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.