This is OCTA Board Chairman Gregory Winterbottom, in his natural state. You may remember him a few weeks ago, when Diana Lee Carey finished a speech with the exasperated cry, “And if I hear the term ‘locally preferred alternative’ one more time, I’m gonna have to be carried out of here by security!” and Greg quickly cracked, “That might not be such a bad idea.” After which a few people laughed, uncomfortably.
Fancying himself to be possessed of a mordant sense of humor, and also fancying himself to be smarter and wittier than any of his colleagues on the dais, this crustacean has been on the Board for twenty years – clinging like a barnacle to the hull since 1993. He treats his fellow directors with bonhomie or contempt depending on whether they agree with him, and he treats the lowly public with just plain contempt.
Wait, you say – Winterbottom? Doesn’t ring a bell. How is he on the Board – for twenty years even? He’s an elected official from where??
Nope, Greg is a “public member,” one of two “public members” serving on the 18-member Board, the structure of which Lou Correa put together back when he was a baby assemblyman.
What’s a “public member,” you ask? Oh, you’ll love this:
15 of the OCTA Board’s 18 members are elected officials – our five supervisors, and then two Mayors or Councilpeople from each supervisorial district for a total of ten, chosen in a manner you don’t want to hear about, you’ll drift off.
There is one non-voting representative of Caltrans, whose job is merely to nod menacingly and say nice things about toll lanes when asked to.
And then there are the two “public members” – named so, we assume, in Lou’s Godlike sense of ironic humor, as they are not chosen by the public, are not accountable to the public, and are the least accessible to the public. (The other one is Michael Hennessy, a real nice guy, but… it goes without saying that BOTH public members, as isolated from the public and identified with the OCTA bureaucracy as they are, are DYING to put toll lanes on all our freeways.)
Friday morning’s meeting
This Nov. 8 meeting having been touted so widely as THE ONE where the final decision on toll lanes would be made, it was PACKED with concerned members of the public and the press.
Orange Juice and the OC Register in the house, representing! (I believe I was texting Diamond here, he wanted updates)
There is nothing that disgusts and incommodes Chairman Winterbottom more than the sight and sound of the great unwashed in his hearing room, and he doesn’t much care for the TV cameras there either. So, a strategy of delay having been already settled on for various reasons, he sent out an e-mail the day before making sure the world knew that the final decision wouldn’t be made that day, and strongly suggesting that nobody should show up.
As 9:00 neared and it became obvious that public and press had not picked up on the Chairman’s subtle hint, with standing room only in the hearing room and the overflow room nearly packed too (Eric Bever cracked last year, “overflow room – sounds like the world’s worst restroom”) he stormed out on his electric wheelchair to hector the crowd. We will not be voting on 405 improvements today, we will be voting on delay, so you might not want to stick around. The meeting hadn’t even started. His fellow directors – the ones who were already milling about – immediately shot back in protest – these people took their mornings off work and came all the way down here to talk to us, and WE ARE GOING TO LISTEN TO THEM. Not for the first time that morning, the Chairman was slapped down.
There followed a 90-minute discussion on DELAY – very few folks on this Board are ever at a loss for words (a reticent Eastman more than compensated for by a logorrheac Spitzer or Pulido.) Pretty much everyone on the dais wanted to delay the vote. Toll supporters wanted to delay till Dec 9 (which ended up passing unanimously) so they could get assurances from the Caltrans chief that the state wouldn’t come in and take all the OCTA’s precious toll revenues should Alt 3 pass. Pat Bates thought there was enough reason, enough unanswered questions, to justify delaying till the spring, while Moorlach said “A whole YEAR would be fine with me.”
THAT kind of reckless talk frightened the OCTA brass, who protested that the projected costs go up the longer this is delayed. I tend to be cynical about such claims, which they could be manufacturing out of thin air – seen ‘em do it. What really troubles them is that a one-year delay of toll lanes would mean a one-year delay of their revenue gravy train.
Then it was time for what most of us were there for – to speak to the Board about our reasons for being against (or for) the toll lanes. But before the public could get started, Winterbottom decreed: “There are so many of you here today, I’m gonna ask you to speak for just one minute each, and only on the topic at hand, which is whether or not we should delay this vote. Nothing else.”
Once again, his colleagues rose up against him, all of them looking good in comparison. Again Moorlach was first. “I move that these members of the public can speak for three minutes about ANYTHING THEY WANT TO!” There was pretty much unanimous agreement to that.
That’s when Winterbottom outdid himself: “Aw, come on, we’ve heard all these people before, we know what they’re gonna say.” PANDEMONIUM from the crowd, and the dais too! Moorlach called Winterbottom patronizing, which was a very gentle choice of words. (For the record, there were plenty of people there for the first time, and the rest of us had new things to say.)
Now we’re trying to determine: How does one remove a “public member” from a Board?
Click here to read the rest of this article.
Be sure to read this one too: The Uprising Against O.C. Toll Lanes. Pt 1