OCBC’s Fatuous Lucy Dunn celebrates imposition of 405 Toll Lanes; and is Travis Allen a Toll Troll?

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Lucy Dunn is the President, CEO, and ubiquitous spokeswoman of the Orange County Business Council (OCBC.)  Masterminded by tireless and insatiable lobbyist Curt Pringle (former Speaker of the California Assembly and Anaheim Mayor), this group’s mission seems to be pursuing ways for well-connected businesses to profit off public, taxpayer money, in what they like to call “public-private partnerships.”  (Honest Democrats call it “corporate welfare”; honest Republicans call it “crony capitalism.”)  The group seems indistinguishable in this regard from the also-Pringle-backed OC Taxpayers’ Association (“OC Tax,”) which was fronted by waiflike lobbyist Reed Royalty until his sickly place was taken by saucy former Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche.

But as an Orange Juice reader, you’re probably already aware of all that and are saying “Duh, tell us something new.”   And you probably also know that the slow-talking but very sure-of-herself Dunn has been proselytizing for Toll Lanes on OC freeways for several years, insisting that if OC voters and taxpayers just realized the mathematics of what highway care costs (if we were just “educated”) we would all rush to embrace the idea!  (Not that she would ever risk putting it to a popular vote, mind you.)

Well, as the kabuki theater has progressed, and the “bad cop” CalTrans has magically stepped in and decreed that we HAVE to toll the 405 just as OCTA wants, Lucy and her group have jumped in with pom-poms and a joyful noise:

“Folks—I wanted to share some good news from the transportation front. Caltrans boldly approved a plan (Alternative 3) to improve the congested I-405 corridor by accepting OCTA’s recommendations to use Measure M funds construct new general purpose lanes but added to the project by approving express lanes as well, to be constructed when funding is identified in the future.  This respects OC voters’ wishes for new ‘free’ lanes…”

An actual champion of local business – spokesman for Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, speaking passionately against the 405 tolls.

It’s first worth noting that this supposed champion of OC business interests is here celebrating the imposition, by an outside SACRAMENTO agency, of a policy that actual Orange County businesses (in the affected area) have been fighting against tooth and nail, as it’s bound to negatively impact their bottom line.  How many times do ACTUAL OC businesses have to see this behavior from Dunn and the OCBC before they realize that the group is just shills for a few well-connected klepto interests – in this case ones that hope to profit off the hoped-for toll revenue, and operating and lobbying for the actual lanes?  Can we see a bit of a mass exodus from this phony council sometime soon, please?

TWO.  With the embarrassing effort of a feigned orgasm, Lucy continues to perpetuate OCTA’s (now CalTrans’) big lie, that no Measure M funding – none of our tax money – will go into creating the toll lanes that none of us want.  OK, once more into the debunction breech:

The two-toll-lane system the toll trolls want to create (Alternative 3) is impossible to create without first using $1.3 billion of our Measure M money to build an extra lane on the outside – $1.3 billion and 5 years of disruptive work tearing down and rebuilding 17 bridges, after which – if they get their way – we taxpayers will still have NO NEW FREE LANES.  (I will endeavor to keep finding new ways to get that simple reality across.)

Essential to the credibility of their big lie is the pretense that the building of the new free lane and the building of the toll lanes are completely unrelated, having nothing to do with each other (when they actually share the painful parasite-host relationship of the scorpion riding the frog.)  The slow-witted Lucy makes that pretense difficult by still using OCTA’s 2012 terminology for that marriage, “Alternative 3.”  OC Tax’ cleverer Carolyn Cavecche knows better.  As she wrote in comments on the Voice of OC not long ago:

“I am not sure that advocating the position that once a project is complete using M2 dollars no additional construction or improvement can ever be made to that area if it wasn’t included in M2 is the way we want to plan future infrastructure investment in Orange County. If you are opposed to toll facilities fine, but don’t use M2 as the reason.”

Carolyn was always like that, even back two years ago when she was my friend and a toll-lane opponent on the OCTA Board.  She always liked to say “I could argue things either way,” or “I wouldn’t argue it that way.”  During her last year on the board, as she made her painful transformation from independent-minded Orange Mayor to Pringle-dependent President of OC Tax, she began to bemoan on the dais how the two issues of 405 expansion and 405 tolls should never have been combined as “Alternative 3.”  But they are, and the bell cannot be unrung.  And now she won’t talk to me any more, because those are Pringle rules.

But here’s where we pause and appreciate the Orwellian irony of both Pringle organizations – an “OC Business Council” which fights for policies that will devastate OC businesses, and an “OC Taxpayers Association” that fights for such gigantic swindles on OC taxpayers as the 405 Tolls and Poseidon.

Moving on…

Pic from Daily Pilot. Mansoor speaking, L-R Fountain Valley Mayor Vo, Seal Beach Mayor Gary Miller, Westminster’s angel Diana Carey, Costa Mesa’s Riggy, I-don’t-know-who, Fountain Valley’s John Collins. Possibly Harper’s sleeve at very left.

A few days later Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, who’s running a long-shot Supervisorial campaign against heavy favorite Michelle Steel, called a press conference with all the local politicians who oppose the swindle – all from the affected “corridor cities” and mostly Republicans – Moorlach, Mansoor, and city officials.  I didn’t really hear any new ideas except complain loudly to Sacramento about how mean CalTrans and OCTA are; and also vote for Mansoor and Harper – nothing as compelling as the Orange Juice idea of suing as an “OC Drivers’ Union.”

Mansoor at least, alone among OC legislators, has been giving this the college try, with his AB 2036 which would have subjected toll lanes in this county to popular approval.  Unfortunately that bill died at birth in the Transportation Committee, with no help from our OC Democrats Daly and Quirk-Silva who abstained despite all our lobbying.  It seems our Democrats are petrified of the Teamsters and Building Trades who want the toll lane option;  and to make things even more aggravating these unions’ desire for toll lanes rather than new free lanes makes no logical sense (as witness my interview with Teamster chief Patrick Kelly at the end of this story.)  Kudos at least to LA’s gutsy Mike Gatto, the only Democrat on the committee to support Allan’s bill – I wish he were ours.

HB Mayor Matt Harper‘s solution mainly involved voting for Matt Harper for Assembly.  As Matt explained to me between giggles, he could bring forth a bill similar to Allan’s except he “knows how to talk to Democrats” (reasonably implying that Allan doesn’t) and that once he got all LA’s Dems on board it would be clear sailing.  Who knows – it’s worth a shot – Matt’s certainly no worse than his opponent Keith Curry, the bane of fire pits.

ALL of the Republican politicians I talked to that day – five of ’em – said the same thing about my proposed OC Drivers Union – “I can’t have anything to do with anything called a UNION!”  FINE then – how about “association?”  “That would be fine, sounds like a great idea!”  OK then.  I can’t believe the Party that pretends to be tough and manly and ridicules Dems for “political correctness” prefers a multi-syllabic euphemism, but “OC Drivers Association” it is.  You’ll be hearing all about it once the new EIR is done.

So, lotsa trolls, lotsa warriors, and plenty of politicizing the issue in this silly season.  I later watched the women of the Costa Mesa City Council barely stop Mayor Righeimer from sending all Costa Mesa voters an anti-toll resolution with Matt Harper’s name on it – a guy who has nothing to do with Costa Mesa except that he’ll be running for assembly there at the same time and can really use and appreciate the free publicity.  And there are two competing anti-toll Facebook pages now, one of which accurately calls itself “the one where everyone takes credit for stopping the tolls, not just certain politicians who want the limelight for themselves.”

The Travis Allen Puzzle

For a guy who represents even more of the affected areas in his assembly district than Mansoor does, and for a guy who beat one of Orange County’s slipperiest politicos (Troy Edgar) by highlighting Troy’s slipperiness, Travis Allen has always been slippery as hell on the 405 Toll issue.

Gus Ayer and I tried to get him interested in the issue back in 2012 when he was first running but he wouldn’t respond to us (about that – he did about other things.)   When I saw him at the voter registrar he vaguely responded “It doesn’t sound right for Orange County.”  And then today when I called to talk about that AND fire pits he said, “It’s two totally different issues, we’ll talk about tolls some other time.”  So far from the fighter Mansoor and almost all other corridor politicians.

But most worrisome of all, Travis was overheard at a recent Janet Nguyen event telling someone “What I’m most concerned with is throughput.”  Now who uses that word “throughput?”  ONLY the folks who  want tolls.  It’s an agreed-upon mystic sounding word, suggesting that somehow there’s scientific knowledge that MOST EVERYONE will go faster with toll lanes.  But in fact, as Diana Carey says, “The word ‘throughput’ is shorthand for ‘throughput for people who can afford tolls.'”  Highly worrying.

Someone needs to get this Allen guy on the record and find out where he stands once and for all on this crucial local issue, and what he’s gonna do about it.  This guy who’s so bold and brash on non-controversial fire pits shouldn’t be allowed to keep quiet and coy about toll lanes.  He is sounding like he’s been hanging out with Lucy Dunn and Miguel Pulido.  And the person who should most want to know is Travis’ Democratic challenger Joel Block – this should be the issue he bashes Travis over the head with like Travis bashed Troy.

Lots more news coming up on this whole topic, believe me, lots more news…

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer 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.