My turn: A response to Bill Center

By From page A4 | January 29, 2014

Kathye Russell


Bill Center’s response to your editorial “Goofy Gavel” is framed not to respond to the specific issues raised, but to assist in his own radical, personal agenda to stop all development in El Dorado County by discrediting staff and outside consultants: those responsible for implementing local transportation programs consistent with the General Plan (GP) — the very GP that includes Measure Y. Center and local political pollster Jim Moore created and ran the political campaign to pass Measure Y in 1998.

Center also participated in and approved a rewrite/further interpretation of Measure Y in 2008, and the “new” Measure Y was adopted by the Board of Supervisors and voters in 2008 and is incorporated into the current GP as revised. His statements that Measure Y is somehow being misinterpreted is what’s “wildly inaccurate.”

Center and Moore’s original intent with Measure Y was to stop development — period. Since the current GP includes Measure Y, and is proving effective in funding new growth’s traffic solutions, they are not pleased. The fact that both these men intended to develop property locally, and as such would be required to pay their own Measure Y-induced traffic mitigation fees, has further fueled their attempts to discredit others and eliminate the fees for themselves.

Measure Y was sold as a means of mitigating for new traffic by creating a way to collect local fees from developers to pay for costly road improvements. Since full implementation of the GP and Measure Y began in 2000, EDC has funded hundreds of millions of dollars in road improvements. This money collected from developers is why many local roads are not now at Level of Service (LOS) F. Measure Y is working for those who voted for a policy that would mitigate impacts from traffic created by new development. It isn’t working for those who are disappointed that Measure Y didn’t stop all growth altogether.

Center defends Supervisor Ron Briggs’ sponsorship of his presentations and I agree that one presentation was appropriate. In the first one, Center and group provided their understanding of the consultants’ work, and staff responded to misstatements and incorrect assumptions/conclusions, and the record was set straight. This is what further fueled Center’s attacks on staff. Staff dared to disagree with Center’s ill-founded conclusions that the only solution is no more growth.

What was “goofy” was the fact that Center was given a second hearing opportunity before the board, with staff being told by Briggs specifically not to respond! Center went on to provide almost the identical information he’d originally presented, with virtually the same slides, but this time staff was not allowed to clarify the public record! Briggs knew it, Center knew it and I’m sure staff knew it too.

Center openly states he’s not a traffic engineer yet he proceeds to denigrate the many professional engineers’ and traffic experts’ opinions and work on the new Traffic Demand Model (TDM). He does this by mocking the traffic counts on that widely traveled thoroughfare of Mt. Murphy’s Road.

The model counts Center latched onto were not specifically “counted” and one former traffic engineer explained why they likely occurred, but were insignificant overall: traffic model experts did actual counts on local infamous “red roads” – highly traveled roads like Highway 50, Green Valley, Ponderosa and El Dorado Hills Boulevard. They knew it was unproductive (and an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money) to conduct specific counts on low-impact roads such as Mt. Murphy, since road improvements are not proposed there in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Counts are simply not high enough to influence the TDM overall.

EDC could pay for actual road counts on every single local road, but that’s a waste of resources, and thankfully the engineering firms didn’t gouge locals by attempting to do so. Why study insignificant roads? The Traffic Demand MODEL is just that: a model of traffic using the best known “industry standards” available.

So, Center then mocks the “industry standards” that were used. Let’s see: Private engineer and transportation experts across the nation, public agencies such as Caltrans, the federal Department of Transportation, state organizations like SACOG and professional engineering associations, have all agreed on these “industry standards,” yet they’re not acceptable to EDC’s “experts” Center and Moore?

Does the public believe self-serving politically-motivated individuals Center and Moore, who are committed to stopping development no matter what the cost (unless those costs apply to them)? Or, do we believe our local, long-range planning staff, award-winning national traffic engineering firms such as Kimley-Horn and unbiased consultants such as Kittelson and Associates, chosen specifically because they had no personal agenda or axe to grind in this county?

Finally, Center’s comment referencing “job-killing traffic impact fees” locally has to be a joke! These are the very fees that finance road improvements that mitigate traffic for new development, and are paid for by new development as Center demanded. These are Measure Y-induced traffic fees in effect because of Bill Center, yet suddenly they should be eliminated because he, too, must pay them?

Information presented to the board and public indicates ongoing disagreement that the TIM fees, as developed, have taken into account several years of declining traffic trips locally and throughout California. Questions have been posed as to the county’s fairness and legality in failing to fund improvements to mitigate existing deficiencies that cannot be charged to new growth, but that has been a board choice.

The bottom line? Traffic issues are overlaid by many state and national laws and regulations now in effect, including local GP Goals and Objectives and Measure Y. Transportation is a complex and intense field of study that crosses the lines of legal, political and regulatory interests.

Measure Y’s political proponents failed to stop growth as they hoped and I question any long-term politically-driven process that oversimplifies issues with ballot box politics and sound bites. I certainly question the ability of Measure Y politicians to solve traffic issues with yet another anti-growth initiative, when only growth is funding road improvements. These issues are too complex to trust to career activists such as Center and Moore.

Kathye Russell is the Business Alliance Communication Liaison and a resident of Placerville.

Kathye Russell

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