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Elections Don't Ensure Good Leadership

December 17, 1995

What makes you think that direct election of board members to oversee Orange County's governmental agencies would in any way change accountability or increase responsibility ("Roads Paved With Perks," Nov. 28 editorial)?

Voter apathy and public participation in this county are at historic lows.

Former County Treasurer [Robert L.] Citron was directly elected and that didn't increase accountability or responsibility. All most voters in this county knew was that they wrote one or two checks per year to this guy for their property tax. Who among us even knew that this fellow was responsible for managing billions of dollars of our money?

The Santa Margarita Water District Board is directly elected and that didn't stop [former] top bureaucrats there from undertaking what most people would describe as "corrupt" behavior.

The Irvine Ranch Water District is directly elected and I bet most Irvine voters were unaware that at a time when a drought was the justification for rate increases, the agency itself was stockpiling loads of cash.

And even with all of the ranting and raving by a few local political grandstanders about the Orange County municipal bankruptcy, no one was able to gather enough signatures to recall any one of our countywide elected officials.

In an era of general disinterest in civic affairs, direct election does not necessary result in accountability. What's needed here is greater interest by residents in their local civic affairs. We can not abdicate oversight of our communities to a few local power brokers or political gadflies. Without greater participation by the reasonable, middle-of-the-road, public at-large in local charitable, political, social and educational causes, we can expect business as usual.


Santa Ana


On the one hand, the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which are building toll roads for the affluent in Orange County, are spending big money on raises and perks "to recruit the best talent available." On the other hand, the Orange County Transportation Authority, which provides bus services to the not-so-affluent, is faced with staff cuts, fare hikes and the loss of $38 million annually, part of which will fund a private toll road. I don't like this picture.

There's more. On the one hand, the South County elected officials who sit on the TCA boards spent lavishly on themselves with taxpayer money in spite of the bankruptcy. On the other hand, public school teachers like me were informed last year that our operating budgets were frozen indefinitely and that we were to receive a whopping zero percent salary increase because of the same bankruptcy. I don't like this picture!

I am saddened by our greed and our lack of conscience.


Costa Mesa


I see that the same wisdom and management skills that William Woollett, chief executive officer of the toll road agencies, [showed as] city manager of Irvine have not gone to waste. Hiring Greg Henk, the toll road agencies' top engineer, from the toll road agency in Denver was a real stroke of genius.

The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News have classified the E-470, Denver's toll road, a financial fiasco. So why not hire the same engineer who worked on the Denver toll road to manage the design and construction of our toll roads? Hey, and while we're at it, let's give him obscene amounts of money and perks.

The results of Woollett's management decisions are huge cost overruns on all three toll roads. The San Joaquin toll road costs went from $560 million to $1.45 billion, the Eastern toll road went from $630 million to $1.6 billion and the Foothill toll road went from $672 million to $1 billion, while the toll road agencies' staffs are receiving enormous bonuses.

What will it take to get the City Council members and county supervisors, who make up the toll road agencies boards, to reign in these out-of-control pork projects? When are the board members going to reorganize these agencies and hold the bureaucrats in charge of these toll roads accountable?



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