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Westminster Hiring Lobbyist to Revive 405 Freeway Fight

Posted by OC Insider on January 8, 2013

The Westminster City Council will vote tomorrow night on paying lobbying firm Townsend Public Affairs $5,000 a month for 6 months to try and get reconsideration of a previously rejected plan for widening the 405 Freeway.

Here’s how the agenda report describes the contract:

“The City of Costa Mesa has asked the cities of Westminster, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach to volunteer to share in the cost for the professional services of Townsend Public Affairs to date in the amount of $5,000 each.

The City of Costa Mesa has also informed the corridor cities coalition that they have retained Townsend Public Affairs for future services related to the I-405 Improvement Project. The work includes the following objectives: prevent the reconsideration, adoption and implementation of Alternative 3; stop the implementation of Alternative 1; and promote the adoption and implementation of Alternative 2 as the locally preferred alternative for the I-405 Improvement Project.

The future services are expected to be completed in approximately six months, or when Caltrans adopts the locally preferred alternative. At that time, the City of Costa Mesa will ask the cities of Westminster, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach to volunteer to share in the cost for these services for an amount not to exceed $5,000 each.”

Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley are also going to pay $5,000 per month, each, to hire Townsend for this effort, according to the agenda report.

A few weeks ago, the Westminster City Council members decided they could not afford a special election to allow residents to fill the vacancy created by Tri Ta being elected Mayor. But they think the financially distressed city, which has been laying off employees left and right can afford $5,000 a month to pay for Councilmember Diana Carey’s personal crusade. That’s on top of almost $13,000 the city has already paid to date to share costs with Costa Mesa for Townsend’s lobbying services on the 405.

The OCTA Board of Directors has already voted to recommend Alternative 1 to Caltrans, which makes the ultimate decision on the matter, sometime in the spring.  Alternative 1 adds 1 general-purpose lane in each direction on the 405. Alternative 2 adds 2 general purpose lanes. Alternative 3 adds 1 general purpose lane and 1 toll-lane in each direction.

To succeed, the OCTA Board would have to change its position and recommend Alternative 2 to Caltrans, instead of Alternative 1. There has been a lot of turn-over on the OCTA Board since it voted for Alternative 1, but that doesn’t mean the new directors want to re-open that can of worms.

But it is only taxpayers money, so why shouldn’t Diana Carey and Margie Rice spend it on a lobbying campaign with slim chance of success?

On the subject of the recently filled council vacancy, appointing Margie Rice was obviously planned in advance of the election. Rice could have run for council in November after she decided to not to run for re-election as mayor. Councilman Tri Ta, who she was backing, was a lock to be elected mayor, so Rice knew there’d be a vacancy.

Rice was already endorsing Sergio Contreras and Diana Cary for city council. She knew that if she ran for council, she would keep Carey from winning. But if she sat the election out, there’d be a vacancy on the council and if her slate won, they could put her back in office and spare her to expense and work of running a campaign.

Next time the City Council looks at approving more lay-off notices, they can tell the janitor getting a pink-slip that his livelihood is less important than paying for council members’ pet agendas. Too bad the voters won’t have a chance to be heard on this and other issues in a special election to fill the council vacancy that Margie Rice has filled for the benefit of her eternal political career.

21 Responses to “Westminster Hiring Lobbyist to Revive 405 Freeway Fight”

  1. OC Insider said

    Is this the same Townsend Public Affairs that the City of Irvine is FIRING tonight for their performance at the Great Park?

    Why doesn’t the City Council invite Supervisor Nguyen, an OCTA Board member, to their next meeting and tell her to her face what it is they want? This is the right thing to do, but hiring PR flaks isn’t the way to do it.

    Westminster partnered with FV, HB and Stanton a few years ago on the OCTA “Go Local” project — it proved a disastrous waste of $400k of Measure M money.

    • Thomas Gordon said

      Go Local is still very much alive

      • OC Insider said

        Of course it is — t’s a government program. The four cities mentioned teamed to just take the money and turn it over to a consultant that recommended a bus system redundant to the existing OCTA system. Nothing came of it, of course, but a collection of PR flaks walked away with a nice paycheck for their expertise in PowerPoint.

    • Vern said

      OK, this must be a different OC Insider making this comment, right? I think the OC Insider who wrote the article would know that Westminster DID meet several times on this issue with Supervisor Nguyen, and she has been an (almost) solid vote against Atl 3. I say “almost” because she disappointed us by voting against our “streamlined” Alt 2 when she heard it might create a backup in Garden Grove (something for which we have requested the studies and still haven’t seen them.)

      There were last year 16 voting members of the OCTA Board, so if a city or group of cities wants to effect a policy, it’s really pretty half-assed to say that all you should do is talk to your Supervisor who is only one vote out of 16. Dontchya think?

      Yes, this is the same Townsend who lost his Great Park contract last week, a victim of the anti-Agran backlash and the hinkiness of Forde and Mollrich even though his Great Park work was as fine as his 405 Toll work.

  2. Vern said

    Wow… so much nonsense in this one short piece. Thanks to Costa Mesa’s Pot Stirrer for pointing this story out, I hadn’t noticed it on our RSS Feed. Is this the same “OC Insider” who went to bat so fervently for Steven Albert Chavez Lodge last year? So many “OC Insiders” here! Do any of them know what they’re talking about?

    Thanks for the inspiration though, there’s enough nonsense in this one post to inspire a whole new one on my blog. And it’s a relevant thing to write about too, because – not that the OC Insider would know – the fight to keep toll lanes off the 405 is NOT over. (Nor is that struggle a “pet agenda” of Diana Carey and Margie Rice, as unanimous votes in Westminster and most other corridor cities attest. Nor did Margie Rice or anyone else seriously expect Diana to beat Tyler Diep. And on and on – but I give away too much of my own story.)

    • OC Insider said

      Different OC Insider, but all of us know a lot more than you do, Vern! You didn’t know about this story.

      I didn’t say Rice expected Carey to beat Diep. I said that Rice knew Carey couldn’t get elected if Rice were on the council ballot. Big difference. Try to keep up.

      Carey wants to keep this going as long as possible. Rice was initially against the council taking a position, then she flipped. She maneuvered her way into being elected to the city council without having to spend a dime on a campaign. Pretty savvy of the old gal. Accomplishes her goals of staying in office and collecting all those meeting payments, and reducing the number of Vietnamese on the council.

      • Vern said

        Well, hello, OC Insider #13. (Is it so hard for you people to come up with names – not enough to be anonymous but you have to all blend in with each other like so many Agent Smiths? I could help…) Let me take another shot at showing how none of your piece makes sense.

        First, there was no nefarious plot on the part of Margie Rice. One thing you WOULDN’T know, Mr. Insider, and I won’t get into detail, but she had a serious health scare last year when she decided to retire as Mayor. And it turned out, like these things often do, to be a false alarm. In any case, it’s a lot more work to be the strong mayor of a town like Wesminster for FOUR years than it is to be fifth councilperson for TWO – the latter of which a frail but popular octogenarian can pull off. Add to that the fact that Diana’s victory over Tyler was a huge but welcome surprise to us populists, and you can see that there was no great evil plan to make things turn out the way they did.

        OK, next. You actually wrote that Wesminster is paying Townsend “$5000 a month.” Do you feel okay with yourself, writing that? The $5000 in question was Westminster’s share for SIX MONTHS of services already rendered, as should be clear from the very report you quote. So you exaggerate sixfold. Was that on purpose? This works out to … 800-something a month. How many janitors’ jobs does that add up to again?

        And you’re not thinking – keeping the toll lanes off the 405 as it zooms past Westminster is an investment for the corridor cities, who unanimously agree that it would impact their local businesses, hence their tax receipts, hence their damn janitors whom you care so much about.

        Which brings us to you snottily characterizing the 405 toll fight as “Diana’s personal crusade.” How does that square with six corridor cities deciding, mostly unanimously, that this fight is worth it?

        One of the folks you malign quips that you sound more like an “OC Outsider,” but, assuming you ARE an insider, you ought to know that the fight against 405 tolls is not over. When the Board came to its uneasy compromise on Alternative 1, several of the Toll Trolls made it clear that this was just a way to get the initial construction started, and that they would be back this year trying to get toll lanes … and around the same time we Alt 2 supporters realized that the bridge work is the same in all these alternatives, and that WE could come back and fight for the second free lane that we all need and deserve. Insiders such as us are aware that OCTA Toll Trolls are behind the scenes bending the ear of CalTrans at this very moment, trying to achieve their dreams in secret.

        By the way, you describe Alternative 3 in the same words as the OCTA staff Toll Trolls – which I think is a very dishonest description: “adds 1 general purpose lane and 1 toll-lane in each direction.” Actually Alt 3 would add two new free lanes on the outside, and THEN convert the two inner lanes into expensive toll lanes, for a net gain of ZERO free lanes. (To even partially fall for OCTA’s formulation, you have to swallow their sophistry that our current free 2+ carpool lane is the same as a toll lane.)

        You say I “didn’t know about this story?” I suppose it wouldn’t have really struck my radar that Costa Mesa is trying to get its fellow conspirators to chip in, it only makes sense. I probably wouldn’t have found it worth writing about. I’ll be back if I think of anything else. Nice chatting…

        • OC Insider said

          Vern, I re-read the staff report and saw I did make a mistake, but not the one you think. Westminster approved $5,000 as a not-to-exceed amount, but the agenda report clearly states this is for services going forward for the next six months, not for services already rendered, as you claim.

          I described Alternative 3 accurately. Your comment is your spin. It adds two lanes in either direction: a general purpose lane and a toll lane, and it the HOV lanes then become toll lanes. Under Alt. 2, what are you going to do when the carpool lane goes from HOV-2 to HOV-3 and all those motorists with just two passengers are dumped into the general purpose lanes, slowing those down? Have you been on the 405 in LA County lately? The free carpool lane there doesn’t move.

          Stop acting like a know-it-all jerk, Vern, as if the anyone who disagrees with you must be an idiot. The Chrisses sure are deferential to your attacks on others. They should be more even handed.

          • Vern said

            Really. My description of Alt 3 sounds like “spin” to you, while the OCTA description you use sounds straightforward and honest? Let the readers decide.

            Hey, I didn’t think I was so mean in my last comment, once I knew you’re not the same “OC Insider” who bloviates so offensively about Anaheim (and who might be the one below who got censored, against my wishes.) Still… thanks for being civil, but I think all my arguments above still stand.

          • Greg Diamond said

            Tut-tut. You create a wild conspiracy theory about Margie Rice, which Vern rebuts based on his personal knowledge, and you accuse him of being a “know it all.” I don’t think that the Chrisses should discipline you, but they may want to consider whether you are suillying the good name of the “OC Insider” franchise.

            I’m happy to debate, once again, the worthiness of the Alt-3 option, but I think that I should first give the Chrisses — hey, can we refer to you guys as something less dysgraphic, like the “Crises”? — a chance to substitute in a different OC Insider first.

    • OC Insider said

      Editors Note: This moron never learns and continues to leave comments that are attacks on people not relevant to the post.

  3. At risk of placing myself in the line of fire from all this spittle being spewed on this “nice, friendly” comment thread, allow me to attempt to enhance the discussion just a little. Representatives of the City of Costa Mesa vehemently deny any future contract on the I-405 Improvement Project with Townsend, stating that the check cut by Westminster was for past services, not future activities. The reaction by Chris Townsend when I called him to confirm the assignment tends to confirm the Costa Mesa position… he waltzed around and told me to contact the City.

    • OC Insider #15 said

      Coverage in your blog (including this) has been must-read, of course.

    • Vern said

      “…the check cut by Westminster was for past services, not future activities.”

      Yes, Geoff, that’s one thing I said in my long comment. But with spittle.

      • Vern said

        Coupla days ago I was ready to go to the mat for Townsend, just because we’d become friendly while working toward the same cause. Since then, I’ve spoken to two important swing votes on last year’s OCTA Board who were never contacted by him. So I don’t know, these cities better make sure they’re getting their money’s worth before they keep him.

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