Read Me For $185 An Hour
If you are not getting paid $185 an hour to read this column, you’re not a consultant for the toll road. Nobody was paid that kind of money for producing it. If you are getting that kind of money to read this, a Starbucks gift card would be nice.
One of the incubators of corruption is the collection of small sums of money from a large group of people and then disbursing it in big chunks to a small group of insiders. This is what folks are saying is going on at the toll road.
They point to consultants for the toll roads being paid $185 an hour to read newspapers as an example of big money being disbursed inappropriately to a small group of insiders. The toll road is an interesting business model. If it was a boat, it’d be a submarine. That is how underwater its balance sheet is.
It has about three times more liabilities than assets. If our personal balance sheets looked like that, we’d be bankrupt. But the toll road is too big to fail. And they have the right to collect tolls until Hell freezes over.
That is worth billions to the bond boys and girls on Wall Street. There doesn’t seem to be any concern about lessening tolls due to Uber and self-driving cars or the obscene amounts of cash spent on high priced consultants and staff, all with no apparent productive results.
The toll road has been refinanced more times than a no-money-down house in the Inland Empire. It has been collecting tolls since 1993 and will continue to do so until 2053, almost double the 35 years originally promised.
It has abandoned its original promises of not using taxpayer money to finance its grand ambitions, collecting millions of dollars in development fees from new homeowners and businesses. The toll road has become like the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.” It is constantly demanding to be fed and is bleeding taxpayers dry.
Bill Brough, our assemblyman from the 73rd District, has introduced a bill that will put a muzzle on the toll road and restore some sanity to the road building process in South Orange County.
His bill, AB 1273, will return the toll road to its core mission, pay off the bonds, and turn the road over to the people as a freeway, which was the original promise. Assemblyman Brough will need our help. Lots of folks won’t be happy about not being able to feed from the toll road trough anymore.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.