Orange County, and those who work and shop here?
Perhaps a recent proclamation by our Governor, Jerry Brown, speaks to the question: Mr. Brown has publicly stated an ambitious goal of adding 3 MILLION hybrid & electric vehicles to our state’s roadways in the coming years. To help facilitate this audacious goal, the California Legislature obligingly passed a law, which provides that hybrid and electric vehicles may use all statewide carpool and converted toll lanes free of monetary charge… regardless of their passenger count.
The question we must ask is whether it is OK to use taxes paid specifically for freeway congestion relief to further subsidize those who choose and can afford hybrids and electric cars? Is it acceptable public policy to use money paid by all to benefit only the few: hybrid owners who get a free ride, and the rich who will gladly pay for the privilege of bypassing the gridlocked masses who are not so fortunate?
Is it OK for the majority of us who have paid extra taxes for years to receive little to no benefit for the taxes we have voluntarily paid? Is it ethical or even legal for OCTA to promulgate this Toll Road result when doing so quite literally equates to highway robbery?
The OCTA Board of Directors may yet redeem themselves by adopting 405 Alternative 2 and adding free lanes for all to use… We can only hope that board members will find their way to the only ethical conclusion by adopting the 405 Alternative 2 project on Dec. 9th.