Lurking in the back of the OCTA‘s Measure M
Wasteful Boondoggles Projects File is another streetcar project in Santa Ana. It’s not as expensive (for now) as the $319 million debacle that’s been cooked up in Anaheim by the City Council and the Toontown Troika of SOAR, the OC Business Council and Master of the Universe Curt Pringle’s team of lackeys, but it’s just as big a turkey, and just as redundant to existing bus systems. The Register reports today (don’t worry about the paywall) that so far it’s coming in at a minor $209 million even though it’s longer and has five times more stops than the Murray/Eastman Express.
From Lou Gonzales’ story, there are some absolutely priceless quotes from a clueless, in-the-dark City Councilman and his colleague, Michele Martinez, a failed Mayoral candidate:
Councilman Vincent F. Sarmiento asked what the project would cost, and where the money comes from. One of the questions to me is always, why are you doing this? Why is this necessary?” he said. “I don’t have a lot of answers. It’s unfortunate, because I’d like to be able to represent what this means, what it’s going to result in, and we’re a little thin on that.”
In short, who’s going to ride this thing and why?
Cindy Krebs, a “consultant who is the city’s project manager” has been working this project for years, but we can’t find out much about her. What’s her rate? Is she an engineer? How’d she get hired? Who does she work for? Was she sole-sourced? Is she associated with Mayor Pulido’s corrupt pals at Cordoba Corporation that were handed the streetcar project even though they’d been underbid? (And what of that Grand Jury investigation of the Santa Ana’s Public Work Director?). Krebs maintains a very low profile and hasn’t a LinkedIn or Facebook account we can find except for a one-page website.
We do know Krebs FAILed at selling a similar mega-expensive project in Irvine a few years ago: Irvine OKs mass-transit system when she was working with a convicted felon, Marty Bryant, a cocaine dealer who was the CEO at the Irvine Great Park (great reference there). The combined Irvine streetcar/bus system (she recommended two different modes to go five miles) never went anywhere as Lucy Dunn at the OCBC maneuvered the funding away, with Steven Choi’s help, to parking and rail enhancement projects for the Metrolink. The Register had reported that the project was “to use $121 million that was first allocated to the city in 1990 for a transportation system near John Wayne Airport” — this money was originally from Proposition 116 which voters approved to build, with matching city funds, a “fixed guideway” transportation system in Irvine. Dunn’s on the California Transportation Commission, so the voters can pound sand as she knows their needs better than what they incorrectly voted for. Irvine later built a valueless, riderless shuttle bus system with OPM.
More priceless quotes from the Register:
He [Sarmiento] said the council needed to ask tough questions now, including whether ridership would support the system. “We don’t want this to be a street car that goes nowhere,” he said.
But it does, Vince — it runs from non-existent Harbor Blvd. “Regional Transit Connection & Station” through some of your classier residential neighborhoods to your Metrolink station — you know, that busy underserved transportation corridor that needs the streetcar to get hordes of folks who can’t take a bus to their jobs, schools and shopping. The Register didn’t think to include their map with the online story, so we had to scan it out of the paper:
The map also doesn’t portray where the trolleys will be stored and maintained when they’re not busy
moving Civic Center politicians to the pavement princesses along Harbor Blvd. — that could be a substantial piece of land, and we wonder who owns it now and what it costs. Neither is there any indication of who’s going to pay for the connection along Harbor Blvd., probably the County’s most congested north-south arterial, between the Santa Ana and Anaheim streetcars (who’s kidding who — it’s Measure M again).
Sarmiento goes on:
“One of the questions to me is always, why are you doing this? Why is this necessary?” he said. “I don’t have a lot of answers. It’s unfortunate, because I’d like to be able to represent what this means, what it’s going to result in, and we’re a little thin on that. We can’t make decisions about supporting something like this in a vacuum,” he said. “Is this going to be a burden? Is this going to be an anchor around the necks of our residents, that they’re going to have to pay for and subsidize?”
Sensible questions, Vince. Normally one might identify and qualify the NEED before hiring Cindy Krebs to design solutions to problems that might not exist. Sarmiento just now wants to know “whether ridership would support the system” even though Krebs has been working on it for years. So do a lot of people and Measure M taxpayers. And in a masterful piece of rhetoric, he says “We don’t want this to be a street car that goes nowhere.”
Sarmiento asks where the money’s coming from and Krebs and Mayor Pulido, of course, have an answer – NOT from Santa Ana, it’s broke (Does Bankruptcy Await Santa Ana?).
Potential funding sources…include the renewed Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation, as well as federal transportation sources. Operation and maintenance, she said, would run about $4.5 million a year, with several [unidentified] potential funding sources.
She’s right in this instance — if the turkey’s ever built, like its cousin in Anaheim it’s UP TO THE REST OF THE COUNTY TO PAY FOR IT from the half-cent Measure M sales tax add-on that OC voters have twice approved, foolishly thinking they might see some pavement out of it or expanded instead of cut back bus services. They’ll go after Federal money too, just like every other ludicrous transportation system being built in the country (and compete with Anaheim for it — but unlike their streetcar, maybe Rep. Loretta Sanchez will support this one since she’s “not taken a position” on Anaheim’s):
“We are not looking right now at having to do anything that would be a burden to the city or a burden to the residents,” she said. Mayor Miguel Pulido, who sits on the Orange County Transportation Authority board, said OCTA is debating whether the project should be a city or county project. “What I advocate at OCTA is that it becomes OCTA owned and operated,” he said. “That’s still a decision and debate that we’re going to have.”
Of course Mayor Pulido wants to drop this turd on the OCTA since he can’t and won’t pay for it (but he and his Board allies can vote for it) — that’s where the money is that the rest of us chumps ponied up. Both he and the OCTA are still pissed about the embarrassing shutdown of the CenterLine light rail project years ago that is this thing’s useless predecessor — he wants his train even if his City Council can’t figure out why, and it’s obviously none of their business, or yours.
Update (4/4/13): The union-funded Voice of OC expands on the SA City Council’s communications issues with their slippery Mayor this morning: Santa Ana Council Members Still Feel Out of the Loop. Adam Elmahrek follows on the Register story, and of special interest is this quote from Consultant Krebs that the Reg didn’t get (or print) — asked about the project funding, she said:
At least part of the operations and maintenance costs – pegged at approximately $4.5 million annually – will be paid for by Garden Grove room-tax revenue…
We’d bet a few dollars that that’s never been run by the Garden Grove City Council in open session and approved by their electeds, or that their Chamber or hotel community has asked for a give-away to Santa Ana to build and/or run their train. A related issue here is the ownership and right to run, or develop upon, the Willowick Golf Course — one city owns it, and the other runs it — and we suspect that running a streetcar alongside it might not be agreeable to Garden Grove as there’s no apparent benefit to it.