MOORLACH UPDATE — Trolley Folly — May 28, 2014

Last Thursday I had the privilege of sharing my brief commencement remarks at the California State University Long Beach College of Business Administration graduation ceremony as the 2014 Distinguished Alumni. On Saturday, I had the privilege of witnessing my youngest, Daniel, graduate from Chapman University. Congratulations to all who are graduating!

Last Friday the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board met. One major topic was the proposed streetcar systems for Anaheim and Santa Ana (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Streetcar Razing? — February 28, 2014). I have been doing a considerable amount of research on streetcar systems, the new fad around the nation, and the facts do not look good. Why should you care? Because you may be paying for them, even though they may not be located in the city which you work or reside. This became very clear when I asked, repeatedly, who the fiscal backstop would be for these transit systems. If I were to hand out a “fiscal courage award,” it would go to Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. He gets it. The streetcar system in his own city does not make sense. But, when money talks, the truth is silent. The potential for Federal largesse has a way of blinding good people. Get ready to subsidize another money sucking governmental commitment. The Voice of OC covers the topic in the first piece below.

On Monday morning, I participated in my final Huntington Beach Memorial Day Service. It is covered by the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot in the second piece below. For the record, I spoke about three men that served our nation in the U.S. Army during World War II that had passed away since the previous Memorial Day. The first that I mentioned was Staff Sergeant Walter Ehlers (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Walter D. Ehlers Day — May 7, 2014). The keynote speaker for the service was Cathy Ehlers Metcalf, Walt’s oldest daughter and a friend of mine for most of my life (we even double-dated to a high school prom). The second was Ralph Warren Barden, who passed away at the age of 93 on April 23rd. He served in the Pacific. He was the father of my daughter’s mother-in-law, making him my granddaughter’s great-grandfather. Ralph Warren Barden fought so that he and others could enjoy raising a family in peace. My granddaughter, Jordi Jane, was fortunate enough to meet her great-grandfather before he passed. The third veteran that I honored was my wife’s father, Marlin (Jack) Dean Lehmeier, who passed away on June 22 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Service To Country — July 3, 2013). Jordi Jane was also fortunate to meet her great-grandfather just before he passed. She has been blessed to have two great American veterans in her lineage. I then recognized the some half-dozen World War II veterans in the audience. I mentioned that some 1,000 World War II veterans were passing away every day. It’s a little lower than that right now, but we should all hug them every chance that we get.

OCTA Takes Lead in Santa Ana Streetcar Project

By ADAM ELMAHREK

The Orange County Transportation Authority is taking over as the lead agency on Santa Ana’s streetcar project, a move that officials say will increase the chances of obtaining federal funding.

OCTA’s Board of Directors approved the shift Friday morning, with directors John Moorlach and Tom Tait dissenting. They also directed staff to develop a plan detailing how the project is financed, from construction to operations and maintenance.

Two streetcar projects are planned for the county. One system travels between Anaheim’s regional transportation center and the city’s resort district. The other would connect Santa Ana’s downtown core with that city’s train station, and then stretching further on to the Garden Grove city border.

Supporters of the projects say they will increase connectivity while spurring economic investment along the routes, with businesses encouraged to sprout up due to the permanence of the track.

Critics argue that streetcars are too expensive – several times the cost of enhanced bus alternatives — and don’t increase ridership enough to warrant the additional spending. Some also argue that placing light-rail cars on public right of way is dangerous.

Officials in Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove hope to obtain funding for the project under the Federal Transit Authority’s New Starts program. That — along with revenue from the countywide half-cent sales tax known as Measure M2 and other local funds – are expected to pay for the projects.

Anaheim’s 3.2-mile project is currently estimated to be $318 million, a nearly $100 million per-mile price-tag that some OCTA directors have demanded be reduced before they can vote for the project. Santa Ana’s system, meanwhile, is expected to cost at least $238 million and have a longer route.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, the project’s most vocal supporter, said at the meeting that OCTA’s takeover was an important step toward creating a regional system, with the Santa Ana-Garden Grove streetcar being the “first leg.”

“I think it’s an opportunity to lead the county into the future,” Pulido said.

The takeover also comes just as Santa Ana opened up a draft environmental impact report for public review. After certification of the study, OCTA would release $4.88 million for preliminary engineering, according to OCTA documents.

The Santa Ana streetcar as planned would begin operating in 2019.

Pulido and other transit leaders envision connecting the two projects along Harbor Blvd – under the current plans they stop short of each other — and officials are also considering having OCTA take over as lead agency in the Anaheim project.

“Ultimately it should continue north on Harbor Blvd. and get to Fullerton,” Pulido said.

But some directors continue to express reservations. In recent weeks, Pulido and Jill Wallace (whose former last name was Arthur) — an ousted Santa Ana official who continues serving as Pulido’s assistant — have been taking OCTA directors on personal tours of the route in a bid to shore up support, with mixed reactions.

OCTA Director Lori Donchack, a San Clemente councilwoman who was already a project supporter, said the tour revealed a “terrific project.”

“It works on the idea of working and living in the zip code, which is an interesting idea,” Donchak said.

Tait, who also went on the tour, said he voted no because streetcars don’t make sense from both safety and financial perspectives. He said he asked Anaheim’s public works director about the stopping distance of a streetcar and was told it is about 320 ft. – the length of a football field.

That’s a dangerous factor considering the streetcars will be traveling on congested roadways, Tait said. Other data provided to Tait by Pulido showed the stopping distance was about 130 ft. and took seven seconds. At 35 mph, Tait said Pulido’s numbers didn’t add up.

“When you think about steel on steel, there’s no friction there, that’s why it takes so long,” Tait said.

Questions also remain about the Santa Ana project’s financing. Moorlach said that after reading up about streetcars, he found that the only project in the country to pencil out was in New Orleans.

Moorlach also asked OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson which agency – Santa Ana or OCTA – ultimately bears financial responsibility for potential cost overruns, with OCTA taking the lead management role.

Johnson said that a detailing funding plan won’t be ready until late Summer, leading Moorlach to ask the question more than once.

“I don’t believe the risk sits with the city of Santa Ana,” Johnson replied.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

Memorial Day event draws crowd, elected officials

By Anthony Clark Carpio

Hundreds of people gathered at Huntington Beach Pier Plaza on Monday to honor the fallen during the city’s annual Memorial Day ceremony, which included speakers, a marching band and a gun salute.

Dennis Bauer, 66, a Vietnam War veteran and the adjutant for American Legion Post 133, said he fights back tears during the event every year as he stares out at the Pacific Ocean.

"My dad was in the Navy, and he was buried at sea," the veteran said. "I just think about him because he’s out there in that ocean that I’m looking at."

Bauer and Post 133, which has been in Huntington Beach since 1919, host the event each year.

Local dignitaries, including Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach and state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), said a few words about those who lost their lives in combat as a large American flag, hung from the ladder of a Huntington Beach fire truck, waved in the coastal breeze.

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) played an acoustic guitar and sang in honor of the men and women who have served in the military.

Post 133 also organizes a Veterans Day ceremony and smaller patriotic events in Huntington Beach during the year.

And the post’s military veterans donate money to various causes, including the city’s Hometown Heroes banner program and American Legion’s Boys State program, which teaches high school teens how varying levels of government work.

Councilman and post member Dave Sullivan said the group recently started working with Honor Flight Southland, a nonprofit organization that helps send World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see that war’s memorial.

Toward the end of the ceremony, the post’s honor guard performed a three-volley salute to the fallen. After the salute, Post 133’s Judge Advocate Bob Davis said he will engrave on spent shell casings the names of service people who have died and give the objects to their families.

"To think about all the men that didn’t get a chance to come back [home] like I did, to have a life, get married and become a father," post member Larry Stoll said as he choked back tears. "To have something like that taken away while defending the rights of another country is just touching and emotional."

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