Orange County supervisors Tuesday put the brakes on a proposal to poll voters next year about whether they would be willing to pay higher taxes and change their working hours to ease traffic congestion and improve air quality.
Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder, who in August suggested the advisory ballot measure, conceded that the "need for increased dialogue among board members is apparent" after three of her colleagues expressed skepticism about her suggestion.
Although not dead, the proposal was delayed Tuesday when supervisors said the report they received from two county agencies is inadequate. They gave their staff another 90 days for more study and to produce another report.
Tuesday's report suggested two possible ballot questions.
One would ask voters if they approved of annual smog inspections, conversion to alternative fuels by vehicles operated by major employers, toll roads, increasing the gasoline tax by 9 cents a gallon or the sales tax by one-half of 1 percent on the dollar, improving public transit and requiring major employers to come up with car pool programs.
The second ballot question would be simpler, seeking opinions only on required car pooling, alternative work hours and possible tax increases.
Supervisor Thomas F. Riley said that various county groups with an interest in transportation had not been contacted about the advisory ballot proposal, contrary to the supervisors' direction in August. Wieder agreed. When staff members said they would need more time, they were given the 90-day extension.
Riley and Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez asked why the toll road question was included, since the county has already received permission from the Legislature to make one of the planned new freeways in the county a toll road.
Vasquez also questioned the wisdom of implying to voters that the county had control over some transportation measures, such as annual smog inspections, when it does not.
Supervisor Don R. Roth said the report simply had "too many unanswered" questions. He said the staff should "go back to the drawing board and come back with the information we need."
Wieder, however, said that although voters elected supervisors to make decisions, it would be unwise to put forth a program that the public felt was "rammed down their throats."
She said that Southern California's inability to meet federal clean-air standards, largely because of automobile pollution, meant that there was a "need to change life styles" in the region, either voluntarily or through imposition of federal regulations.
"We in Orange County will need to change our love affair with the automobile to, if you will, a casual relationship," she said.