Jim Kirkwood, San Clemente

Do you ever get tired of Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) saying, “if we only had more money, we would be able to serve our students and community better?” Have you ever noticed that the only answer to education is the need for more money? The truth is no matter how much money taxpayers give CUSD, they manage to squander our taxes on everything except making our children and the facilities a priority. I have lived in San Clemente for 28 years and raised all of my children in San Clemente schools. We have had great experiences with teachers, arts programs, school staff, sports and many of the parent-led volunteer programs. However, my experiences with the district administration officials and the trustees have been disingenuous. It is disturbing that CUSD passed a 25-year bond 15 years ago and many of the very same facility commitments that were proposed back then are being promoted again in Measure M. That means they want us to continue paying for the old bond for another 10 years and approve a new $900 million, 35-year bond, which is the largest bond in Orange County history. Also, take the time to look at the numbers; the $43 the district is using assumes no increase in interest rates, which they admitted could double the cost of the bond. District officials now use words like accountability, transparency, etc. because they know the public is tired of their irresponsible management of the publics’ tax dollars.

In the beginning stages of developing this bond, the public was told that there would be specific budget categories established so that each community would have an understanding of where the money would be spent and what their priorities were. Yet, CUSD did not provide any specificity and instead wants us to write them a blank check.

I encourage my fellow citizens to vote “no” on Measure M.

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  • I attended the joint CUSD/CUCPTSA presentation “Why CUCPTSA is a Yes on Measure M” at San Juan Hills High School. Having been put on notice that by they law they are required to present both sides equally, When CUCPTSA presented the argument against Measure M they stated the following:

    “Funding flexibility built into the bond could allow the district to change priorities away from currently listed projects”

    CUSD and CUCPTSA are not accurately explaining what a Prop 39 Bond is and why it requires a District to do the work to determine exactly what SPECIFIC projects will be paid for with Prop 39 funds.

    Under Prop 39, school facilities bonds can be passed with 55% voter approval, rather than the normally required 75% voter approval. As a condition of the lower voter approval, school districts are required to specifically identify every project that will be done, and provide the associated cost of that particular project. CUSD did not do that.

    A Facilities Master Plan was conducted by WC Architects in 2009. The 2009 plan was reviewed in 2013 and showed that due to a lack of maintenance the cost to fix and maintain school facilities had increased.

    The 2016 plan that CUSD presented to create project list for individual school sites was identical to the 2009 Facilities Master plan. CUSD took the 2009 plan, and without any “new” work added a 20% increase for “soft costs” and a 10% contingency.

    The 2016 plan contained projects like the Capo Valley High School Performing Arts Center on it… a project that had already been completed. When this was pointed out to CUSD at Board meetings, CUSD removed that project from the new plan but failed to deduct the cost of the project from the bond expenses.

    There were many other examples of this making it clear that CUSD did not do the work required to pass a bond in compliance with Prop 39’s requirement for specificity.

    No real work was done by CUSD to determine the actual facilities needs of CUSD schools in 2016- a violation of Prop 39.

    In fact CUSD has a disclaimer on every facilities project list that states:

    “This is not a complete list of potential projects and up-grades and is subject to change based on enrollment trends, community in-put, Board Authorization and available funds.”

  • 20 reasons to Vote NO on Measure M (Metro’s forever sales tax to fund primarily rail infrastructure expansion)
    My name is Walter Siembab and I work professionally in the area of sustainable transportation. I’ve been a resident of LA County for decades, I love train travel, and I’m a long time member of the Sierra Club. I believe passage of Measure M will accelerate the decline of quality of life in LA County and is simply not “good government.”.
    Here are 20 reasons for voting NO. Some are a little more technical than what have been previously included in the public discussion. But that’s the problem I hope to address. Voters have been deprived of the information needed to make an informed decision. The press carries a big portion of the blame.
    You may not agree with all of them but any one is a reason for voting NO on M.
    County residents know that traffic congestion has been worsening for years. M claims to ease congestion and that claim will attract a number of voters desperate for relief. It’s even been titled the “LA County Traffic Improvement Plan.” Problem is M will actually make congestion worse, not better. Many voters aren’t aware that any significant transportation investment will lead to adjacent land developments of some kind. In the case of rail, those will be, dense, large scale residential and “mixed–use” developments. For example, see the November 2 LA Times article (Santa Monica Measure Targets Growth) — “Measure LV comes as Santa Monica sees a boom in new projects, with developers seeking to take advantage of the new Expo Line….” The promise is that high density will have little impact on streets because the rail system will carry the traffic. This is false. Numbers tell a different story. The percentage of household trips that are carried by rail is low, currently averaging around 3% throughout the system. Being very generous, assume that in the future 20% of all trips generated by for example a 300 unit building adjacent to a station will be carried by some form of public transit. However that means that 80% of those trips will be driven. Rail investment will lead to increased density which will lead to more congestion, not less. Developers have been using promises of increased transit use to justify their projects for years. The result is most evident in the traffic congestion experienced daily. Vote NO.

    A related point, Metro has been telling us that a leading transportation planning firm has pegged reduced travel delays due to congestion at 15%. There are 5 problems with that projection. First is that the projected congestion benefit won’t be realized until 2045, 30 years from now. Then it’s only 15%, relatively insignificant (for example it would cut a 60 minute commute to 51 minutes). Third, it ignores population growth and the spread of the peak period to virtually an all-day phenomenon. Fourth, it doesn’t account for the increased congestion that will delay transit service as freeway congestion spreads to parallel arterials. For example, the transit rich Westside currently experiences gridlock on its new rail line, its freeways and streets. Fifth, it’s a computer projection and couldn’t possibly be accurate given all the assumptions that would need to be met. Vote NO.

    We are on the cusp of experiencing a quantum leap in transportation innovation. There is a good chance that scheduled fixed route public transit is already an obsolete service, or surely will be within a few years. Recent private sector innovations in the form of car sharing (Zipcar, car2go) and ride hailing (Uber, Lyft) are only the leading edge of new services that are on the way. Then there are self-driving (robot) cars that will offer very low cost on-demand door to door service. 2016 is a very poor time to raise taxes to support a large scale investment in a system that is well on its way to becoming obsolete. Notice that cable TV industry with its fixed schedule of limited programs is quickly becoming obsolete due to competition from the new streaming access to vast catalogues of programs on-demand anytime, anywhere. Transportation consumers likewise want on-demand door to door service to a vast array of destinations. Anyway, if M fails to pass, Metro can come back in 4 years and try it again. Four years will give us a chance to see what can be accomplished with real innovation. Vote NO

    The argument for M states that the funds will build a 21st Century transportation network. Explain how a 19th Century rail technology can address 21st Century transportation needs. Metro produces no innovation itself and real innovators are in the process of greatly reducing Metro’s significance. Vote NO

    Need for mobility in most areas of LA County is for short trips, fewer than 5 miles, less than 3 in many cases. Only a small percentage of trips occur across the region, yet Metro’s investment plan dedicates 66% of it M revenue to transit and only 17% to highways and 17% to street maintenance. The service promised by Metro can carry some of those longer trips, usually associated with the journey to work. But there are many cheaper, faster deploying alternatives to address those work trips – from UberPool to telecommuting. Would it be more cost-effective to give the transit dependent riders vouchers for using Uber-Lyft-taxis? It the rail system is not cost effective, provides a tiny share of mobility in L. A. County, and is obsolete, we don’t need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars for those relatively few long trips, so why should we? Vote NO.
    Advocates say “don’t worry about demand, build it and they will come.” But they haven’t been coming. Despite billions of dollars invested in rail service, transit ridership has actually decreased over the last 20 years and it is decreasing nationwide. Metro’s expansive rail program will not significantly change that trend. Vote NO.
    What if they did come? Rail capacity will always be low compared to the parallel corridor capacity and so it physically will be unable to reduce congestion. The new Expo line is currently carrying 45,000 weekday trips with trains every six minutes. Its theoretical capacity cannot be higher than 65,000 to 75,000 trips because of track congestion and limited platform size which limits the number of cars possible per train. By comparison the dreaded Santa Monica Freeway carries approximately 360,000 daily trips. Rail expansion will not provide significant relief to freeway congestion, it isn’t physically possible to do so. This reality was recently confirmed by researchers at USC concluding that the Expo Line has had zero impact on I-10 congestion. Vote NO

    Follow the money. M is well financed by the interests that will financially benefit if it passes. The LA times identified developers, construction companies, organized construction labor and engineering firms – I’ll add east coast bond firms. For the campaign funders, the money spent is a business development investment, not a public benefit contribution. There are no potential financial gains to those who oppose M, consequently the no side has minimal funding and a relatively muted voice. Vote NO

    If public transit has a role over the next 40 years, it will depend on how “rapid” the service will run. Speed requires either under-ground or aerial construction. Running at street grade or on streets simply slows cars and trains alike to a crawl. M plans very little rapid service. Last year a friend took the Expo Line from Culver City to the Blue Line in order to visit Long Beach and it took him 2 hours each way. Vote NO.

    Metro needs a cash infusion in order to meet its current commitments because of cost over runs and under budgeted operations and maintenance expenses. Because of that, Metro is ill-advised to take on massive new commitments. Metro needs to get its house in order and then determine what expansion tit can afford to build, operate and maintain in the future. We cannot trust that the projects promised by this measure will be implemented – especially since we are not seeing the previous Measure R commitments fulfilled as promised (Measure R is the most recent Metro sales tax passed in 2008). Vote NO

    There will be no public oversight of this multi-billion dollar investment, other than the self-interested Metro Board and its self-appointed advisory board. One of the most troubling elements of the Ordinance is the fact that the Metro Board can unilaterally change the Expenditure Plan every 10 years after merely consulting with an advisory committee that the Board appoints. There is no provision in the ordinance that requires approval by voters to these decennial changes in priority. The struggle to revise priorities will be politics at its worst. Vote NO

    Financial projections are based on a fare box recovery (the share of operating costs paid by riders). Fare box recovery is currently at only 26%. Yet Metro’s “yes” campaign is promising to keep fares low while it assumes a fare box recovery of 33% in its Long Range Transportation Plan. Clearly this will result in a shortfall. So fares will need to rise by 25% or service will have to be reduced, or another tax will be needed down the road to pay for the operations and maintenance of this expanded system. Vote NO

    Measure M removes the 2039 sunset date for Measure R that voters approved in 2008 and adds a fourth permanent half cent sales tax for transportation on top of Proposition A (1980), C (1990) and Measure R (2008). In other words, Metro is currently receiving 1.5% of every retail dollar you spend and wants to increase that to 2% — forever. Paying taxes is ok so long as the investment promises a reasonable payoff. Vote NO.

    Measure M is already 100% bonded for the first 40 years to meet the stated obligations. Bonding to accelerate projects allows repayment of debt to be deferred into later decades of the plan which would add significantly to the cost of projects and consume a significant share of future sales tax revenues thus endangering Plan revenues for projects scheduled after 2040. By scheduling politically favored pet projects at the beginning of the Measure M expenditure plan, Metro has increased the cost and prevented acceleration of existing Measure R commitments. Vote NO

    There is a segment of voters who will vote yes on M so that others will have transit options that will get them off the road. In order to justify a yes vote, you or someone in your family should be planning on taking some form of transit 4 or 5 times a week – every week for the next 40 years. And, due to densification and population growth, you should not expect to experience any significant improvement in travel times or roadway condition for your yes vote. Vote NO

    Metro’s Expenditure Plan for Measure M has a $19 billion shortfall and Metro’s response is vague, misleading, and unreliable. Even with revenue from three previous L. A. County transportation sales taxes (Propositions A and C and Measure R), there is a shortfall in the Measure M Expenditure Plan of approximately 16% of the estimated $120 billion program over the first 40 years of the forever taxes. Metro says that it will bring private sector funding to build projects faster but that funding needs to be paid off in future years – it is a loan not a grant. Additionally, using this as a strategy means that the private sector will is prioritize the public investment, instead of building projects according to need.

    The nostalgic idea of rebuilding the vast Pacific Electric system that was so valuable from 1900 to 1930 is just that, nostalgic. That rail system was powered by private developers and transportation operators to grow Southern California outside the urban core of Los Angeles. Over the last 100 years in LA County, the development pattern, technology, travel needs, and cultural expectations have all changed. LA County needs whole new transportation concepts for the 21st Century. With the emerging shared mobility, automated transportation technology and communications revolution, attractive alternatives to rail transit are available..

    Throughout the United States, transit systems are falling apart due to lack of regular maintenance – D.C., Boston, BART. Metro originally was going to dedicate 5% to maintenance which is already low taking into account that some of the lines (Blue, Green and Red) are over 25 years old. Instead, they dedicated only 2% to maintenance. This is not enough and Metro knows it but isn’t telling the voters.

    Metro assures voters that it is seeking “Federal, local, state, and other Funding” to “enable all Major Projects to be delivered expeditiously.” But there are no future state and federal transportation funds available to leverage using local sales taxes. New federal and state transportation taxes would be needed to match Measure M, so the Metro board will have to successfully advocate for increased state and federal taxes that you will pay. Vote NO

    Metro experiences cost overruns on literally all of its projects. That results in increasing budgets beyond their original contingency reserves and extending schedules on projects that are in final design or construction. The Metro Board recently rejected a motion by Directors representing the South Bay and Gateway Cities to complete Measure R projects before initiating new projects. Then it promised to accelerate other projects using creative financing of loans which will need to repaid 40 years from now when Metro’s 3rd decade promises will not be kept. Vote NO
    Don’t be railroaded into the future. Vote NO on M and send Metro the message that you want innovation, not nostalgia, cost mismanagement or backroom politics.
    Walter Siembab
    wsiembab@ix.netcom.com

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