This is an email that I recently sent to the Orange County Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors in opposition to a project to put in a roughly three-mile trolley system in place between the Anaheim Train Station and Disneyland at a cost to taxpayers well north of 400 million bucks. Much of it from money that could be used to widen the 405 or 91 freeways. You can’t make this stuff up. The OCTA is scheduled to vote on this boondoggle this morning — Flash
LETTER IN OPPOSITION TO “Anaheim Rapid Connection Locally Preferred Alternative” – AKA — The REALLY REALLY Expensive Taxpayer-Funded Trolley to Disneyland’s Front Door.
Dear OCTA Member:
Some of you on the OCTA Board of Directors know me, others do not. By way of introduction my name is Jon Fleischman. I am the publisher of the FlashReport.org website on California politics. I am a former Executive Director of the California Republican Party. Here in Orange County I am a long-time elected member of the Orange County GOP Central Committee, a member of the Lincoln Club, and am an activist for conservative candidates and causes.
I admit that most of my attention is spent focused on what is taking place in Sacramento. These days, with the pervasive control that the state’s public employee unions have in the State Capitol, it’s not pretty. I only reference my focus on State Capitol politics as an explanation for dropping you a last minute, brief note on an issue that frankly deserves much more attention.
Let me caveat my remarks below by saying that as a strong advocate for lower taxes, Measure M, and it’s renewal were two local taxes that I actually supported. All you need to do is look attentively as you cross the border between Orange County and any neighboring county to see what our own investment into transportation infrastructure has meant for the standard of living for all who live here.
That having been said, I have been reading for quite some time about a proposal to used well north of $100,000,000.00 in Measure M funds, paired up with an even larger chunk of federal transportation dollars, to contract an elaborate trolley system to run for a few miles through Anaheim, to basically end at the gates to Disneyland.
THIS IS A TERRIBLE WASTE OF TAXPAYER FUNDS.
Since I mention Disneyland I will throw our a few quick points on DL — I am a financial supporter, as I pay retail for my family to all have Premium passes every year. I visited the park myself over 50 times last year. I have gotten to know many of the people that work for DL, and consider them friends. It upsets me to no end when that company, whose national and state corporate level bias is Democrat, pitches in big bucks to statewide stuff I don’t like (most recently in favor of passing last year’s Prop. 30 statewide sales tax increase). It’s my understanding, by the way, that this proposal calls for Disney Corporation’s contribution to this trolley system to be exactly – zero. Great deal for them!
That having been said, it was never envisioned by me that by voting for Measure M that I would be, in essence, subsidizing the Mouse (with all due respect). It seems like a lack of acknowledgment of entry into the 21st Century that anyone would sink vast sums of money into heavy-duty fixed, in the ground transportation systems. Especially here in California. I say this as I look at our state’s quixotic efforts to lay down a massive High Speed Rail System that I think will never see the light of day, and if it does, it doesn’t show up in Orange County in my lifetime (I am 45).
The way I read it, there is a goal of moving people from Anaheim’s train station to Disneyland (and whatever stops happen to be in-between) — and these I guess would be Metrolink and Amtrak users as I told you I am skeptical of HSR, which Congress now opposes funding. That’s’ great. Use buses. You can use more or less of them depending on demand. And the cost is vastly cheaper. And to those “studies” that show more people would ride a trolley than a bus — well, I’m not really interested in using my tax dollars to provide Cadillac transportation when a chevy will due. And I will withhold editorial comment about the type of people that would “scoff” at riding a bus.
Using buses would not only save a lot of federal money here (and let’s remember we are all citizens of the United States — it is not okay to put federal money to a wasteful use here in Orange County as pork spending). But more importantly, it would free up vast sums of money to do what we desperately need Measure M funds to do — widen and make more usable our freeway system. By my “back of the napkin” match, using buses for this project in Anaheim would free up enough Measure M dollars to add an entire extra non-toll lane both N/B and S/B on the 405 freeway! Or think about those funds used to widen that horrific bottleneck at the 91 going out to the Inland Empire.
In case you hadn’t noticed — traffic in Orange County SUCKS. We should be making sure that NO FUNDS that COULD be used to mitigate freeway traffic are spent elsewhere, where permissible under the guidelines of Measure M.
Look, at this late date you have all probably been woo’d and schmoozed by all of the lobbyists pushing this trolley boondoggle. And no doubt the OCTA staff is “in love” with this sort of “signature project” that allows them to play SimCity with other people’s money.
But you were all elected to the OCTA Board, with an understanding that you represent the interests of those Orange Countians who are funding transportation projects through their sales taxes.
I strongly encourage you to vote against this project. Or at a very minimum continue this proposal and bring in some other points of view both on the folly of spending huge money on trolley systems, and also inviting a broader discussion about best use of Measure M dollars.
If you are a local elected official, looking for GOP support in your next election, you should at least be cognizant that if I feel this strongly about this waste of taxpayer dollars, I’m not going to be the only one.
In closing, I want to reiterate that I am not trying to beat up on my friends at Disneyland. I am used to the idea that corporations in modern times are all about figuring out how to get as much public money spent in ways that benefit them as possible. But it is not their decision to make, it is YOURS.
Remember when you sit in your meeting and the lineup of folks is there to tell you what a great idea this is that there is a reason why taxpayers are not lined up to oppose it — because their representatives in the room, on whom they count, are YOU.
P.S. My favorite “spin” in a cursory review of the staff report is the minimizing of the VAST AND HUGE cost of this trolley project by somehow comparing it to the even more ginormous costs of some sort of Disneyesque above ground monorail system — when the comparison should be between a permanent trolley system versus amping up more buses, which has the advantage of being totally flexible based on ACTUAL usage (visions of half empty trolleys, with Goofy, Mickey and their friends waving from the back, enter my mind).