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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What Really Matters for Increasing Transit Ridership


Eric Jaffe, Jan 02, 2013

 What Really Matters for Increasing Transit Ridership

For years, many transportation experts thought the success of a city's transit system depended directly on the strength of its central business district. Surveys supported this idea (one from 1988 showed that four in five "choice" riders worked downtown) and it's still considered the traditional view. So as cities began to decentralize and transit ridership began to decline, it was only natural to see the former as the cause of the latter.

Today that traditional view is giving way to a more nuanced idea of how commuters use public transportation. Recently some metro areas have adopted multi-destination transit systems — traversing a number of job centers instead of only the central business district — and seen ridership increase. The fact that rail and bus systems can attract new riders in decentralized cities suggests that factors other than CBD strength may be critical to successful transit.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Public Transportation, a research duo led by Jeffrey Brown of Florida State provide some of the most persuasive evidence yet that transit ridership is not inextricably linked to a city's business core. The researchers analyzed all 82 metro areas in the United States with at least half a million people (as of the 2000 Census) and found, widely speaking, "no relationship between the strength of the CBD and transit ridership" [PDF].

The new study addressed weaknesses in previous work by breaking U.S. metros into three groups (all 82 cities, only 43 medium-sized ones, and only 29 small ones), so one outlier city — such as New York — couldn't dominate the outcome. The researchers also considered a number of variables both outside the control of transit agencies (such as gas prices, unemployment rates, and car ownership) and within it (such as fares and service).

Brown and his colleague measured the strength of a CBD by its share of employment. (In 2000, the weakest core was Greenville, South Carolina, with less than 1 percent of metro employment, and the strongest was New Orleans, with nearly 11 percent.) They measured transit ridership by its share of commuters. (Transit in McAllen, Texas, had the lowest share, at .32 percent, and New York had the highest, at nearly 25 percent.)

For the full group of 82 metro areas, the analysis showed no statistical relationship between central business districts and transit commute shares, when all other variables were considered. Four other variables did have a significant link with ridership: service frequency, service coverage, car ownership, and unemployment. (The importance of coverage and car ownership confirm other recent work that focused on major rail systems.)

These results were echoed in the medium and small city groups — with the exception of unemployment rate, which didn't register as significant.

The new research may go against the old collective wisdom, but it still makes a good deal of sense. Transit agencies should expect ridership to increase as service improves or networks expand. Meanwhile cities should expect ridership to suffer when people own more cars or have fewer jobs. On balance that's pretty encouraging news: some ridership factors will always fall outside a transit agency's control, but the ones that fall squarely inside it are powerful too.

'Tis the season for live streaming of mayoral debates



Tonight's mayoral candidate forum from Beth Jacob synagogue will be live streamed on the website of the Jewish Journal: this link. Good choice by the editors, since the forum moderator is Jewish Journal president David Suissa. The event starts at 7:30 p.m.
Yes, Beth David is located in the city of Beverly Hills. The members of the congregation may live in Los Angeles.
To all my fellow No On 710 warriors by Joe Cano 
 Posted by Joe Cano on Facebook Jan. 3, 2013

To all my fellow No On 710 warriors. The war of words has escalated, Metro, its army of corporate monkeys & bootlicking toadies are on the run. The shrill voices of pro-tunnel forces are desperate. No one is listening to the likes of Frank Venti, an old wind bag from Monterey Park. No! Mr Venti your comment about 'some people just don't want other people in their backyard' has got to be the most idiotic thing ever uttered at an El Sereno resident. The tunnel will not be in our backyard, it will be going through where our homes used to be. One thing I can promise, if this tunnel goes through, I will arrange for everyone dispaced to drop their furniture at Mr Venti's home as well as Messina's. The panic level is so that, an angry troll from SCAG has been harassing an independent blogger for daring to provide the public with opposing views. The main conspirators of pushing sham are John Fasana & Barbara Messina who have conspired to subvert the democratic process by trying to silence Ara Najarian, the only voice of truth, the only voice that is really looking after the best interests of the public. Barbara Messina was fined $14,000 for campaign violations, John Fasana admitted to taking class on 'The Brown Act' under settlement. Violating the Brown Act is a result of trying to get something past the public without informing them. Mayor Crybaby of Alhambra complained of dirty tactics in the last election. Wait until I get through with her. To Anyone that is planning to oppose Messina in the next election, I will provide the same service as any advertising firm. This person will get the reduced rate in the mission is to topple Barbara Messina while they have to pay overblown market rates.
710 Tunnel, A War Of Words
710 Tunnel Pros

Digging for answers

The more folks know about the 710 tunnels, the more they oppose the proposal
Digging for answers
Would you allow a contractor to construct an addition to your house without knowing how many square feet he or she intended to build, how much it would cost to build and how many family members were going to use the addition? Of course you wouldn’t.  
Unfortunately, when it comes to the Long beach (710) Freeway extension tunnels, one of the most controversial public works projects in the state, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) are spending millions of dollars on the 710 tunnels without first having acquired the same basic information. After 60 years, we do not have an accurate picture of cost vs. benefit vs. use. Policymakers are left with generalizations and promises of cleaner air and better commutes without any substantiating data made available to the public to justify those claims. The only environmental impact report completed was found deficient in 1999, and a 1973 federal injunction was renewed and is still in place, resulting in decertification by the federal government in 2003. That year, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) went so far as to suggest the need for the tunnels to be re-evaluated after the completion of the Gold Line, completion of a financial plan and implementation of local surface street improvements. Was that advice followed?  Of course it wasn’t.
Since the FHWA issued its letter in 2003, at presentation after presentation stakeholders have been told that pertinent information will be forthcoming, but it never arrives. Available information does confirm that the 710 tunnels will be instantly gridlocked on the day they open. It also confirms that most of the arterial circulation in the San Gabriel Valley will not be improved by building the tunnels. MTA recently canceled two public outreach meetings because the temperature at these meetings was getting too hot for them to handle. So much for wanting balanced public input.  
So why would a region want something that doesn’t help traffic on its local streets, doesn’t help commuters and has no demonstrated benefit to air quality? The answer is simple — it wouldn’t. The more folks are exposed to the facts surrounding the 710 tunnels, the greater the opposition to the project. I have been joined by Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, and a unanimous vote of the Los Angeles City Council in opposing the 710 tunnels. South Pasadena is no longer the lone voice in opposition, as Sierra Madre, La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale and the mayor and neighborhood associations in West Pasadena have all taken strong positions against the tunnels. Thousands of residents throughout the San Gabriel Valley are lining up in strong opposition to this project. At the beginning of the environmental study, local officials were told the tunnels would only move forward if there was consensus; today, opposition continues to grow, and there is anything but consensus.
There are communities that need help with local traffic. There are goods that need to be moved. The answer lies with something other than the 710 tunnels. We should be using the Measure R money to solve these problems and not on a solution that makes them worse. If there were facts available that supported the need for the tunnel, they would be front and center in the debate. They are not. If the project was affordable, there would be a comprehensive financial plan available for review. There is not, even though the federal government requires such a plan be provided. Every effort to acquire accurate information before the project moves forward has been thwarted. Every effort to review air quality data has been denied. Cost estimates have been so widely variable ($1 billion to $14 billion) as to be invalid. Certainly given the enormous price tag of this project, fiscal questions should be welcomed. Ask MTA Board member Ara Najarian about what recently happened to him for pushing for a cost-benefit analysis — pro-tunnel advocates attempted to silence him by having him removed from the MTA board of directors.
As for costs: A 1.7-mile, single-bore tunnel project in another state has a budget of $3 billion. How could the twin-bore, 4.5 mile-long (9 miles total) 710 tunnels cost the same? Of course, the answer is they can’t. So why is this even an issue? MTA has $780 million from a local sales tax earmarked for this project. Even though it’s not enough to build the tunnels, it is enough to keep an army of consultants, lawyers and planners working for the next decade. Wouldn’t this money be better spent on projects that solve problems, are wanted by the public and can actually be financed? Of course it would. 
It’s time to stop the march toward the tunnels and embrace the light of non-highway alternatives, of fiscal responsibility and honest planning. When a project relies on misinformation, missing information, the silencing of critics and generalizations in order to move forward, reasonable people need to say, “Enough!” and continue to put pressure on MTA and Caltrans to consider alternatives that actually solve problems and create jobs. 

Anthony Portantino represented the San Gabriel Valley in the state Assembly until December. He is widely known for his efforts to bring more transparency and accountability to the Legislature. He is the former Mayor of La Cañada Flintridge, where he learned to appreciate local government. He has long been considered a friend to the foothill cities through his work on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, League of California Cities and support for the Gold Line and redevelopment. A native of New Jersey, he is the proud father of two daughters and husband to Ellen Portantino. He is active in the PTA and AYSO.
Comment to the article 
Thank you Anthony Portantino for your clear and concise explanation of the 710 tunnel issues. Metro representatives repeatedly state that "no decision has been made" regarding the final alternatives for the 710 extension. But SCAG, Mayor Messina of Alhambra and Councilman Fasana of Duarte are pushing for the 710 tunnel to be built, and are willing to throw Ara Najarian off the MTA board to get it done because he is asking how in the world will we pay for this enormous boondoggle. I also hear from Council representatives in the San Gabriel Valley that the "public" supports the 710 tunnel. As Anthony Portantino has just explained, how can the public support something that has no defining terms? The public has not been told definitively that a toll of up to $15 will be charged. How will that help relieve traffic congestion? Studies show that most commuters avoid freeways with toll roads. The tunnel has no exits so how will it help local traffic? There are many unanswered questions and Metro is not answering any of them. I applaud Anthony Portantino, Ara Najarian and others for asking these questions and supporting the No710 position.
posted by JaneD on 1/03/13 @ 11:38 a.m.

U.S. Department of Transportation Finalizes Significant Changes to Major Capital Transit Investment Program


 Thursday, December 27, 2012 


WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) unveiled a streamlined approach for administering its primary capital public transportation program for expanding transit systems. The New Starts/Small Starts program, one of the largest competitive grant programs in the U.S. government, funds roughly half the cost of new and extended light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit and ferry systems built in the United States.

“Now more than ever, Americans need quality transportation choices that improve mobility, enhance access to jobs and encourage sustainable communities,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “These changes, years in the making, reflect the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthening public transportation across the United States as efficiently, effectively and fairly as possible.”
The new approach http://www.fta.dot.gov/grants/12304.html is the product of more than two years of
public outreach to identify ways to cut red tape, reduce regulations for communities seeking federal funds, and help get critical transit projects under construction more quickly without compromising a stringent project review process. The changes are estimated to save taxpayers almost $500,000 annually by requiring less time-consuming paperwork and allowing communities to pre-qualify for certain projects. Additional savings may result from accelerating project delivery.

“The changes we’re making to the New Starts capital investment program are a huge win for communities that want to see more of their local transportation priorities become reality,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “We’ll be in a position to save federal and local taxpayers’ money and put more Americans to work by allowing good projects to begin construction more quickly.”

Four key changes are being made to the New Starts/Small Starts program:

1)    FTA is adopting a simpler, more straightforward approach for measuring a proposed project’s cost-effectiveness. FTA will no longer require communities to compare a proposed project’s travel time savings against a hypothetical alternative project. Instead, FTA will look at the estimated cost to construct the project communities intend to build compared against a rigorously analyzed estimate for the number of passengers the project will serve.

2)    FTA is expanding the range of environmental benefits used to evaluate proposed projects.
In addition to taking into account the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional air quality designations, FTA will also look at the dollar value of the anticipated benefits to human health, energy use, air quality (such as changes in total greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants) and safety (such as reductions in accidents and fatalities).
3)    FTA is adding new economic development factors to its ratings process.  FTA currently looks
at local plans and policies already in place to encourage economic development and how well they’re working in a given area. Going forward, a broader set of economic impacts will be included, such as whether local plans and policies maintain or increase affordable housing.

4)    FTA is streamlining the project evaluation process by reducing regulations and red tape.  FTA will allow project sponsors to forgo a detailed analysis of benefits that are unnecessary to justify a project.  For example, projects that receive a sufficient rating on benefits calculations will not be required to do an analysis to forecast benefits out to some future year.  Similarly, FTA is developing methods that can be used to estimate benefits using simple approaches.

FTA received approximately 1,000 comments on the proposed changes from a wide range of stakeholders and individuals.  The agency also conducted extensive outreach, holding a webinar and public meetings in Atlanta, Dallas, and San Diego. Additional interim guidance on New Starts/Small Starts will be forthcoming to address provisions affected by the enactment of the legislation on Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).

The changes announced today are consistent with Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011, calling on Federal agencies to “modify, streamline, expand, or repeal” rules that may be “outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome.”
In FY2012, FTA’s New Starts/Small Starts program provided more than $2 billion for capital projects
to help build light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit projects. In FY2011 and FY2012 alone, FTA signed more capital construction agreements for transit projects than in any two-year period in the agency’s history.

Discontented Supervisors Taking Issue With OCTA Board Majority



 Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012

 Ongoing tensions within the Orange County Transportation Authority have begun to bubble over in recent weeks as several county supervisors, who also serve on the OCTA board, are going public with their discontent regarding how the $1-billion agency is being run.
The group of supervisors — Chairman John Moorlach, Shawn Nelson and Pat Bates — have ratcheted up their challenges to OCTA staff and board majority as the board undergoes a major transition with 10 of its 17 seats changing hands this month.

Moorlach, in a recent edition of his email update to supporters, described a "pushy, bullying pattern of the majority running roughshod over the minority" that he says has emerged at OCTA.

Specifically, the board in recent weeks has apparently violated the state's open meetings law and disregarded the staff recommendation on a mammoth program management contract. And OCTA’s cancellation and reissuance of a request for proposals in reaction to a complaint from former board member and former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle has also raised flags.

The alleged open meetings law violation came in November when the board voted to appoint Darrell Johnson to replace the outgoing Will Kempton as CEO of the agency. Johnson’s appointment was approved in a special board meeting, but the Brown Act prohibits considering pay for executives at special meetings.

Bates caught the violation and thus started a political controversy over the appointment that won’t be resolved until after the New Year.

Some board members complained they were left out of the decision-making loop because a small committee headed by board Vice Chairman Gregory Winterbottom had essentially chosen Johnson to replace Kempton.

But it isn't just the Johnson appointment that has the minority block upset.

Last week the board rejected a staff recommendation to award a multimillion-dollar program management consulting contract for the Interstate 405 widening project to New Jersey-based Hill International, opting instead to award the contract to Pasadena-based Parsons Transportation Group. Parsons was ranked highest by an outside consultant who was brought in to confirm that the bidders were qualified for the contract.

The consultant — Peter Lee, manager of the Bay Area Toll Authority Program — ranked Parsons’ consulting team at the top and Hill International’s team at the bottom. A separate, six-member ranking committee composed of staff from OCTA and other agencies, ranked Hill International as the highest bidder by a narrow margin.

But the board didn’t receive Lee’s rankings until Supervisor Shawn Nelson pushed for disclosure of the report, angering some of the OCTA directors. Kempton argued that Lee was only supposed to qualify the firms, making the consultant’s rankings irrelevant.

“The key conclusion in this statement is that, in Mr. Lee’s opinion, all of the candidate teams are qualified for this work,” Kempton wrote in a memo to the board.

Nonetheless, the board unanimously approved awarding the contract to Parsons, with directors citing various reasons, like expertise on right-of-way issues and previous experience with the agency.

Moorlach in his update also questioned an Oct. 17 internal audit report that found the agency lacks important controls over how promotions and raises are awarded. And he wrote that reappointing Winterbottom, the board’s public member for nearly 20 years, “seemed odd.”

Supervisor Bill Campbell, who voted for the Johnson appointment, said that recent board decisions against staff recommendations show a healthy attention to detail.

“The alarm would be if the board rubber stamped everything that staff did, and the board is not doing that,” Campbell said. “That means an active board that is paying attention to what’s going on.”

Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen, who stepped down from the OCTA board as part of the turnover, said the supervisors’ concerns stem from their recent experiences at the county, which has been under siege with accusations of cronyism and the scandal involving former county Public Works manager Carlos Bustamante, who has been charged with sex crimes.

“I would chalk it up to once bitten, twice shy,” Hansen said. “I think the supervisors are coming off a tough year. … They don’t want to be embarrassed.”

Yet Moorlach expressed suspicion about potentially larger problems.

Moorlach, who said he is “slowly starting to get angry” with the sequence of events at the agency, wrote in his update that during new board member orientation, the directors were told, “It’s the councilmembers against the Supervisors.” Although Moorlach declines to confirm it, other sources say that the comment came from an OCTA staff member.

Of the 10 new directors, nine are from city councils.

“Really? When did this fractionalization occur?"' Moorlach wrote ".Or was it there all the time and it’s just starting the lose its subtlety? Maybe it’s just me and I should keep my thoughts to myself, but I’m just starting to wonder out loud.”

Nelson said that he has not been especially rebellious lately, and he doesn’t agree completely with Moorlach’s remarks. But he said that some members of the board receive more information than others. The way an ad hoc committee had attempted to decide the Johnson appointment is particularly troublesome, Nelson said.

“I have never been part of a board who hired a chief executive where every single person on the board wasn’t involved in the hiring process,” Nelson said. “A lot of this is about some people getting all the info and some people not. And that’s just bad form.”

In a recent interview with Voice of OC, Kempton said his staff keeps the board well informed. He says recent decisions don’t signal that some board members are losing confidence in staff.

“There may be a couple members who have some concerns that they’re not getting all the information," Kempton said. "From my perspective, I honestly believe that not to be the case. We try to provide as much and any information that we can to the board. If you wanted to keep count, the board follows staff recommendations much more frequently then they overturn them or do something differently.”

A Comment to the Article

"Adam is right. This fish stinks from the head down. The crony capitalists like OCBC and OCTax advocate for the appointment of their own tightly controlled friends to ensure that OCTA continues to be the prime tax-payer funded trough the "business community" can shove their porcine snouts into. They have figured out this is where the money is, and they maintain their stranglehold on leadership by labeling anyone who asks questions (see Mayor Tom Tait, or Supes Moorlach and Nelson) as obstructing progress and lacking vision. OCTA is no longer about transportation, really when was the last time any of their big ticket projects actually improved transportation? It is now about funneling money to their friends like Hill and Parsons, with lobbyists like Pringle sitting in the middle of the deal making a percentage. The vast majority of these people need to either go away or be out in notice that their special interest spending is under scrutiny."


California Toll Bonds Hampered by Freeways: Muni Credit


Even in traffic-clogged Southern California, too few drivers want to spend as much as $6.25 to travel 12 miles on toll roads. Their reluctance is leading one highway agency to extend $2.4 billion in debt payments by as much as 12 years as investors demand more to hold its securities.

Orange County’s 51 miles (82 kilometers) of toll highways, the most extensive system in the world’s ninth-biggest economy, have fallen short of revenue projections since opening in the 1990s as the two managing agencies raise fares and refinance $4.5 billion in outstanding debt issued to build them. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer is looking into whether the authorities even will be able to raise money for escalating bond payments.

The woes are a caution for investors, said Howard Cure, director of municipal research for Evercore Wealth Management LLC in New York. Long-distance highways with few free rivals -- such as the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes -- have fared better, he said.

“The issue with Orange County is that it’s a stand-alone toll road and there’s competition from free options,” Cure said by telephone. “Additionally, you have a group of people -- Southern California drivers -- who are not used to paying tolls.”

Rosy Forecasts

Cure, whose company oversees $3.8 billion, said most recent toll-road projects have been premised on unrealistic traffic volume, making it difficult to meet debt payments that typically escalate. Operating agencies have responded by raising fares, a dubious strategy in a sluggish economy, Cure said. Operators raised them in 2009, 2011 and 2012, each time by 25 or 50 cents depending on the highway and distance traveled.

The toll roads in Orange County, a jurisdiction that filed for bankruptcy in 1994, are run by two agencies, the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, which has $2.4 billion in outstanding debt on three highways linking inland areas to the Pacific Coast; and the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, which owes $2.1 billion in for a 12-mile highway parallel to the shoreline. With interest over the life of both agencies’ bonds, the debt totals $10.5 billion, according to the bodies.

Narrower Penalty

Even with traffic trailing forecasts, San Joaquin Hills Transportation debt’s yield penalty narrowed in 2012. A bond due in 2030 and rated B1 by Moody’s Investors Service, four levels below investment grade, traded Dec. 28 with an average yield of 5.3 percent, about 3 percentage points above an index of top- rated munis with similar maturity, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That difference declined from 3.3 percentage points on Jan. 3.

Foothill-Eastern Transportation bonds have seen their penalty widen. A security due in 2040 and rated Baa3, Moody’s lowest investment-grade rank, traded Dec. 19 with an average yield of 5.6 percent, about 2.9 percentage points above an index of benchmark munis with similar maturity, according to Bloomberg data. That yield difference widened from Jan. 5, when the bonds traded with a spread of about 2.5 percentage points above the index.

With municipal interest rates at their lowest since the 1960s, Foothill plans to refinance its bonds and extend maturities beyond 2040, according to a Dec. 13 staff report. Debt service is due to increase to $298 million in 2040 from $105 million next year, the report said. Tolls yielded $107 million in the year ended June 30, short of the $143 million that the agency projected, according to data on the Transportation Corridor Agencies website.

Ratio Cut

The San Joaquin agency already agreed with bondholders in May 2011 to reduce the required ratio of pledged revenues against principal and interest payments for the next 13 years, according to a press release. Tolls from the highway brought in $93 million in the 12 months ended June 30, compared with projections of $167 million a year, according to Transportation Corridor Agencies.

Highway 73, the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road, parallels both the Pacific Coast Highway and Interstates 5 and 405, all free. The Foothill/Eastern toll roads slice through the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, cutting about four miles from the 31- mile commute of a driver in suburban Corona to the business parks of Irvine, compared with the free Highways 91 and 55 and Interstate 5.

Commuter Pain

Even with the U.S. recovering since June 2009 from the longest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the economic downturn disproportionately affected commuters from inland Southern California who take toll roads to jobs in Orange County, said Michael McDermott, a managing director at Fitch Ratings in New York.

Riverside County, immediately east of Orange County, had a 12 percent unemployment rate in October, according to the state Employment Development Department. Orange County had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in October, below the 9.8 percent statewide rate, according to the state Employment Development Department. Nationally, the rate was 7.9 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

In May, Fitch revised its outlook for the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency to negative from stable, with a BBB- rating, its 10th highest. The ratings company affirmed its BB rating, 12th-highest and below investment grade, on the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency. The authority’s credit outlook is stable, like 92 percent of the toll-road authorities Fitch rates. Four percent of rated roads have positive outlooks and a like number has been termed negative, meaning a downgrade is possible.

Ohio Proposal

McDermott said toll roads and bridges are becoming increasingly popular as cash-strapped local governments look for ways to accommodate motorists without raising taxes. On Dec. 13, Ohio Governor John Kasich suggested that the state’s turnpike commission issue as much as $1.5 billion in debt to fund transportation projects.

While drivers pay as much as $10.26 in peak periods for a round trip on the floating bridge connecting Seattle to suburbs across Lake Washington, average daily traffic exceeded projections by 18 percent in 2012, according to a Washington State Transportation Department press release.
The Route 520 span is the world’s longest floating bridge at 7,580 feet and tolls are intended to cover the cost of replacing it in 2014 or 2015, according to the transportation department.

Solvency Questioned

Orange County’s toll roads came under scrutiny from California officials in September after a request from former state Assemblywoman Marilyn Brewer, a Republican from Newport Beach, to Lockyer. Brewer wrote that higher fares and less-than- forecast ridership raise the possibility of the toll roads becoming insolvent. Lockyer, a Democrat, responded that the state Debt and Investment Advisory Commission, which he chairs, would look into the matter.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back for me is that they’re making local developers pay development fees on the expectation that their customers will use the toll roads,” Brewer said in a telephone interview. “That’s a stretch. My concern is the fiduciary responsibility of going out for new bonds when they’re having trouble servicing their existing bonds.”

Orange County’s transportation corridor agencies plan to issue about $200 million in new bonds to pay for a five-mile extension of Highway 241, one of the eastern toll roads, said Lori Olin, an authority spokeswoman.

Taxpayers’ Burden

Brewer, who represented areas along the San Joaquin Hills toll road in the state legislature from 1994 to 2000, said she’s concerned that California or Orange County would inherit responsibility for toll-road bonds if the authorities default.

Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said he could not foresee any circumstance in which California would be liable for toll- road debt. Still, Dresslar said Lockyer agreed to the “unusual” inquiry that Brewer suggested because he shares her concern about the toll authorities’ ability to repay their debt.
Olin said the Orange County toll agencies are “nowhere near” insolvency, which would be a prerequisite to bankruptcy, nor would California taxpayers become responsible for their debt in the event of a default.

Highway Bankruptcy

In 2010, the private operator of a 10-mile segment of State Route 125 in San Diego County filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing traffic that was about half of projections on a road that runs parallel to free alternatives. After the San Diego County Association of Governments bought the highway in 2011 for about one-third of the cost of building it in 2006, the new operator lowered tolls by about 40 percent, it said in a press release. Drivers now pay no more than $3.50 for a one-way trip.

The Orange County agencies have $523 million in reserves to pay debt and haven’t missed a payment, Olin said in an e-mailed response to questions. They’ve restructured their debt to take advantage of low interest rates and to ensure that they’ll be able to meet their debt obligations, she said.

“We do these things because we are responsible issuers intent on paying off our debt,” Olin said. “Our bonds are non- recourse revenue bonds, so taxpayers and TCA member agencies cannot be held responsible for repaying the debt should we be unable to ourselves.”

Kevin James' Mayoral Dreams Get Legs

Gay Republican moderate attracts big GOP cash in Los Angeles


 By Hillel Aron Thursday, Jan 3 2013




 At a debate late last year attended by homeowners groups in pricey Holmby Hills, the four leading Los Angeles mayoral candidates, Wendy Greuel, Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti and Kevin James, were asked to give their 10-second elevator pitch on why they should represent a city of 3.8 million.

 The candidates laughed, as if to imply, "How silly, 10 seconds, not nearly enough time to describe my unique background and nuanced positions."

But before the moderator could even say, "Kevin, what's your...", James popped up from his chair and, without hesitation, gave the audience 12 words: "I'm the only candidate in this race that has not bankrupted the city."

Following the debate, the wealthy, well-informed and politically active crowd answered a questionnaire. "If the election were held today, which candidate would you vote for?" it asked. More than half chose James. "Kevin is the only one with independence," one wrote. Another said: "Let's start again. How much worse can it be?"

For most of 2012, the gay, socially moderate Republican was the clear no-chance candidate. An
unscientific survey of top political insiders by the L.A. Weekly's Patrick Range McDonald ranked James' chances of winning at somewhere between zero and less than zero.

Virtually unknown despite his late-night radio show on KRLA, James, a former U.S. attorney, was routinely confused with the star of the CBS sitcom The King of Queens and such films as Here Comes the Boom.

Two finalists will emerge in the March 5 primary from among the four leading candidates, and the math says those two must win at least 25 percent of the vote to shut out the rest of the big field and get on the ballot for the May runoff. Yet only about 20 percent of registered voters in L.A. are Republican. Even if James got most of them, he wouldn't get all. He needs lots of independents and Democrats — a very difficult thing for a newbie to pull off.

But James is moving up in the world, from no shot to dark horse. While his standout debating style has been leaving the politically experienced but often deadly dull top candidates Perry, Garcetti and Greuel in the dust, mayoral debates — ignored by most voters — don't elect anyone.

In November, however, Fred Davis entered the picture. Davis, a former ad man turned Republican media specialist and political strategist, helped create such infamous political messages as the anti-Obama "Celebrity" commercial and the Carly Fiorina "Demon Sheep" commercial featuring sheep with digitally enhanced, eerie red eyes.

"By the time you get to the office, you've been exposed to 10,000 advertising messages," Davis says. "How many do you remember? Well, you remember ours."

Davis has never worked in local politics, but James approached Davis at an event where the infamous ad man was speaking.

"My name's Kevin James," he said. "I'm running for mayor."

"Mayor of what?" Davis asked.

"Mayor of L.A.!"

Davis rolled his eyes. He recalls thinking, "How many Republican officeholders do we even have? This is not a natural thing." (Just four of 32 elected officeholders in L.A. city, school and county government are Republicans: L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, county Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe and City Councilman Mitch Englander.)

Davis believes that James' homosexuality offers assurance to L.A. voters that, while fiscally conservative, he's socially liberal. James was an early supporter of gay marriage and gays in the military.

But unlike the socially liberal-to-moderate Riordan, James doesn't have gobs of money to play against the monied Democrats in the race. So Davis decided to create and control a PAC that supports James but is operated separately from his campaign. Contributors to political action committees can give as much money as they want, and by mid-December Davis had raised "in the mid-six figures." That's not yet the mountainous $2.8 million raised by both Greuel and Garcetti, but like them, Davis hopes to tap big special interests. He aims to collect between $3 million and $4 million before the March 5 primary.

In the wake of major Republican losses nationwide on Nov. 6 attributed to a platform that excluded minority voters and many moderates, Davis plans to pass the hat among wealthy donors nationwide who are keen to promote a new generation of moderate Republicans — and win back Los Angeles' swing voters and Riordan Democrats.

"If Kevin wins, it's almost the baby steps in the beginning of a possible revival of Republicans in California," Davis says. Even a respectable showing could help build a "moderate Republican bench in [California], the state with the most electoral votes."

On his own, James has raised a fraction of what Greuel, Garcetti and Perry have, but he did cross the $150,000 threshold to qualify for public matching funds. This, in turn, got him invited to key debates that unofficially — but firmly — exclude other mayoral candidates, such as the rarely reported on Addie Miller, Yehuda Draiman, Norton Sandler and Emanuel Pleitez.

"I'm pretty happy where I am," says a chipper, fresh-faced James. "The fundraising has continued to be a struggle, although it's starting to pick up now, because more people are paying attention."

James now is asked to almost every debate and has won a healthy amount of media coverage.

"He is the only one who is willing to look the facts in the eye and not worry about the unions and special interest groups," says Richard Riordan, the last Republican mayor of Los Angeles, who left office in 2001 and endorsed wealthy political newcomer Austin Beutner for mayor last April, only to see Beutner drop out of the race.

James, like Riordan when he ran in 1993, has never held public office. For much of the last two decades he's been an entertainment lawyer, moonlighting as a midnight talk-show host.

"He has a radio talk-show host perspective on government, which is considerably to the right of everyone else," says Bill Carrick, Garcetti's gentlemanly campaign strategist. "That's the reason he's gonna find it difficult to expand his coalition."

James has to convince voters what the audience in Holmby Hills decided: that L.A. is in bad shape and desperately needs a change of direction.

"I don't have to do much convincing," James insists. "We have a jobs crisis, a budget crisis, an infrastructure crisis, a transportation crisis, a corruption crisis."

The charming James speaks with an Oklahoma twang and is somewhat reminiscent of a guy from a 1950s television family. But as a radio host, he was a firebrand. He briefly became the object of national ridicule when, in 2008, he appeared on The Chris Matthews Show and froze up during a discussion of Barack Obama. Matthews asked James to define the term "appeasement" and James could not do it. The clip, which went viral, made James look like a partisan hack or, worse, a hayseed.

As 2013 begins, James faces a new problem with the media: Journalists will focus on where the top mayoral fundraisers get their fat campaign war chests. Already, media have reported that Greuel and Garcetti are beholden, moneywise, to city government employee unions who wield outsized influence on the City Council's positions.

News stories about the $11 million from a secret donor to an Arizona nonprofit that fought Proposition 30, Jerry Brown's tax hike, clearly hurt the opposition to Brown's successful measure on Nov. 6. So what happens if notorious conservatives such as the Koch brothers put money into the independent PAC for Kevin James?

"Any money that goes into the super PAC, no matter where it comes from, is independent," James insists, sounding naive if not in full-blown denial. "I don't owe them any debt. I'm not voting on any of their issues."

Davis, not James, will decide how to fashion the TV and radio ads with the money he raises, and those ads are sure to cause a stir in Los Angeles, where previous hotly contested mayoral races have been nasty.

"I don't know what we'll do," Davis says coyly. "Will it be demon Garcetti? I doubt that. But the odds are, you'll notice it."
Soccer Jersey Seen Supporting the 710 Tunnel Seen by Joe Cano and More of His Thoughts

Posted on Facebook, January 3, 2013

  I want to congratulate the LA32NC for a new start, the new folks are going to make things better, but I can see the leftovers from the previous group have not changed one bit, the baldheaded Tea Party jackass seems to want to waste everyones time & grandstand about how he wants to hold Jose Huizar accountable for something. Tea Party have to look no futher than their own GOP/Tea Party for the best examples of lies, dishonesty, voter suppression & overall racist attacks on our people. I know we have to treat our mentally ill kindly, but they cannot hold public positions.

If we stop this 710 I will have saved this idiot's home. I also ran into some clueless fool wearing a soccer jersey that supports the tunnel. 'They compensated the people when they built a school, they'll do the same for the Freeway right.'