The failure of ARTIC is good reason to reject all Pringle-backed candidates

Anaheim’s new ARTIC transit center will run into a $2 million operating deficit by the end of June, and Anaheim officials will soon consider how to cover the shortfall, according to the O.C. Register.

Of course we all new this was coming.  Former Anaheim Mayor turned lobbyist Curt Pringle drove the ARTIC project – and lied to everyone about the estimated use of this unneeded building.

Anaheim already had a functional train station, in the parking lot of Angel Stadium.   They did not need ARTIC.  And apparently the business community agrees as ARTIC has been unable to attract a sponsor dumb enough to put their name on the empty building, for the sum of over $160K a year.

By June’s end, city officials expect to earn $391,548 in total revenue for ARTIC, falling far below the anticipated $2.38 million cost to keep the facility’s doors open.

Now the Anaheim City Council, which is controlled by Pringle’s hacks, will have to spend $2 million dollars out of their General Fund, which pays for police and fire services, parks, libraries, road repairs and other city necessities, to keep ARTIC open.

It cost $185 million to build ARTIC.  That money is gone forever.  What a waste!

Anaheim’s coffers are on pace to have a surplus of at least $1.5 million above reserves.  Well that money will be gone now – wasted on ARTIC.

Even worse, Anaheim city officials have to come up with a projected a $5.2 million to cover ARTIC’s costs next year.

Kris Murray & Curt Pringle

Kris Murray & Curt Pringle

So of course Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, the ringleader of the Pringle cabal, thinks it is OK to blow the reserve money on ARTIC.

“We wouldn’t be dipping into reserves or city services to pay for ARTIC, we would be dipping into surplus revenue from the city,” Councilwoman Kris Murray said. “There are several avenues to explore to earn some revenue for ARTIC, and I want to see any money that goes toward these early operations to be repaid once the station becomes revenue-positive.”

The OCTA paid for the bulk of ARTIC’s construction costs through funds collected under Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax approved by voters to pay for transportation projects across the region. Pringle was the Measure M’s pimp – and I don’t know how he can rationalize to voters how their tax money has been wasted.

ARTIC is also failing to meet an opening-day promise of 10,000 riders who either board or depart mass-transit. That figure was used to lure companies that might provide naming rights, advertising or other support for the station. The transit center is still boasted by city officials as eventually becoming a terminus for high-speed rail, but the bullet train won’t likely reach Orange County’s most populous city for another generation, if ever.

10,000? What a joke! “An average of 460 Metrolink and 300 Amtrak passengers boarded trains daily at the Anaheim station during the first month of operation in December.”

I feel bad for the poor restaurants who overpaid to have locations at ARTIC.  Who in the world goes to a train station to eat expensive food?  If you ride the train you have minutes to catch the next leg.  Maybe you might have time to grab a pretzel and take it with you but no one is going to go eat dinner at a train station.  How ridiculous!

There is only one way to prevent these stupidities in the future.  Do not ever vote for ANYONE endorsed by Curt Pringle!  You will find his acolytes on City Councils, School Boards and Water Boards.  Look for the Pringle brand and NEVER vote for anyone he supports.  We have to kill the Pringle machine before it causes more damage.

Don’t forget that Pringle’s minions also control the OC Taxpayers Association and the OC Business Council.  So their endorsements are equally suspect!

The backlash against Pringle has already started by the way.  His chosen hack Don Wagner lost to real conservative John Moorlach a few weeks ago, in their race to replace Mimi Walters in the State Senate.


Anaheim Streetcar Project Poor Candidate for Federal Funding

In what could be a major blow to Anaheim's planned streetcar system, federal officials are indicating that the project is a poor candidate for the federal funding program expected to pay for at least half of its construction costs, according to several sources with knowledge of the situation.

Supporters envision the streetcar as a vital addition to the city’s transportation infrastructure, connecting key destinations in the city, including Disneyland, the convention center, Platinum Triangle development and GardenWalk outdoor mall. They claim it would generate significant investment along the 3.2-mile route and provide a bigger boost in public transit ridership than an enhanced bus alternative.

But the project has also come under intense criticism for its nearly $320-million price tag – which tops an Orange County Transportation Authority survey as most expensive when compared to 11 systems proposed around the country -- and because the preferred route would knock down a cluster of family-owned businesses.

Local officials are aiming to win funding for the project under the Federal Transit Authority’s (FTA) highly competitive New Starts program. But several sources say the FTA has given a cold reception for an expensive project that they say would primarily serve to ferry tourists to Disneyland.

Specifically, sources say Supervisor Shawn Nelson, during a trip to Washington DC, was told by FTA officials that the project wouldn’t be a good candidate for New Starts funds. Nelson took the trip while he was the chairman of the Transportation Authority Board of Directors last year, according to sources.

Nelson didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. But other sources have also confirmed that the FTA isn’t excited about the project.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, a vocal opponent of the project and Transportation Authority board member, said he’s “heard the same thing” from Transportation Authority officials.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Authority's current chairman, Jeffrey Lalloway, also a critic of the Anaheim project, said he wasn’t surprised, but stopped short of saying he’s been told that FTA officials don’t like the project.

“As with most of the board, the FTA probably has some skepticism about the Anaheim project,” Lalloway said.

FTA officials refused to comment specifically, saying in an emailed statement that Anaheim hasn’t yet submitted an application for New Starts funding and the agency “is not required” to evaluate and rate projects until later in the competitive process.

“Therefore, we cannot comment on whether or not the project would be a qualified candidate for federal funding,” the statement reads.

It's unclear how local officials would plan on funding the project if the city's bid for New Starts grant funding were to be rejected. City planning documents say they  expect New Starts to fund over $150 million of the project's cost.

In addition to the apparently poor chance of winning FTA funding, the project also faces other hurdles that could prove insurmountable.

The project has stalled since Paul Durand -- one of the owners of the businesses to be knocked down to make way for the streetcar -- went public with his concerns last year. City leaders responded by directing staff to find an alternative route that wouldn’t require the city to forcibly acquire and demolish the privately owned buildings.

Transportation Authority leaders have made it clear they aren’t excited about the prospect of infringing on private property rights. At the Feb. 23 board meeting, board Director Todd Spitzer told Anaheim’s public works director, Natalie Meeks, to “figure out” how to avoid taking Duran’s businesses.

“This board, the prior board, has been very clear -- we’re not using eminent domain to wipe out a family business,” Spitzer said at the meeting.

But the alternative that city officials are reportedly studying, which would direct the streetcar down Disney Way, does not call for riders to be dropped off directly across from Disneyland’s main gates. If that were the case, the resulting drop in ridership would render the project infeasible, Meeks told Voice of OC in 2013.

"We need to get a station near the front gates, where the people are going, for this system to work," Meeks said at a Transportation Authority board meeting that year.

However, Meeks has since changed her tune, telling the Orange County Register   in May last year that she hadn’t noticed any “fatal flaws” with the Disney Way route alternative.

City spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz didn’t return a Voice of OC phone call and email requesting an interview with Meeks for this article.

Also, several sources have expressed renewed doubts about the streetcar’s projected 4,200 daily riders since a Voice of OC article revealed that ridership projections for the city’s new transit hub, known as the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), fell drastically short of estimates.

“Obviously the actual ARTIC boarding numbers clearly show that the ridership projections for the streetcar are wildly inflated,” Tait said.

Said Lalloway: “When planning transportation projects you’ve got to be careful about relying on inflated projection numbers and instead rely on the viability of a project in its totality.”

Meanwhile, other board members have concerns about the technological incompatibility between Santa Ana’s planned streetcar system, which is farther along in the planning stages and estimated to be millions cheaper, and the Anaheim line. Local officials hope the two systems can one day connect.

“I do think the projects only make sense if they somehow relate to each other,” said Transportation Authority board member Michael Hennessey, who said he is undecided on the Anaheim project.

Cynthia Ward addresses OCTA on Disney Streetcar

Disclaimer: this is a rough outline provided to Save Anaheim and is not verbatim what Mrs. Ward said. We will be posting the audio and transcript from the relevant speakers as soon as possible.

By Cynthia Ward: 

This streetcar seems to be focused on getting approval for Federal funding more than focused on whether or not it actually makes sense.

Making sense seems to have been Supervisor Moorlach’s focus when he asked, “What problem are we trying to solve?”

If this congestion along the corridor is such a problem that we are looking for $300 million from taxpayers to fix it, have the businesses on Katella already done all they could to address it on their own? Not one of the highly profitable businesses listed as destinations on the streetcar line-Honda Center, Convention Center, Angel Stadium or Disneyland, offer discounts or incentives for High Occupancy Vehicles or using Metrolink or Angel’s Express.

So when Director Spitzer asked what the private sector is putting on the table, I would have to say,  “Very Little.”

I appreciate that Supervisor Nelson respects Anaheim’s decision to build the streetcar. But I would like you to know that this was not Anaheim’s choice, this was the choice of three Anaheim elected leaders, not the people of Anaheim, who are largely still in the dark about this project. It was never presented to us.

Here is a clip of Shawn Nelson speaking to Los Amigos about the streetcar funding: 

The September 12, 2012 public meeting referred to in the staff reports where you believe residents were shown the Alternatives Analysis, did not reveal the final AA! Instead, this first public meeting in over 2 years told residents this was an update, with promises of a final Alternatives Analysis to come. The AA was then posted to the ARC website on October 3rd, without public notice, without public comment period, and 20 days later the Anaheim City Council-on the Consent Calendar, not a Public Hearing-was asked to make a decision.

The project was shoved through Anaheim like meat in a sausage factory. When Mayor Tait brought up the same questions this Board has asked, rather than continue for one meeting to address those concerns, he was overruled on a 3-2 vote, and a humiliating exchange between Natalie Meeks and Kris Murray essentially sent Tom Tait the message, “we have been studying this for years, we had meetings,  it was on the internet, where have you been? Try to keep up.”

Curt Pringle, Alexis Pringle, Kris Murray, and Steve Murray. 

Curt Pringle, Alexis Pringle, Kris Murray, and Steve Murray. 

I wondered where I had been as well, having followed the project since 2009 when I signed up repeatedly for notifications!  I filed a public records request in December, asking for public notice that the final AA doc was posted to the internet on October 3rd. It turns out I had not missed it, I was not notified of the release. NOBODY was, nor did public comments turn up to show anyone had seen it! In fact, if Natalie Meeks wants to tell you she engaged the public, I would love to hear her explanation for why there was no notice!

Does this make sense? Does it make sense to you that visitors, with only one option to get from the train station to the Resort or Convention Center will not get on a bus because it is not the streetcar they want? This is a captive audience! They will gladly accept any transportation offered.

Natalie Meeks

Natalie Meeks

 The Alternatives Analysis says the reason visitors don’t use the ART bus now is because of inconvenient stops and stations, but it seems like that might be a lot easier to fix than building a whole streetcar system. If ART does not want to service visitors effectively, perhaps we can turn the system over to OCTA, you manage to move over 13,000 people per weekday on the BRAVO system! Miguel Pulido is looking for systems with connectivity between Anaheim and Santa Ana. We have one now. It is called a bus.

Since the 90s when we talked of a people mover, we have blown through millions trying to find a public sector answer for what is ultimately a private sector problem-the mitigation of traffic impacts from the paying customers of very profitable corporate entities.  Kris Murray said at the last meeting that Disney cannot build their 3rd gate until we get those cars off the road, so let’s allow the most brilliant Imagineers in the world to do what they do best and create a solution for their own problems, because so far government has wasted a lot of money making a mess of the situation.

Let’s do something that makes sense, please.

 

ART shuttles Duplicate $319 Million Streetcar route

From The OC Politics Blog:

Once again, the OC Register’s failed its own Affliction Test and missed easily researched facts that the proposed end points of Anaheim’s $319 million streetcar debacle are already served by the 11 year-old Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) system, a public-private partnership operating shuttle buses between Disneyland’s Main Gate and dozens of hotels and other tourists stops throughout the Anaheim Resort District.  ART also serves attractions and shopping areas in Orange, Buena Park, Santa Ana and the Garden Grove hotels which focus on Disney guests and conventioneers.

Kris Murray

Register writer Marroquin might have discovered this for his 3/27 story via some simple research on this Blog or by sticking his head out a window.  ART operates 18 routes daily with over 60 buses of different capacities to match their varying passenger loads (they also operated small electric buses a few years ago, and still may).  ART’s been successful and grown rapidly, per this 2012 Register story, by adding stops at non-Disney attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm, Discovery Science Center, MainPlace and GardenWalk.

A simple shuttle bus system like ART does not operate on a “fixed guideway” like the steel rails embedded in the roadway a streetcar uses.   Buses don’t need a dedicated overhead high-voltage power supply infrastructure as discussed below.  This means buses are far less expensive to operate and much more flexible as they’re easily rerouted when new requirements emerge or usage patterns change (temporarily or permanently), AND there’s little infrastructure costs other than bus stops, signage, seating and perhaps shelters.  Buses are less expensive to buy than streetcars and far easier to maintain by ordinary mechanics.

Read the full story here:

http://ocpoliticsblog.com/register-misses-the-bus-again/

Pringle's Folly

From The OC Politics Blog:

EB-from-Haster.jpg

About five years ago when he was the Mayor of Anaheim, Curt Pringle dreamed of a regional transportation center for his city — a place they named ARTIC which would be the Orange County station for the equally dreamy California High-Speed Rail system which would be zipping through town on its way to San Diego, or charging northward to LA’s Union Station (over, under or through some of the densest urban residential housing in California) and onto San Francisco and Sacramento.

Curt Pringle

Curt Pringle

The Mayor-for-hire, as he was known at Friends for Fullerton Future, or Master of the Universe as he was tagged last year at the union-funded Voice of OC, didn’t stop with just a $184 million train stationthat would partly be paid for by OCTA’s Measure M where Board Member Pringle sat for years.  From concocted ridership projections, he fantasized that Disney patrons would be coming to ARTIC by the millions, but still needed to be transported to the Mouse’s cash registers, miles away from the bullet train, and on the wrong side of the 5 Freeway.  Since Walt Disney already had a world-famous one, Pringle announced in 2007 that he needed aMONORAIL for the Disney visitors.

Read the full story here:

http://ocpoliticsblog.com/pringles-folly/#more-10591

Anaheim Releases Questionable Emails

Anaheim officials Monday released an email chain that has raised questions at City Hall over whether local officials planned to misrepresent information to a federal agency in order to obtain transportation grant funding.

The emails were released following a Voice of OC article published last Friday that quoted Mayor Tom Tait and other City Hall sources saying that on its face the email was “very disturbing.”

Natalie Meeks on the left with Kris Murray

Natalie Meeks on the left with Kris Murray

The Feb. 2008 email chain shows Anaheim Public Works Director Natalie Meeks planning to ask for funds for one phase of the then planned monorail project but actually use the money for something else. The project has since been changed to a proposal for a less expensive streetcar system.

According to Tait, who has questioned the cost of the proposed streetcar system, there were two explanations for the email chain. One explanation has it being little more than confused wording, but another indicates a plan to deceive federal officials, Tait said.

City spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz said Monday that it is the former.

Read the full story here:

http://www.voiceofoc.org/oc_north/article_16bd092e-6f5b-11e2-846b-001a4bcf887a.html

Scandals could STOP Disney

From the OC Politics Blog:

“Anaheim city officials are weighing whether to release a politically explosive email that raises troubling questions about whether local officials knowingly misrepresented facts to the federal government in order to obtain transportation grant funding,” according to the Voice of OC.

3350653689_11f1149bd5.jpg

The Voice of OC also reported that “City Hall sources who have seen the email, including Mayor Tom Tait, say that on its face the correspondence shows that Natalie Meeks, the city’s public works director, and Darrell Johnson, deputy CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority, may have colluded to misrepresent information on an application for Federal Transit Authority funds for the $319-million streetcar project that would connect Disneyland to the city’s planned public transit depot.”

Anaheim City Attorney Cristina Talley was forced to resign, by the Council majority, because she advised that the records requested by activists and the media had to be turned over for review.

But in the end this scandal may well return Talley to her post – and could end up not only derailing the multi-million dollar street car system that Disney wants taxpayers to pay for, it could also result in the ouster of the Council majority.

In related news, the Voice of OC also reported that “Two planned four-star hotels near Anaheim’s GardenWalk mall could be built without taxpayer subsidies in one to two years, according to hotel financing experts, calling into question subsidy supporters’ central argument that the hotels can’t be built without the controversial incentives.”

You might recall that Disney, with their friends at the SOAR PAC, pushed hard over the past few years to spend hundreds of millions of hotel tax dollars on subsidizing the GardenWalk hotels.

Why Disney is so hot to burn through taxpayer money on unneeded street cars and hotels that should be financed privately is a very good question.  Remember that Disney spent a fortune this past year to elect former Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly to represent the 68th Assembly District.  Well they better enjoy it for now because Daly will surely lose in 2014 when area Latino activists run one good candidate against him.  But for now he will be doing his best to push tax dollars into Disney’s corner – Mickey Mouse welfare if you will.

We should not tolerate Disney’s meddling in local politics and their desire to waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Read more at:

http://ocpoliticsblog.com/scandals-could-stop-disney-from-wasting-tax-money-on-streetcars-hotels/

Did Natalie Meeks & OCTA lie to the Federal Government?

From The Voice of OC:

Anaheim city officials are weighing whether to release a politically explosive email that raises troubling questions about whether local officials knowingly misrepresented facts to the federal government in order to obtain transportation grant funding.

The email has been requested by a local activist under the California Public Records Act. The issue comes just as council members abruptly fired their city attorney, who had advised them that the sensitive email is a public document.

City Hall sources who have seen the email, including Mayor Tom Tait, say that on its face the correspondence shows that Natalie Meeks, the city's public works director, and the deputy CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority, may have colluded to misrepresent information on an application for Federal Transit Authority funds for the $319-million streetcar project that would connects Disneyland to the city’s planned public transit depot.

Natalie Meeks

Natalie Meeks

Johnson was recently appointed CEO of the billion-dollar OCTA, a position he will assume at the end of this month. OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnick said Johnson wouldn't comment on an email he hasn't seen. Meeks could not be immediately reached for comment.

Darrell Johnson OCTA

Darrell Johnson OCTA

Yet Tait is talking, and he said he's not happy about what he’s seen.

“I've asked [City Manager] Bob Wingenroth to look into it … because I'm disturbed by what it says on the face of it,” Tait said.

 The explanation he's been given so far is that the email could be interpreted in different ways, Tait said. Under one interpretation, it's a problem of semantics. Under another, it's a plan to misrepresent facts to a federal agency.

Officials planned to apply for a grant to finance an early phase of the project known as an alternatives analysis but then use the funds for preliminary engineering, according to sources who have seen the email.

“The initial explanation was it had to do with semantics on preliminary engineering,” said Tait, who voted against advancing the project in October 2012.  He said that among other reasons, he questioned whether alternatives to the project, such as buses or a monorail, had been fully explored.

The proposal is to have streetcars, essentially 10 fixed-track buses, transporting riders from the future Anaheim Intermodal Transportation Center westward to the Disneyland resort, with stops at the Platinum Triangle and Convention Center.

The email turned up after City Hall activist Cynthia Ward requested records from personal email accounts related to the streetcar project, according to City Hall sources.

The email in question came from a city official’s personal email account, and City Attorney Cristina Talley advised that such records had to be turned over for review.

Revelations about the email come on the heels of Talley's resignation this week, but sources have not indicated any connection between the two incidents.

The council majority told Talley at Tuesday night's council meeting to resign or face being fired.

Ward says she received a tip from a City Hall source that the email showed the supposed misrepresentation.

“I had a piece of information passed along to me from an anonymous source that indicated that,” Ward said. “But I was never given any proof I could go to anybody with to force the issue, so I've been forced to just sit and wait and see if that piece of information turns up when they finally released the documents.”

Ward requested on Dec. 13 a slew of records related to the streetcar project, including emails and other communications between OCTA and city officials from 2007 to 2012.

Ward has yet to receive the requested records because city officials are still processing the request, according to city correspondence to Ward.

Whether the email, which Voice of OC has also requested, will be made public remains unclear.

Anaheim officials have in the past ordered records purges.

In late 2011, Planning Department officials ordered employees to destroy "old" or "unnecessary" emails because they could be used to embarrass public officials. Employees were threatened with disciplinary action if they didn't comply with the directive.

Shortly after the records purge orders, a Planning Department manager reportedly went on a records shredding spree. City officials said that the destroyed records were business license forms, but other City Hall sources dispute that contention.

Why do we need a $92 million underpass?

The OC Register is reporting that five business near the train crossing at Katella and State College are in danger of being taken via imminent domain to build an underpass. For those of us who travel over those train tracks frequently, the questions is why the hell do we need an underpass?. Traffic flows well without it. Apparently projections show that by 2030 about 95 trains will pass thru. Wonder what type of crystal ball they use to come up these numbers.

mhf97r-b781057127z.120130129204200000goc1c7b9a.1.jpg

Anaheim's public works director Natalie Meeks states that "With the development anticipated in the Platinum Triangle, it will become more important." What development in Curt Pringle's massive failure entitled the Platinum Triangle. The Platinum Triangle used to be the home to thriving businesses and now it is made up of empty dirt lots. Dirt lots that generate no revenue for the city.

I'm sure f we dug a little deeper we'd find that Pringle and Assoc. is representing folks connected to this waste of public funds. But that is only speculation.

The Great Streetcar

By Cynthia Ward

The Anaheim Resort’s millions of guests drive our local economy, but those visitors also create significant traffic congestion. Over the objections of Mayor Tom Tait, the Anaheim City Council approved a $318,000,000.00 publicly-funded streetcar system to transport Resort visitors and employees. Although Disney uses buses almost exclusively at their Florida property, and the price tag of $53,000,000.00 made buses comparatively more affordable, enhanced bus service was astonishingly dismissed as undesirable-read “not sexy enough.”

Natlie Meeks and Kris Murray

Natlie Meeks and Kris Murray

A recent study by transportation expert Randall O’Toole, debunks the arguments used by City Council, and a staff promoting their own obvious agenda.

Streetcars are more expensive to purchase and operate than buses. Their fixed track and power systems are costly and disruptive to existing traffic, and especially problematic for pedestrians. Buses offer greater flexibility, enabling the addition of vehicles for peak hours-critical to address the unique traffic patterns of Anaheim, with crunch time not driven by conventional issues like rush hour so much as variable influences like closing time at Disneyland, last innings at the Stadium, or events at the Honda Center. Buses are easily removed or replaced for service, while a disabled streetcar renders the system unusable, and leaving traffic clogged around a stalled streetcar.

City Council claims economic development follows streetcar projects, but Council’s cited examples in other cities show heavily subsidized projects designed by central planners trying to socially engineer us out of our vehicles. Perhaps the next step from Council is a proposal for subsidized projects similar to Portland, after all the Platinum Triangle has been an abject failure so far. Even if we wanted to underwrite the development of that area, where are we to find the money? With Redevelopment dead, bed taxes are the only remaining funding source for development subsidies. The last time we tapped into TOT for private development incentives was at the Gardenwalk, with an agreement so controversial that nearly a year later Councilmember Murray is still buying ads and working a massive PR program using campaign money to justify her decision to voters.

Meanwhile, traffic impacts, and funding sources for operating and maintenance costs have still not been determined, despite the Mayor’s requests, and a $6,000,000.00 report that taxpayers covered! While the money we have already spent failed to address traffic impacts and other vital questions, we are expected to trust those numbers in moving forward. Now $9,000,000 for yet another study has been awarded to Hill International, the employer of candidate Steve Lodge, who stands to pull in 1% of that contract as a finder’s fee. This “objective” decision to award the project to Hill was made by Public Works Director Natalie Meeks, who is understood to have close personal friendships with Lodge and his wife, who also works as an Executive at Hill. Council member Murray is also a member of the “powerful woman in government funded projects” club with Meeks and the new Mrs. Lodge. But I am sure it is all above board.

Anaheim’s contentious Council majority would have us believe that in demanding answers Mayor Tait is obstructing progress. But the Mayor’s caution in spending our tax money is a refreshing contrast to the irresponsible and reckless speed with which our leaders and City staff have forced this issue. It seems they cannot spend that “free” tax money fast enough.