A controversial $100 million, 50-mile transportation corridor in the Coachella Valley is growing more contentious and divisive as a Rancho Mirage City Councilmember alleges that leaders of the project are plotting to seek another tax hike from Riverside County constituents to help pay for operation and maintenance of the so-called debacle.
Dana Hobart, a longtime member of the Rancho Mirage City Council who is seeking re-election in April, calls CV Link “a 20-to-30-foot-wide cement, steel and decomposed granite structure (that shatters) residential tranquility and the orderly transaction of business on Highway 111, Bob Hope Drive, and other city streets.”
Hobart asserts that the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) and its parent organization, the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), have begun the process to persuade the public to approve a second ½-cent increase in the county’s sales tax to help pay for operation and maintenance of the corridor.
Hobart told Uken Report that he has documents and testimony to prove it.
In a nut shell, Hobart says the leaders of CV Link didn’t get it right the first time.
Asked if there any plans to seek a countywide sales tax to help pay for operation and maintenance of CV Link, Erica Felci, governmental projects manager for CVAG, said in an email interview that the “short answer is no.”
Felci went on to say that, “RCTC has, for a couple years, been considering asking the voters for another tax measure. The potential measure is not specific to one project. CVAG briefed its members on RCTC’s discussions earlier this year, and the CVAG Executive Committee in February voted to send a letter supporting RCTC’s efforts to clarify their “self-help” tax status should their board ultimately decide to move forward with a ballot measure.”
CV Link is a plan to combine pedestrians, bicyclists, and low-speed electric vehicles (including golf carts) on a dual pathway. CV Link was designed to connect Coachella Valley cities and the lands of three federally recognized tribes with a path that largely parallels Highway 111, the busiest corridor in the valley.
The Rancho Mirage City Council has long opposed CV Link. Hobart highlighted many of the reasons in a recent open letter, parts of which he permitted Uken Report to publish here.
Aside from debasing our beautiful city, there are other reasons for our opposition to CV Link, Hobart said.
“We have suspected from day one that CVAG intends for the cities to assume financial responsibility for the operations and maintenance,” Hobart said. “How can any council responsibly commit their city to paying a share of an unknown annual amount for the next 100 years?” Hobart asked.
Page 15 of CV Link’s 2016 “final” Master Plan confirms that CVAG has no operation and maintenance plan, even after four years of frantic searching, Hobart said, adding that a funding plan for operations and maintenance is in development.
The original Measure A ½-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2002 “to fix our crumbling streets” still has until 2030 to run while our streets remain in decrepit condition, Hobart said. With this track record it is unlikely voters will approve a second ½-cent sales tax increase with the original still having 12-years to run.
When it comes to the CV Link, not one of the pro CV Link cities has its business districts disrupted by this anomaly, Hobart said. That is not the case in Rancho Mirage.
“In our city, CVAG’s proposed route encounters six signalized crossings, which would significantly disrupt traffic and impact our successful synchronization system,” Hobart said. “No other pro CV Link city has beautiful residential communities overwhelmed by this incongruous project.”
The project is expected to create just shy of 700 jobs and have $1.47 billion in economic benefit to the Coachella Valley.
Whether the route, which stretches from Palm Springs to Coachella, ever comes to fruition remains to be seen. Jim Ferguson, a Palm Desert attorney, resident and former member of the Palm Desert City Council, in October filed a lawsuit alleging “illegal” funds are being used to build it. A hearing is set for January.
Hobart this week reiterated his support for Ferguson’s lawsuit saying it “raised important legal issues.”
“I did not ask or suggest that he file the suit,” Hobart said. “The legal issues swirling around the CV Link deserved to be raised, such as the legality of using Measure A funds for any portion of the CV Link project. Mr. Ferguson is doing the public a great public service because the public has been closed out of meaningful discussion concerning the legality of the entire project.”
The lawsuit has drawn umbrage from several civic leaders but none as strident as that of Indio Mayor Michael H. Wilson, one of the project’s most vocal and ardent supporters.
In the aftermath of the lawsuit, Wilson told Uken Report that no Measure A funds have been used or expect to be used for this project. Wilson’s said he believes that Hobart’s and Ferguson’s opposition is the “elitist attitude” of a couple of cities not wanting “certain elements” of people from the east valley passing through their jurisdictions using this pathway.
Hobart denied there is anything elitist about his or the city’s opposition to CV Link.
“Mr. Wilson is scared to death Indio voters will demand a vote in the matter of the CV Link. He knows they would oppose it in a blink of an eye,” Hobart said. He is also supporting a project that he doesn’t have any idea of what the annual O&M cost will be to the city he allegedly represents. His lack of a business background is obvious.”