Dana Hobart Newsletter

A MESSAGE FROM RANCHO MIRAGE CITY COUNCILMAN DANA HOBART

Dana Hobart Newsletter

Our Measure "A" Funds Are Now In Jeopardy

As we had frequently predicted, on June 27, 2016, the CVAG Executive Committee passed the motion required to place the CV Link within the "TPPS" list of projects. Only projects on the "TPPS" list are eligible for Measure "A" funds from CVAG. Now, CVAG will use Measure "A" funds for the CV Link construction and maintenance costs of the CV Link's 14-feet of specially constructed pathway required for the speedy, car-like Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs).

With virtually no discussion (because CVAG's dinner meeting was scheduled to start), and without prior notice to the public (and apparently unnoticed by the local newspaper) the single vote also placed on the TPPS list an additional $193.6 million worth of additional routes for NEVs and bicycles.

During the past year this column has repeatedly warned that this has been the CVAG objective notwithstanding all of their denials and carefully phrased ambiguous responses.

Speaking against this misuse of Measure "A" funds (which was ignored by the county and all cities except Indian Wells), I made several points including:

Adding CV Link will have a long-range impact on Measure A funds because it will take money away from the 250-or so normal roadway projects listed on the TPPS list (which already have an estimated cost of $3.1 billion!) that the cities and the unincorporated county area have collectively identified as their much needed road, bridge or intersection repair work. They have now added to this list of Measure A eligible projects the $100 million re CV Link plus an additional $193.6 million in other "regional bicycle projects".

As of now, the CVAG Executive Committee can vote to commit Measure "A" funds to pay for a large portion of CV Link's expensive, special construction costs for the NEV vehicles that are not allowed unless they are capable of achieving a speed of 25MPH. Bicyclists, joggers, pedestrians (including children and their dogs) and these high speed vehicles flying by in both directions?

Rather than roadway repairs, filling potholes, modernization of intersections and stabilizing bridges, our Measure "A" funds are being channeled to this political project known as CV Link.

How many times have we heard or read Councilwoman Jan Harnik (Palm Desert), or Mayor Lynda Evans (La Quinta) or Councilman Wilson (Indio) make the claim that "We have not spent a single dollar of Measure A funds on CV Link!" Their statement has been literally true but very misleading. Misleading because they imply that my warnings (and those of others, as well) are false and to be ignored. Of course, they neglected to admit that they were working diligently to change the requirements to be identified on the TPPS list. A fact they neglected to mention every time they uttered the misleading statement. Nor did they ever publicly disclose CVAG's ongoing internal effort to modify the TPPS list rules to allow CV Link status on the TPPS list.

These three elected officials were sponsors of campaign mailings into the City of Rancho Mirage urging residents how to vote on our four measures that achieved about 80% anti-CV Link support. These are the same leaders who oppose their own residents who have been begging for a vote of the people on this politically inspired project.

The Promise Behind Voter Approval of the 1988 Measure A Ordinance

In 1988 the voters of Riverside County were told by the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the Coachella Valley Association of governments (CVAG) and all of our local city governments that Measure A was going to rescue our dilapidated and crumbling highway and roadway infrastructure.

To achieve this level of improvement voters were asked to increase their local sales taxes by ½ cent - a tough idea to swallow. But swallow it we did, largely because of such promises as these: Vote YES to "Improve traffic and increase safety through the repair and improvement of local streets and roads in every city and in the unincorporated areas of the County."

In the Coachella Valley we were assured by the language of the Ordinance that the portion to be disbursed by CVAG, 50% percent of the funds generated within the Coachella Valley, "will be used for state highways and major regional road projects."

Measure "A" did not state, nor imply that CVAG had authority to disburse these highway and regional road funds to other types of projects that may catch the fancy or whims of the CVAG Executive Committee.

The program worked well over the ensuing years, but in reality did not come close to closing the gap in our percentage of dangerous highways, regional roads and their failing intersections and bridges. This led Valley leaders to offer voters the opportunity in 2002 to extend Measure "A" another thirty (30) years.

The Measure "A" Preamble candidly informed us of the problems we faced and the dangers of inaction. They convinced us that if we were concerned about the safety of our roadways Measure "A" should be supported. It passed with about 66% approval.

The Promise Behind Voter Approval of Measure A Circa 2002

The Preamble warned that passage of the measure "is the only way local governments can be sure the transportation system will serve the current and future travel needs of Riverside County." We were told, "The transportation system in Riverside County is rapidly deteriorating..." and "Without additional funds, the system will bog down and pavement will crumble into permanent disrepair."

Those of us residing in the Coachella Valley were particularly interested in the sections of the proposed Measure A that was directly related to our region. In particular, we were concerned with how the money raised in the CV would be spent within the CV. CVAG is an organization intended to help valley cities coordinate regional roadway issues involving "state highways" and "regional roads."

Think of it as a pie. The money raised by our increased sales tax in the CV was to be divided according to a formula identified in Measure "A":

  • 15% was to go to Sunline Transit Agency for "public transit" systems in the valley.
  • 35% would be divided among valley cities (based on an equitable Measure A formula) to "assist with funding local streets and road improvements." Local streets and roads are those within cities that do not connect with neighboring cities. Connecting the cities are the "regional roads and highways."
  • Left in the pie is the 50% which Measure "A" delegates to CVAG with express instructions as to how these monies are to be spent. The ordinance states: "Fifty percent (50%) of the Measure "A" revenues will be used for State highways and regional road improvements."

There is no portion of the Measure "A" Ordinance which authorizes any of these funds to be used except as stated above. Nothing gives CVAG the latitude to use Measure "A" funds for a bike path, jogging trail or for recreational purposes.

The Legal Opinion On Which CV Link Relies

CVAG relies on a legal opinion that summarizes their view this way: "Although CV Link is not a typical regional road improvement, a strong argument can be made that its LSEV1 Component qualifies as a regional road improvement under Measure A because the LSEV lane is a roadway that would connect eight cities in the Coachella Valley..."

A competing legal opinion concludes: "... the only reasonable conclusion that can be reached after thoroughly reviewing the plain language of Measure A, the Preamble to Ordinance No. 02-001 ... is that the voters who approved Measure A did not intend that the special tax revenue produced by Measure A could be or would be used for any aspect, part, portion or component of CV Link since it was not in existence at the time Measure A was presented to the voters, nor was it contemplated as a legally recognizable possibility as a transportation route, road, street or highway until eight years after the voters approved Measure A."

The last sentence of the legal opinion supporting the use of Measure "A" funds (above) for the CV Link should convince any doubter that CVAG leadership have had their eyes on our Measure "A" funds for many years. They call it a bike path to make it sound appealing. They have a group of bicyclists appear at meetings supporting the project as a recreational pathway when in fact it is a tangled set of paths with one of them being built especially to include these high speed "Neighborhood Electric Vehicles" (NEVs) that must be capable of achieving a high speed of 25MPH per federal and state rules.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The choices are few. Acquiesce to Measure "A" funds being misused and accept the cleverness and deception behind the project. Know in advance that our "crumbling" roadways will suffer so that CV Link can prosper

Litigation is the only alternative considering CVAG "leadership" is not going to give the voters of the Coachella Valley a choice - even though it was the voters' choice to increase our sales tax by one-half cent in 2002.

Who IS going to pay for the ongoing operations and maintenance expenses of the CV Link? Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells will be uninvolved. Are the cities with financial problems stepping up to the plate? Of course not. They all plan to raid the Measure "A" fund, placing the CV Link at a higher priority than safe roadways.

Until someone or some tax organization chooses to seek injunctive relief from the California Superior Court, be prepared for CVAG to use Measure "A" funds to pay for some of the construction costs in the near-term, and to use Measure A funds for the next 75-100 years to pay for maintenance of the special NEV pathway.2 In February 2012 CVAG voted to set aside $20 million to be used on the CV Link. Now that the rules have been changed, there is nothing short of a court approved injunction to prevent it.3

signature

Dana Hobart
Councilman,
City of Rancho Mirage


Footnotes
[1] LSEVs (Low Speed Electric Vehicles) are also known as NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles). To be eligible for use on the CV Link path these vehicles must meet certain specifications set by state and federal law. Among those requirements is that they must be capable of achieving a speed of 25MPH over a certain distance. Only licensed drivers can use them. They require state registration and vehicle insurance. The roadway for these vehicles must also meet much higher standards than those required for bike or pedestrian paths. Thus, their considerable expense.

[2] An interesting postscript to this scenario is the fact that there are 286 of these NEVs in the Coachella Valley, and the vast, vast majority of them are used commercially. Have YOU ever seen one rolling along one of the Valley streets? You may see a few golf carts here and there, but never do we see one of these NEVs on our roadways. Another interesting fact is that golf carts will not be allowed on the CV Link unless they have been modified to meet the minimum standards for NEVs/ LSEVs.

[3] The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) issued a transportation assessment report in January of 2016, which documented the limited transportation funding. This same report recommended that RCTC "Prepare to submit an additional local sales tax measure to voters in 2018 or 2020."