Sachs of BS: Shooting Down the Toll Roads Propaganda.




I had a Mexican friend whose mother used to give him, as a snack when he was a kid, pan con leche – bread with milk for dipping.  And, never fail, he’d finish the bread first, and cry out, “¡Mamá!  ¡Más pan para mi leche!”  And then soon enough he’d find himself with the milk all gone, and cry out, “¡Mamá!  ¡Más leche para mi pan!”

And theoretically, had his mother allowed it, that could have gone on forever, and my friend would have been one fat Mexican kid.

Well, my friend’s spirit lives on in the authors of August 19’s Register column “South OC Traffic is Getting Worse, the Toll roads Can Solve It” – that’s the development-crazed council duo of Mission Viejo’s Ed Sachs and Irvine’s Christina Shea, who head up the TCA (Transportation Corridor Authority which lives for toll roads.)

The duo wails (as though they had nothing to do with the problem) that “14,000 new homes have been approved for construction,” so we MUST quickly extend the 241 Toll Road into the heart of San Clemente to accommodate the increased traffic.  That’s miles of new highway that will encourage and enable even MORE development, which in turn will require the building of even more miles of highway.  Pan, leche, pan, ad infinitum.

Oh, but in the service of their golden calf, Sachs and Shea do set forth a most irresistible smorgasbord of lies and other dishonesty, and leave it up on the Register editorial page like a row of clay pigeons waiting to be demolished.  Where to even begin?

How about that audacious first sentence, “Traffic in South OC is getting worse and everyone knows it.”  Everyone knows it?  A while back, everyone knew the sun went around the earth – you can pretty much see it happening – but that didn’t make it so. 

We all hate traffic, but the fact is it’s actually DECREASED a little there over the past decade, for a number of reasons.  Trips are a few minutes longer right now simply because of all the construction, but the authors’ dire warning of a 64% traffic increase is utter science fiction, as was TCA’s 2010 prediction of 220,000 daily trips by 2017 which turns out to be only 132,000.

Transportation agencies, whose bread and butter is building roads, ALWAYS highball expectations, and on top of that their dumping new traffic into a bottleneck at San Clemente would do absolutely jack to alleviate traffic on the 5 anyway.

But wait – Sachs and Shea have a hostage!  Remember eight years ago when we all fought successfully to stop these same people from running their toll road into Trestles and San Onofre?  Now they’re claiming, repeatedly, that they’ll have to go back to that destructive option if San Clemente succeeds in keeping them out, and don’t you love Trestles?  (Also, why do you hate America, and puppies?)

Shameless dishonest scare tactics – the Trestles option is dead, it has no relation to the San Clemente question, and long story short the 241 does not NEED to be extended anywhere.

Like a comedy team of yore, Sachs and Shea also try their hand at slapstick, claiming their agency “doubled down on transparency” to get “early input from the public” on their scheme.  What did this doubled-down transparency look like?

It looked like hiring, for $1.8 million of public money, Jeff Corliss’ vile PR firm Venture Strategic to create surveys that only allow answers in support of the toll road.  It looked like locking toll road opponents out of June’s “public forum,” searching and harassing them, and stacking the small room beforehand with early-arriving supporters.  It looked like selling their schemes with lying pieces of propaganda like this column.

(Later they have the gall to accuse the San Clemente Council of plotting against the public behind closed doors!  Pot kettle anyone?)

Not content with the laughter they’ve already elicited, our unclothed emperors go on to boast about their agency’s wonderful financial shape, leading hilariously “with the chin.”  News flash, guys:  Re-financing your bonds out until 2053 is NOT the mark of sound finances.  They do brag that the TCA carries out its dubious “mission” with no taxpayer assistance.  REALLY.  Oh, apart from a $1.1 BILLION taxpayer bailout they’ve just wangled, as well as MANY MORE BILLIONS regularly taken in TCA fees on new shopping centers and housing developments.  Apart from all THAT, sure, no taxpayer money.

TCA needs to get real – their mission is hopeless, their mandate is impossible, as Pacific Institute showed years ago – creating new toll roads and making them pay for themselves can’t be done, not here.  These people are just constitutionally unable to accept the hard fact that Orange County does not love toll roads.

More than anything, though, the duo’s column is an attack on the San Clemente City council for daring to stand in their way.  The authors close with dark unsupported insinuations as to San Clemente’s mysterious motives:  “Who will benefit from their actions?”  Gee, why would San Clemente oppose this extension?  Let’s see…

Maybe, because the toll road will pass way too closely by half a dozen San Clemente schools for the kids’ health and safety?  Maybe, because it will pass by, and OVER, hundreds of homes, drastically reducing their value, many of them representing the life savings of retired folks?  Maybe even the noise?  The smog?  The pollution of San Clemente’s precious water tables?  The seizing of mitigated lands?  Actually it would be suspicious is San Clemente’s Council did NOT do everything it could to stop this disaster – it would be a dereliction of their duty.

And so, we do not feel it impolite to question:  What is Sachs’ and Shea’s secret motivation for writing this vile piece of fact-free propaganda?  What do Ed Sachs and Christina Shea stand to gain by ramming this toll road extension through?

Excellent question.  Billions of dollars do float around a project like this, enough for everyone to wet their beaks on, but it’s usually hard to catch an elected official profiting directly.  Generous campaign donations from the bottomless pockets of developers and construction unions can go some distance to explaining votes.  But talk to some of these politicians and they really seem like true believers.

The sort of pols who crave a seat on a board like TCA are not always the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, and are quickly dazzled by their new friends.  They are wined, dined, and flattered by bureaucrats and businessmen whose livelihoods and profits DO depend on endless development.  Kool-aid does get drunk.  These politicians begin to refer to themselves in their private e-mails as “Masters of the Universe.”

And then WE ADULTS, in the general public, have to step up and revolt.


  • San Clemente is a beautiful historic old town, fighting for its survival, and deserves the rest of the County’s support. 
  • The TCA has outlived whatever benefit it may have once had;  it needs to be disbanded, and pending that the best thing its members can do is to sit on their hands, collect their stipends, and do no more harm. 
  • There are NO options for extending the 241 that are either acceptable or necessary.

Vern out.

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, or 714-235-VERN.