Wednesday, June 11, 2008

LT. GOV. GARAMENDI QUESTIONS TOLL ROAD AGENCY PARTICIPATION IN SECRET MEETINGS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2008

***
Foothill South Toll Road Opponents Raise Concerns
About an Open, Transparent Public Process


LOS ANGELES – Citing serious concerns about the “extreme secrecy” surrounding the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) participation in a key federal interagency committee (formally known as the South Orange County Transportation Infrastructure Improvement Project – SOCTIIP – Collaborative), Lt. Governor John Garamendi sent a strongly worded letter to Jane Luxton, general counsel at the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requesting a more open, public process.

One of the main functions of the federal committee is to coordinate federal agency evaluation of alternatives to the Toll Road proposed to go through the Donna O’Neill Conservancy and San Onofre State Beach Park. As such, this important committee is in a position to determine whether or not new information regarding alternative is objectively considered.

In this June 10, 2008, letter, Lt. Gov. Garamendi stated, “My concern is that these deliberations, so critical to your [NOAA and the Dept. of Commerce’s] final analysis, are being finalized in an environment where ONLY the project applicant examines, presents, evaluates and comments upon evidence. There is no opportunity for the public to participate in or even witness discussions and deliberations.”

“TCA is not a collaborative member, but an observer. The structure of the SOCTIIP Collaborative has created an untenable situation: a project proponent with interests that are potentially adverse to the public or in contravention of law, is provided exclusive permission to communicate freely with federal regulators sheltered from public scrutiny. This set up frustrates the purpose of open government and public records law,” added Lt. Gov. Garamendi.

To resolve this situation, Lt. Gov. Garamendi requests four things: that observers representing the public must be invited to attend and participate in each SOCTIIP collaborative meeting; that all previous and future meetings from Collaborative meetings must be released to the public; that a list of attendees to all Collaborative meetings be released to the public; and that all testimony, documentation and analyses of any kind be made publicly available within a reasonable time after each meeting.

“Given the Coastal Commission’s strong position in opposition to the toll road and the fact that more than 25,000 people have filed comments with the Department of Commerce expressing their views about this controversial project through a state park, it is extremely troubling that the TCA is meeting behind closed doors with federal regulators and that these meetings are completely shielded from the public,” stated Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation and leading member of the Save San Onofre Coalition.

“The TCA has, time and again, sought to stifle public review and participation, and attempted to exert undue ‘behind the scenes’ influence on their deeply flawed toll road project,” added Goldstein. “After TCA made a decision to appeal the Coastal Commission’s rejection of the toll road, TCA, a public agency, actually requested that the Department of Commerce not hold a public hearing – a request that was rejected. TCA should not be allowed to continue to meet secretly with federal agencies about the Foothill South Toll Road. The Collaborative’s deliberations should not be shrouded in secrecy but open to the public and transparent.”

BACKGROUND:

The Save San Onofre Coalition is a diverse coalition of individuals and groups that includes four former state parks commissioners, local, regional, state and national environmental organizations, cities, counties and elected officials statewide. For more information about the Save San Onofre Coalition, visit www.savesanonofre.com. You can obtain a copy of Lt. Governor Garamendi’s letter at http://www.ltg.ca.gov/images//toll%20road%20letter%20luxton%206-11-08.pdf

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35 comments:

Anonymous said...

secretism seems to be the byword of the day here. Even though the toll road measure was overthrown barges have appeared off the coast of San Clemente and they are supposedly creating a reef that will help the oceans flow . What's up with that? Are they Trying to create something so they can justify destroying the natural flow at Trestles when they put the toll road through? Also why have they started widening the 5 freeway from San Diego headed in the northern direction? Are they proceeding with plans so that they can render the Coastal Commission impotent and our State Parks open to take over by development so that eventually the only parks our future generations can visit will be ones like Disneyland that cost $100 a head to get into??

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Anonymous said...

This is more of a question than a comment. How much public money is involved toward the building of this toll road?
If the TCA is using public agencies to further it's agenda of building this toll road, there must be public money involved!
Answers please!

Stefanie Sekich said...

In a round about way, the TCA does get some of their money from tax payers. The TCA is funded by private and some municipal bonds. Municipal bonds do actually come from taxpayers. The TCA also receives some Federal grants which again, come from taxpayers.

Here’s the deal though…the TCA has basically been telling us for year they will not use taxpayer dollars to build the 241…and while they might be using some of those federal funds and municipal bonds on other “related expenses”, they are mixing in federal funds into the pot. In a nut shell it’s challenging to say exactly how much tax payer funds are going toward the completion of the 241…but we do know the TCA inadvertently gets hard eared tax payer funds through municipal bonds and federal grants.

I suggest you call the TCA and demand they explain where their funds are coming from and what they are using the funds for.

Unknown said...

You can ask Jeff Bott, public affairs representative. His phone number is (949) 754 3458 and his email address is bott@sjhtca.com

Tiff said...

what are those barges anyway?? Can someone tell me? My hubby and I were just talking about that today!

Anonymous said...

To influence government you must use names. That is you must say that Mr. John Jones told us, or would not let us... etc.

Questions must be short and on one subject only. They must be addressed to one person only. If you write dear commissioners, no one person is responsible.

Publicity in the newspaper and thru national organizations is essential. Send copies of articles in the paper to your Government Reps. The ACLU is great for legal help such as Freedom of information, FOIA, stuff. Also on FOIA you must define what you are looking for. Saying all hearings and communication generated by some committee will not work.

Involving your state and federal representatives and senators is also essential. Send petitions, letters, news articles, and specific requests for help, i.e. Dear Honorable etc., etc., please call xxxxx and ask for yyyy.

The requests should be in a one page letter. Background information can be included in supplement pages, but what you want done must be on one page and the first page.

Send follow up letters thanking officials for their response.

Don't exaggerate or stretch the truth. It will kill your credibility.

Buy newspaper adds. One whole sheet is great. Ask the reader to call or better yet email someone. People prefer the non confrontational part of email.

However, most important is to Personalize the opposition. YOU MUST USE NAMES.

Anonymous said...

The barges offshore are installing an artificial reef to help compensate for the destruction of marine life by the power plant at San Onofre.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-kelp12-2008jun12,0,6812145.story

Anonymous said...

The Transportation Corridor Agencies are public government agencies. Design and construction of the roads are funded through toll-revenue bonds, which are sold on Wall Street and repaid with the tolls paid by drivers who choose to use the road.

One criticism of TCA is that the agencies have lobbied to receive public funds. But the reality is that the roads were built as toll roads because government funding was not available to build them and the need for infrastructure was so great. There was no state funding to build them as freeways, as they were originally intended to be built. Orange County is a donor county, with taxes paid by local residents going toward projects outside the area. Any state or federal funds received for the 241 (which would be very minimal compared to the total cost of more than $1 billion) will help the road get financed and built sooner and will result in an earlier pay-off so that drivers can drive the roads for free sooner.

Another criticism is that “taxes pay for these private toll roads." The 73, 133, 241 and 261 are not private toll roads, they are public toll roads. The TCA does not own them; the state of California does. Each was deeded to the state the day the roadway opened to traffic. Since the state owns the roads after they are completed, Caltrans maintains them at state expense. TCA builds the roads, finances the construction and environmental mitigation through bonds and development impact fees, collects the tolls and pays down the debt. The Toll Roads are a simple, creative solution to the growing traffic problem that impacts the quality of life in Orange County.

Unknown said...

If TCA is a public entity then I would really like to know why they are attending meetings with
"a key federal interagency committee (formally known as the South Orange County Transportation Infrastructure Improvement Project – SOCTIIP – Collaborative)" in secret.

I am also unable to understand why a public entity would so blatantly disregard the coastal commission decision.

What is the real agenda of the TCA?


, Lt. Governor John Garamendi sent a

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