Thursday, March 05, 2015

City Seeks Input On Library Plan

COMMUNITY OUTREACH OPPORTUNITY
Tonight, at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park), the City of Costa Mesa will hold a community outreach event to solicit opinions and ideas from members of the community on the plan to convert the community center into a new library and the existing Donald Dungan Library into a community center - a swap, as it were.

NOW'S THE TIME TO SPEAK UP
This scheme has a full head of steam up, so if you wish to provide your views to the elected leaders and city staff, this is a time to do it.  The meeting is from 6-8 p.m.  See you there.
THE NOTICE
THE VENUE
THE LOCATION

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A Packed House Grills Officials On Group Homes

GROUP HOMES AND CRIME
A packed multi-purpose room at College Park Elementary School greeted Costa Mesa officials and staff as Debbie Leedom and her College Park neighbors hosted a 90-minute question and answer period on two subjects about which they have great concern - the proliferation of sober living homes and crime, in general.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
The meeting, which played to a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 225 in number, was run crisply and pretty much stayed on schedule.  Extraneous questions from the crowd were kept to a minimum until the very end, when time grew short and anxiety continued to build as residents from all parts of the city became not fully satisfied with the answers to their written questions.

 MANY SENIOR STAFFERS PRESENT
Attending for the City were Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Councilwoman Katrina Foley, CEO Tom Hatch, Interim Police Chief Ron Lowenberg, Director of Development Services Gary Armstrong, Deputy City Attorney Elena Gerli, Assistant Director, Community Improvement Division Jerry Guarrancino, Police Captain Mark Manley, Police Lieutenant Vic Bakkila, Code Enforcement Officers Mike Tucker and Jon Neal and Executive Assistant to Hatch, Kelly Shelton.
CANDIDATES AND ACTIVISTS
In the crowd I recognized many familiar faces from all regions of the City.  I saw former council candidates Jay Humphrey, Tony Capitelli, Lee Ramos and Chris Bunyan.  Many other activists - regular attendees at many official city meetings and volunteers in may areas in town -  were sprinkled throughout the crowd of otherwise just normal residents with big concerns.
WRITTEN QUESTIONS READ
After Leedom kicked things off she handed the microphone to Righeimer, who provided some perspective and introductions.  Then moderator Jay Friedman took over and asked the written questions of the staff.  In general, the staff decided who would field which question.  As you might expect, lawyer Gerli had a big chunk of them, as did Guarrancino.  Righeimer didn't hesitate to grab the microphone, either.
THE CROWD LEARNED A LOT
Much of what was discussed was not new information to those of us who attend city meetings regularly, but it certainly was to many in the crowd.  Among the many things they learned Wednesday night were:
  • The City CANNOT regulate state licensed group homes.
  • The City CANNOT regulate homes with six (6) or fewer residents plus a house manager because they are considered a "Housekeeping Unit".
  • Our Group Home Ordinance applies ONLY to R1 (Single family residential) neighborhoods.
  • An ordinance for other residentially-zoned area is in the works, but it's more complicated.
  • The City needs the help of residents to identify group homes.
  • Righeimer and other staffers recommended the use of the Costa Mesa Connect Smart Phone App.
  • They stressed the need to report the group homes with infractions so a file can be created.
  • We must tread carefully as we attempt to enforce our ordinances to be sure we are not violating the rights of the residents in those places.
  • We learned from Lowenberg that our police staffing is up to 108 today from a low spot of 85 and that efforts are being made to recruit greater numbers of qualified officers.  He mentioned the recent report on the staffing issue on the City Website, HERE.
  • Lowenberg, Manley and Bakkila all stressed that they need our help.  Residents MUST call when the have a problem.
  • The revised Crime Mapping Program is now available, HERE, but not without some glitches.
  • We learned of a Gang/Narcotics bust on Maple Avenue that snatched up 6 criminals.
  • We learned that we should be participating in Neighborhood Watch programs.  As Lowenberg said, "Help us help you".
  • We learned that Costa Mesa has a quarter of ALL state-licensed group home in Orange County.
  • We learned that there is no limit to the time a person can stay in a group home.
  • We learned from Lt. Bakkila that they hope to resurrect their bicycle patrols, apparently a very effective tool.
  • Captain Manley told us that, for this part of town, Lt. Bakkila is a "mini-police chief" - "He's the guy who will solve your problems".
  • We learned that Officer Bill Adams, currently our only School Resource Officer, is one of the best cops we've ever had.
  • In response to a concern about Code Enforcement staffing, we learned from Righeimer that the City will "spend whatever it takes so the problem gets handled properly."  We've heard that before...
  • We learned from Hatch - in response to a question about how relapsed residents are handled because some are simply dumped onto our streets and become homeless - that the City is dealing with the homeless among us by identifying those with ties to the city, then providing services to them through faith-based organizations.  So far, of the 125 identified, 50 have been placed in housing.
  • We learned that representatives of several group homes in Costa Mesa were at the meeting, gathering information.
  • We learned that enforcement of group homes is a long process - a matter of months, as various essential steps are taken in order to be sure the operator has a chance to respond.
  • We learned that some folks co-mingle in their minds sober living patients with parolees and other criminals.
  • And, we learned a lot more.
NO CMTV COVERAGE?
For example, I learned that the City apparently didn't deem this meeting important enough to provide video coverage by CMTV, but it was important enough to cancel the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, scheduled for the same time on the same date.  That's a shame, because this meeting is the PERFECT example of what can happen when motivated residents team up with City staff to put together an outstanding community outreach opportunity.
ANGRY INQUIRY AT THE END
At the end of the evening one very impatient man stood up and strongly addressed the panel, wondering if they were aware of the Sober Living Network, and the impact they were having on Costa Mesa.  I found a link to that organization, HERE, which shows Costa Mesa as the location for  nineteen (19) facilities - more than double any other Orange County city shown.  It was unclear if he received a satisfactory answer to his questions and statements.  At Tuesday's council meeting we learned that there are another twenty-one (21) group homes in line for licenses in Costa Mesa!
ANY CONNECTIONS?
The final question asked of all the City panelists was, "Do you have any relationships with any of the group home operators?" or words to that effect.  Every staffer answered a resounding NO!  Bakkila told us he had arrested a few of the residents, though.  Righeimer was the final person to answer the question, also with a NO.  It is interesting to note that for several years and, as recently as 2013, HERE, his great friend, Scott Baugh - they just traveled to Israel together as part of a group and he has shared office space with him for years  - has been an advisor for the sober living industry.  I guess we'll presume they never discussed that business.  Uh, huh...
KUDOS, AND THANKS...
Many questions were either not answered or incompletely answered, but Leedom promised to provide feedback to those interested once the answers are determined.  Good job to our friends and neighbors in College Park for hosting and conducting an outstanding event.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Sober Living And Crime Q&A Tonight

FACE-TO-FACE WITH CITY LEADERS
Our Costa Mesa Neighbors will host a meeting tonight that will likely have city-wide interest.  I posted about this last week... this is a reminder.

YOU’RE INVITED to a COSTA MESA Q & A!
March 4th, 6:00 pm, College Park Elementary School
Organized by your College Park Neighbors

WHAT: College Park residents invite ALL fellow Costa Mesa residents and neighbors to a Q & A session with the City of Costa Mesa.  Please join us for a discussion on important issues such as:

The increasing number of Sober Living Homes opening up in residential neighborhoods in Costa Mesa.  Find out what the new 1413 Ordinance is, and how will it be enforced.

The uptick in crime in residential neighborhoods in Costa Mesa. Let’s discuss what might be causing the recent increase in the number of break-ins, tagging, drug deals and prostitution within residential neighborhoods. Hear about CMPD’s strategies for rooting out these problems.  

DATE: MARCH 4th @ 6:00 to 7:30 pm

LOCATION
: Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) at College Park Elementary School, 2380 Notre Dame Road, Costa Mesa, 92626

CONFIRMED TO ATTEND
:

City Council

Stephen Mensinger, Mayor

Jim Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem

Katrina Foley, Council Member


City Staff
Tom Hatch, CEO

Gary Armstrong, Development Services Director/Deputy CEO

Jerry Guarracino, Contract Assistant Director-Community Improvement Division

CMPD Chief Ronald Lowenberg

Robert Sharpnack, Acting Police Chief

William (Bill) Lobdell, Director of Communications

Elena Q. Gerli, Deputy City Attorney
 
Mike Tucker
, Community Improvement Division

PLEASE ATTEND! YOU will have the attention of the majority of the City of Costa Mesa officials.  Come ASK QUESTIONS.  INVITE your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

We hope to see you there! Please email Deb at collegepark@att.net as for further info.
 (Click on Image To Enlarge Map)

Survey Rejected, Lloyd Loved, Foley Furious

A MEMORABLE MEETING, FOR SURE
Well, now... that was fun!  Yes, sir, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was one for the old memory book.  So much happened that I almost don't know where to begin... almost.

HEADING FOR DAWN...
The meeting ran until 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, so I'm going to give you just a little shorter version so I can get to bed before dawn... another busy day is ahead.

TCA DOING BETTER
The meeting began with a report from the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), outlining it's recovery from the fiscal abyss and showing the progress being made.  It was good news.  You can read their information on the two images below.   Click on them to make them bigger.
HANK LLOYD
Public Comments was VERY interesting.  Of the twenty people who spoke between 5:50 and 6:45, nearly one third of them addressed the possibility of Hank Lloyd leaving the Costa Mesa Tennis Club, including Lloyd, himself.  In a nutshell, a Request For Proposals for the operation of the Tennis Center was issued and Lloyd - who has operated it for 17 years with great success, putting Costa Mesa on the Tennis Map - found the changes in the terms too backbreaking to attempt to manage.  A half-dozen folks spoke on his behalf and at least that many more came to the meeting in support of Lloyd.  The upshot was that the council directed staff to look into the situation surrounding the very significant increase in costs to Lloyd - they involved passing through charges for electricity and water that had not been part of the arrangement in the past. 

PUBLIC COMMENT POTPOURRI
Other speakers addressed group homes; inconsistent planning rules; insufficient data on the Consolidated Plan survey; lack of a Economic Development Plan; the pending demolition of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn and the impact on residents; poor condition of baseball fields; the departure of Communication Director Bill Lobdell to the Irvine Company; the shortage of police and public records requests.

FOLEY ON MORALES AND MORE
During Council Member Comments, Katrina Foley asked for the meeting to be adjourned in memory of Crystal Morales, daughter of CMPD Detective Jose Morales, who tragically died in a traffic accident last week.  She also spoke of the Young Kim press conference on I-405 Toll Roads earlier in the day; the Hank Lloyd RFP issue; an electronic waste collection at Costa Mesa High School from 10:00 to 2:00; Fire Department staffing; her previous request for a council goal-setting meeting and more.

GENIS ON LLOYD AND SEGERSTROM
Sandra Genis also addressed the Tennis Center issue and two items on the Consent Calendar.  She asked for the meeting to be adjourned in honor of Henry Segerstrom, the visionary creator of South Coast Plaza, who died recently at age 91.  She also mentioned the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

MONAHAN SPEAKS!
Gary Monahan actually had something to say at this meeting - he pointed it out to me for all to hear...  He spoke of Little League and AYSO openings and, in response to an earlier speaker's concern about the Conference and Visitor Bureau funding, misspoke about the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), stating it was voluntary.  He's wrong... a segment of the TOT - 3% - is voluntary for eleven (11) hotels in town.  The city receives 11% from those hotels - it's 8% for all others - then returns the 3% to the Conference and Visitors Bureau for business development purposes.  He also mentioned that Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Ed Fawcett will soon retire and an announcement will be made about his party.  He asked CEO Tom Hatch about Talbert Park, and any plans for Costa Mesa to take it over.  He also addressed the Hank Lloyd situation.  As it turned out, he should have not said another word.  More on that in a minute.

RIGHEIMER ON COPS
Jim Righeimer also addressed the Hank Lloyd situation, kind of scolding Lloyd for not speaking up sooner - the council received his letter Tuesday.  He addressed the Young Kim press conference - he did not attend.  He also mentioned the meeting tonight, Wednesday, at College Park Elementary where several members of the city council and staff will discuss sober living homes and the current status of policing.   Addressing the latter, he responded to Jay Humphrey's question about Righeimer and Mensinger "pulling out all the stops" to get the CMPD staffed up.  He mentioned a letter the council received from the CMPD, which is now on the City Website, HERE.  Hatch later addressed this memo, too.  Review the letter for yourself and you will find a schedule - "glide path" as Righeimer referred to it - that theoretically takes the CMPD from the current strength of 108 officers to 144 by the end of 2016.

MENSINGER ON SEGERSTROM
Steve Mensinger talked about his history with Henry Segerstrom - he attended his service over the weekend.  Apparently his Aunt Peggy - who was the mayor of Modesto - went to Stanford with Segerstrom.  He asked Hatch to figure out a way for the City to honor Segerstrom.  He mentioned that he will be out of town for the long weekend ahead, going with Hatch to Washington, D.C. for the mayor's conference.  He discussed the group home issue brought up by resident Barry Fisher, and mentioned Hank Lloyd, too.  He also spoke of the press conference earlier in the day, which he did attend.

HATCH - COPS STAFFING AND MORE
Hatch took his turn and made a lengthy presentation.  He echoed what is in that CMPD report mentioned above, and expanded on the fact that we are hiring excellent recruits.  We've had the top recruit in the past two classes.  Foley wondered what we were doing about attracting lateral transfers from other jurisdictions because all Hatch was talking about was new recruits, none of which would be ready to be functioning on his own for nearly two years.  She wondered what we are doing to retain cops.  Hatch addressed the group home meeting today, and spoke about the staffing of Code Enforcement.  He addressed the Tennis Center issue and reminded the council that they just cannot turn off the RFP process because they've had several people respond to it now.  He will work with the City Attorney on the issue

Four items were pulled from the Consent Calendar for later discussion.

MONAHAN GAFFE, FOLEY AND RIGHEIMER SCRUM
Then the fun began... At 7:47 p.m. Lawyer and negotiator Laura Kalty addressed Public Hearing #1, the extension of the side letter between the City and the Costa Mesa Police Management Association (CMPMA).  This should have been a short, sweet discussion, but the wheels came flying off.  During the discussion Monahan let slip information about negotiations with the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association (CMPOA) that could have only come from information he gathered in a Closed Session negotiating session and Foley jumped right on it.  Trust me when I tell you that finding that section of the video tape is going to be worth your time!  At one point things got so heated that Mensinger actually pounded his gavel on the dais and demanded order be restored.  Foley and Righeimer got into a shouting match, exacerbated by her challenge of a legal opinion provided by City Attorney Tom Duarte.  Foley pointed out what she referred to as a manipulation of the process where Righeimer and Mensinger are not supposed to be privy to ANY part of the negotiations between the City and the Costa Mesa Police Association because they are involved in a lawsuit with the association.  Foley and Righeimer yelled back and forth at each other and Mensinger finally called a 5 minute break.  During that time Foley and Duarte were at the coffee cranny at the rear of the dais and she could be heard screaming at him. 

PUBLIC CONCERNS
When they returned four members of the public addressed this issue.  Gene Hutchins, once again, gave his rote rant about unfunded pensions.  That issue seems to be like a chunk of spinach he cannot remove from his teeth.  Tamar Goldmann expressed concern about hiring laterals because of the hostility between Righeimer, Mensinger and the CMPD.  Jay Humphrey expressed consternation at the outburst, and the reason for it.  He cautioned council members - he's been there - to just hold their tongues on the dais.  Anna Vrska observed that she has experienced some shoddy legal work via Jones & Mayer herself, amplifying what Foley had complained about earlier.

FOLEY CONCERNED ABOUT LEGAL OPINION
Foley then apologized for her passion on the issue.  She is concerned about the confidentiality of the Closed Session and was concerned about liability the City might have as a result of Monahan's gaffe.  She expressed concern that the City Attorney was turning a blind eye to the issue, then said there is NOTHING we can do about it.  She said it degrades the process and degrades good faith.  She told Hatch she wanted an independent legal analysis of Monahan's comment.

CONCERN ABOUT WAIVING CONFIDENTIALITY
Genis expressed concern that if, as Duarte had said earlier, Monahan's comment effectively waives the City's confidentiality, she didn't want him waiving HER confidentiality.  Whew!  This was one for the ages!  All that ended at 8:25 and we had four more hours to go!  Ugh!

SMALL LOT ORDINANCE CHANGES APPROVED
Public Hearing #2 was the amendment to the Small Lot Ordinance.  Several speakers expressed concern that these modifications were just more developer giveaways.  I'm giving you the short version.  After a 30 minute discussion during which the parking changes were the primary focus, the council gave first reading to the changes on a 3-2 vote - Genis and Foley voted no.

SENIOR COMMISSION UP TO SEVEN
Old Business #1, the expansion of the Senior Commission from five members to seven, took about two minutes and passed, 5-0.

FINANCIAL AND BUDGET POLICIES APPROVED
We then launched off into the three Finance-related issues, guided by Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent.  The first was the Financial and Budget Policies, which passed, 4-1, with Genis voting no because of a language issue.

GENERAL FUND RESERVE STUDY
The next was the discussion of the General Fund Reserves Study.  Following a 45 minute discussion - during which Foley and Righeimer agreed that the staff report was too conservative - the council passed the plan, 4-1, with Monahan voting no.  The staff report was modified to make the Reserves goal $55 million,  and the annual contribution to the Reserves $1.5 million, part of which would be the annual repayment of money the State stole from us.  That should be around $700,000 each year for the next 10 years or so.  The staff report wanted just over $63 million, with up to $2 million annually going toward the reserves.  Keep in mind that our reserves were over $73 million before the recession the end of the last decade.

BUDGET REVIEW
The third item was the Mid-Year Budget Review.  Among the suggestions by speakers were an accelerated payment of the Fire Side Fund.  One speaker was concerned about where the legal costs were paid from, since the Self Insurance fund normally associated with it has been depleted to just about $2 million from $22 just a few years ago.  Nobody seemed particularly concerned about that.  The council passed the staff report, 4-1, with Genis voting no.

NO SEPARATE SURVEY
Finally, at 10:45 and without a break, we launched off into Mensinger's request for a Fairview Park Use Survey. After a 30 minute discussion - during which Righeimer, in particular, showed impatience with the process, stating that he "just wanted to get it behind us" - the first of sixteen (16) members of the public stepped up to address this issue.  Even Hutchins rejected the survey idea - but he took a completely out of context jab at Foley for her vote on the Police Pensions half a decade ago.  Of those, only the final speaker - Mensinger friend, Chuck Perry - said anything even remotely in support of Mensinger's scheme.  All the others, in one way or the other, rejected the need for the survey.  Eventually, at 12:15 a.m., the council voted 5-0 to NOT conduct a separate survey, but fold some Fairview Park-specific questions into the scope of work for the consultant that will soon be retained to facilitate the update of the Master Plan of Parks and Open Spaces.  The council will consider that contract at it's next meeting on March 17th.  So, Steve didn't get his survey

MORE MARATHON INFO REQUESTED
The council moved quickly through the "pulled" Consent Calendar items until they got to #8, the Orange County Marathon issue.  Righeimer excused himself and left the auditorium because "Scott Baugh is the Chairman  and I don't want to hear about it."  It turns out, based on the testimony by Gary Kucher, who runs the Marathon, that Baugh is NOT the chairman of anything.  He is a member of the OC Marathon Foundation Board.  Foley wanted to know specifics about the costs to the city for supporting the marathon - specifically, the costs and reimbursement for the CMPD and CMFD.  During the conversation it came out that the  charges had been reduced a couple years ago, apparently because Costa Mesa charged more than other cities.  The discussion took about 30 minutes, but they finally passed the item, 4-0, with Righeimer out of the room and we finally adjourned at 12:45 a.m.! Arrgghh!



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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

It's "Survey Time" - A Little Help For The Rookie

STEVE'S BOGUS SURVEY
Tonight, at the very end of the Costa Mesa City Council meeting, Rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger will have the staff present his scheme to hire a consultant to do a survey of the populace about the future of Fairview Park.  As you know, I think this is a waste of time and resources and is just a stalling tactic to keep from having to face the inevitable - the fact that approximately 90% of the people who have spoken on this issue at nearly 20 months of Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meetings have said, nay, SHOUTED, that they want Fairview Park to remain in a natural state.

HERE'S A LITTLE HELP
So, to help things along, I hereby offer a little sample survey that The Rookie may find useful.

Question 1 (True or False)
The mayor and many others have described Fairview Park as "The Jewel of Costa Mesa"?

Question 2 (True or False)
There are protected species in every quadrant of the park.

Question 3 (Yes or No)
It is important to continue to protect those species in the park.

Question 4 (True or False)
There are Native American artifacts in many quadrants of the park.

Question 5 (Yes or No)
It is important to protect and preserve those Native American artifacts.

Question 6 (True or False)
According to the most recent census numbers, Costa Mesa's population is aging.

Question 7 (Yes or No)
It is important to assess ALL our parks and open spaces (including school grounds) BEFORE making any decision one way or the other about the future of Fairview Park. 

Question 8 (True or False)
Most advocates for more playing fields have acknowledged within the past several months that the problem is not with the shortage of playing fields, but the shortage of LIGHTED playing fields.

Question 9 (Yes or No)
Any shortage of playing fields could be resolved by better cooperation between the City of Costa Mesa and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Question 10 (Select any that apply)
Any survey about the future of Fairview Park should include the opinions of the following groups:
      A - People who use Fairview Park regularly
      B - People who use Fairview Park occasionally
      C - People who use Fairview Park infrequently
      D - Registered voters in the City of Costa Mesa
      E - Property owners in the City of Costa Mesa
      F - Members of the Orange County Model Engineers
      G - Members of the Harbor Soaring Society
      I - School children in Costa Mesa
      J - Experts in the field of protected plants and animals
      K - Leaders of the Native American tribes
      L - Officials and parents involved in youth sports
     M - Business leaders
      N - Leaders of the Conference and Visitors Bureau
      O - The Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce
      P - State and Federal agencies with oversight responsibilities for the Park
      Q - Every single resident of the City of Costa Mesa
       R - All of the above

THAT'S FOR STARTERS...
So, that's a start.  I know, some of those are "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" kind of questions, but that's kind of the point.  If a survey is approved as recommended, then a consultant will have to be chosen by a - are you ready? - A COMMITTEE!  Yep, another one. 

NO MORE CRONIES!
If that comes to pass, then the configuration of the committee must be made up of those without political ties, with credentials that are impeccable.  No more stacking a committee with cronies.  Heck, maybe we need a committee to select the committee to select the consultant!

ACCOUNT FOR EVERY PENNY!
Tonight, maybe in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a decision will be made on this issue - an issue that is ONLY about politics, not about the future of Fairview Park.  If it is approved, I want to know EVERY PENNY that is spent on it - staff time, consultant time... every penny.  I don't care if it comes from CEO Tom Hatch's slush fund - it's still municipal dollars that are being spent unnecessarily and I want an accounting of it, unlike the 60th Anniversary debacle.  No excuses... EVERY PENNY!





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I-405 Toll Lanes A "Dangerous, Slippery Slope"

KIM AND HARPER ANNOUNCE AB 1459
This morning - on a bright, sunny morning, in a parking lot on the haunches of the I-405 Freeway in Costa Mesa - Fullerton Assemblywoman Young Kim, Huntington Beach Assemblyman Matt Harper and several members of the 405 Freeway Cities Coalition held a press conference to announce the introduction of Assembly Bill 1459, co-authored by Kim and Harper.
 WOULD REQUIRE A 2/3 VOTE OF RESIDENTS
The bill, if passed, would hamstring the efforts of CalTrans to turn segments of major Orange County highways into toll roads by requiring a 2/3 vote of Orange County voters before ANY "toll facilities" could be constructed or implemented on any public highway in Orange County.  "Toll Facility" is described as, "a toll road, toll bridge, toll lane, or any other facility on a public highway within boundaries of the County of Orange for which a toll is to be charged, and includes the entire length of the portion of the public highway that is subject to the toll".  It also includes a high-occupancy toll lane.
MANY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES PRESENT
In addition to Kim and Harper, those present included Costa Mesa Rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger and Councilwoman Katrina Foley; Huntington Beach Mayor Jill Hardy; Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey; Seal Beach Councilman Gary Miller; Fountain Valley Councilman Mark McCurdy and Rossmoor Community Services District Director Ron Casey.  There were also representatives of the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) present to observe.  It is the extension of the San Joaquin Toll Road that got this whole thing going in the first place.  Their organization will make a presentation at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting tonight.
THE MEDIA
The event was covered by ABC, NBC, PBS SoCal, Radio Station KFI, The Daily Pilot and a couple bloggers - Vern Nelson from The Orange Juice Blog and me.
HARPER LAUNCHED, THEN HANDED OFF TO CAREY
Harper kicked the event off by making introductions and a short speech.  He then handed the baton to Carey, who provided some background on this issue and emphasized the need for the proposed widening of the I-405 through the corridor cities - Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Westminster, Seal Beach and Los Alamitos - in which $1.3 billion of Measure M2 funds are proposed for this project.  She stressed the lanes should be FREE lanes, including any High Occupancy Lanes.

MILLER NEXT UP...
Next Miller, the Seal Beach councilman and member of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board, spoke.  He also stressed the need to NOT build Toll Lanes.
KIM CARRIED THE BALL
Next up was Young Kim, who described this attempt to hijack the freeway expansion for use as a toll facility as a "dangerous, slippery slope".  She said "We cannot allow Caltrans to force toll lanes down our throats."  She emphasized that it should be the decision of the residents of Orange County, not the state bureaucrats in Sacramento".  She stated that, "the Orange County Transportation Authority has twice voted to reject toll lanes of the I-405, yet Caltrans continues to try and march forward."  She painted a picture of such toll lanes being created throughout the state if this initiative by Caltrans is not successfully opposed.
NO VISIBLE STATEWIDE DEMOCRAT SUPPORT
I heard the speeches and agree with the idea, but worry about the ability of Kim and Harper to get this bill passed in a greedy, tax-oriented Democrat-dominated legislature.  For example, while there were local elected Democrats at this press conference, there were NO state-wide elected Democrats present.  This does not bode well for the possibility of this bill passing.  I hope they can convince some Democrats in the Assembly and/or the Senate to hop on board with this bill, or I fear it will follow the same path that most bills introduced by Republicans recently have taken - straight into the toilet.  I guess we'll see.  Stay tuned...

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