To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

LAO: California unprepared for public-private partnerships
 November 9, 2012
A new report by the Legislative Analyst's Office concludes California taxpayers have overpaid for two infrastructure projects that granted private businesses more sway in the process, but that the state could save big bucks through so-called "public-private partnerships" if they were executed properly.
State officials looked at Caltrans' and local governments' Presidio Parkway project in San Francisco and the Long Beach Courthouse, which is overseen by the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Both projects are still under construction. Each carries a taxpayer price tag of nearly $500 million and are being built through a public-private partnership.

Also known as "P3s," public-private partnerships usually are single-contract infrastructure agreements between a government entity and a private partner, often a consortium of several businesses. The private partner designs, builds, finances, operates and maintains the road, bridge or building. More traditional approaches to large public projects split the work between government agencies and several private firms that bid separately.

The LAO estimates the Presidio project could have been up to $140 million cheaper with a more traditional approach. Officials decided on a P3 based on several inaccurate estimates, including how competitive bidding would drive down construction costs. The courthouse project could have been up to $160 million less with a non-P3 approach.

Public-private partnerships can work for the state, the LAO said, but it needs to develop expertise to estimate costs and benefits correctly, pick the right projects and then negotiate the deals: "Based on our review of existing research, we believe that P3 procurement -- if done correctly -- has merit and may be the best procurement option for some of the state's infrastructure projects."

Legislative Analyst report: "Maximizing State Benefits from Public-Private Partnerships"

We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Most Transit Referendums Won


Eric Jaffe


We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Most Transit Referendums Won

We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Most Transit Referendums Won
Last week a number of cities across the country took it upon themselves to improve their transit networks. Of the 20 transit referendums on November ballots tracked by the Center for Transportation Excellence, 14 are considered wins for transit, for about a 70 percent success rate. A sales tax in Pierce County, Washington, remains too close to call but appears to be failing.

The wins generally fall into three categories: metro areas that approved property or sales taxes in support of transit efforts, that defeated attempts to withdraw from regional transit authorities, or that passed bonds to fund capital projects. One of the biggest wins occurred in Arlington County, Virginia, where voters passed a $32 million transit-friendly bond by an 80-20 vote. A penny sales tax that will support pedestrians, bike riders, and buses, slipped by 53-47 in Richland County, South Carolina.

Several measures that the center doesn't count as wins could be considered such. These include a failed sales tax measure in Alachua County, Florida, that prohibited transit spending. The six clear losses included a failed gas tax proposal in Memphis that would have sent one cent per gallon to transit programs. Houston voted 79-21 to continue to divert part of its one-cent transit sales tax to localities that often use it for road work.

The results are encouraging, but they shouldn't be particularly surprising. For the entire year, close to 80 percent of city transit initiatives have succeeded at the voting booth, according to CFTE. Last year was successful too: with about 79 percent of 28 referendums meeting local approval. And 2010 wasn't much different, with 44 wins in 57 measures counted by the center. You get the idea.

What's particularly notable about last week's success is the number of cities that passed initiatives calling for self-imposed taxes. Kalamazoo, Michigan, approved a property tax expected to generate about $1 million a year for transit operations by a 63-37 vote. Orange County, North Carolina, passed a half-cent sales tax for regional transit investment, with 59-41 approval, expected to go toward a new light rail line.

In the recent past, tax-based transit referendums (which impose a cost on current residents) have performed worse than bond-based measures (which delay the hurt for future generations). A 2010 report, which evaluated 111 transit referendums from 1999 to 2007, concluded that tax proposals were less likely to pass than bonds. The latest results suggest that disparity may be closing.

The biggest upset was the failure of Measure J in Los Angeles, County. The measure would have extended the county's half-cent transit sales tax, which was approved in 2008, for another 30 years — extending it through 2069. Measure J received majority approval, 65-35, but failed to collect the two-thirds majority needed for a successful outcome.

Over at Streetsblog L.A., Damien Newton writes that Measure J's failure was not an anti-transit vote but rather a coordinated effort by several pro-transit groups who simply didn't like how the money was being spent. "There was no opposition arguing for an 11th lane for the I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass or a new carpool lane on the I-10," he writes. At his blog, Columbia planning professor David King sees the decision, in part, as a reminder that transit authorities must convince the public of their credibility:
Federal funding is declining as a share of overall transport investment. As a response, local, regional and state actors have to take a larger role in taxing and spending for transport, as well as assessing priorities for investment. Voters are not likely to support new taxes, road fees, transit fares and other revenues if they think their money will be spent foolishly or dishonestly.

Villaraigosa to tout early work on Westside subway construction 


 November 13, 2012 |  1:20 pm

 As vote-counting continued for a transit tax measure that appeared to be headed to defeat, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sought Wednesday to shift public attention to the first stages of construction on a long-promised Westside subway.

Villaraigosa, along with other elected officials and transportation leaders, is scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon announcing that utility crews will soon begin relocating telecommunication lines in advance of excavations near the future Wilshire/La Brea subway station.

Villaraigosa has championed the 9-mile, $6.3-billion subway line along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor and Measure J, a half-cent sale tax extension on this month's ballot, was part of his campaign to speed up construction. The subway is heavily funded by a half-cent sale tax approved voters in 2008 that is projected to raise approximately $36 billion over 30 years. Measure J would extend that tax an additional 30 years, allowing officials to borrow against future tax revenues to accelerate completion of several transit projects, including the Westside subway, in the next 10 years.

With several hundred thousand provisional ballots remaining to be counted, Measure J is just short of  the two-thirds majority necessary to pass, so far collecting 64.64% of the vote.

If Measure J passes, Villaraigosa might be in position to announce a stepped-up construction schedule for the subway extension, which he considers a major part of his legacy in office.

If Measure J fails, Villaraigosa has said he will keep exploring ways to accelerate construction of the subway and other projects.

The subway is currently scheduled to be finished in three phases. The entire 9-mile extension from Western Avenue to the Veterans Administration hospital in West L.A. won't be fully operational until 2035, according to current forecasts on Metro's website.

More than 520,000 Ballots Still Uncounted in L.A. County



on November 13, 2012 4:25 PM

Vote by Mail ballots going through signature verification and cross-checking with precinct rosters. | Photo: Courtesy RR/CC
Vote by Mail ballots going through signature verification and cross-checking with precinct rosters. | Photo: Courtesy RR/CC
County officials are still making their way through hundreds of thousands of uncounted ballots. Today in his bi-weekly update, L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said there are approximately 521,710 ballots are left to be counted.

Logan has deemed five races to be "close contests," including the Measure J, which would extend an existing countywide sales tax by 30 years to fund transportation projects. But officials at Metro, which is charged with the special sales tax, have already conceded. "We are encouraged by this expression of confidence," said Metro CEO Art Leahy in an e-mail to the public last week.

Measure J currently stands with 64.74 percent, barely a change since the election; it needs approval by two-thirds, or 66.67 percent, of voters.

Uncounted Ballots by the Numbers:

  • 792,658: The number of uncounted ballots after Election Day.

  • 270,948: The number of ballots -- all of them vote by mail ballots -- counted so far, leaving 521,710 more to go.

  • 325,687: The number of provisional ballots cast, none of which have been counted so far.

  • 28: The number of days county officials have to continue counting ballots. That day is December 4, although November 30 is L.A. County's internal goal to complete the count.