27 October 2016

A fresh take on the Rancho Mirage referenda of April 2016

I recently posted a notice about the Whitewater Bike Trail on the Rancho Mirage News page, and I received a comment from the moderator there, Charlie Barrett. I've known Charlie through his online posts for a while, and I don't expect him to take any progressive opinions in the near future.

His comment read, "Rancho Mirage voters have turned down [Coachella Valley Association of Government] CVAG's plans to bring the CV Link through Rancho Mirage. City Council was considering even rescinding the offer the city made to CVAG whereby the CV Link would come through Rancho Mirage via Ramon Road, which CVAG flatly rejected months ago. So clearly appears that CVAG is not willing to even discuss anything else but what it dictates and wants, while RM city officials offered to discuss the Ramon Road proposal."

I recognized his comment distills the exchanges between Rancho Mirage and the CVAG executive committee, likely in the interest of writing a cogent but short reply. The distillation only slightly misrepresents how the 18-month-long back-and-forth went in finding any route that could be agreeable to the City Council, CVAG, and the ultimate users of CV Link.

With Charlie's comment in mind, I went back to the referenda that the City Council had brought to the citizens in April 2016. Four issues were on the ballot:
  • Measure 1, binding: Shall the City of Rancho Mirage require that any future amendment or repeal of Ordinance No. 1099, which currently prohibits Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (not including golf carts) on or adjacent to certain designated streets including Highway 111, Bob Hope Drive; Country Club Drive; Da Vall Drive; Dinah Shore Drive; Frank Sinatra Drive; Gerald Ford Drive; Magnesia Falls Drive; Monterey Avenue; Plumley Road, and others, be subject to prior voter approval?
  • Measure 2, advisory: Do you approve of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) spending One Hundred Million Dollars ($100,000,000) or more to construct the CV Link, plus, according to the March 2015 Master Plan, an additional $1.6 million annually to operate and maintain the CV Link pathway, which CVAG proposes to extend through Rancho Mirage business and residential districts?
  • Measure 3, advisory: If CV Link were to be constructed, would you approve the City Council committing Rancho Mirage to pay for CV Link's annual operations and maintenance expenses, which on April 6, 2015, CVAG projected Rancho Mirage's share to be between $110,300 and $251,800 per annum as of the 9th year of operations, and continuing to increase annually at the rate of inflation? 
  • Measure 4, advisory: Because in 2002 County voters approved Measure A, which is a ½ cent increase in our sales tax to be used to repair dilapidated and crumbling roads and highways in the Coachella Valley, should CVAG be allowed to divert up to $20 million dollars ($20,000,000) from this Measure A fund, to pay for the construction of the Neighborhood Electric Vehicles portion of the CV Link?

In actions separate from the referenda, Rancho Mirage city council did in fact rescind all routes offered through the city. The council specifically stated that Highway 111, Gerald Ford, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Butler-Abrams Trail, and—later, as a punitive step against CVAG—Ramon Road could not be used for CV Link routing. —Strangely, the city commission never excepted a CV Link route along Dinah Shore Drive!— Some day the residents may get fed up with the walkers, runners, cyclists, and electric vehicles using their existing streets instead of a dedicated corridor through the town.

However and contrary to popular opinion, the Rancho Mirage ballot measures were poorly written, and they could be interpreted to encourage building CV Link, albeit with confusing restrictions. (Blame then-mayor Dana Hobart and city attorney Steve Quintanilla for this.) As the April ballot issues were written, the city had the following restrictions on CV Link:

  • Measure 1 (approved by 75%): No electric vehicles are allowed on Ramon, Dinah Shore, Gerald Ford, Frank Sinatra, Country Club, Highway 111, Plumley, Da Vall, Bob Hope, Magnesia Falls, or Monterey. However, electric vehicles are allowed on any other streets—and on any other routing of CV Link through the city.
    Further, any changes to this list must be agreed to in a city election.
  • Measure 2 (79% of the vote): This "advisory referendum" likely has no force on actions by the Coachella Valley Association of  Governments, in which Rancho Mirage has one voting member of 11. However, by this advisory, CVAG is allowed to spend less than $100 million for construction of CV Link and less than $1.6 million annually for maintenance.
    As CV Link is to be built as a joint effort of Riverside County and the ten cities of CVAG, interpretation of this advisory Measure 2 is, indeed, cloudy. Perhaps the closest approximation would be that construction and maintenance in Rancho Mirage would be limited to $10 million ($100/10 million) and $160 thousand ($1.6/10 million), respectively.
  • Measure 3 (78% of the vote): This "advisory referendum" likely has no force, although it may guide the city council in enacting local ordinances. However, this advisory allows Rancho Mirage to maintain CV Link with annual amount either less than $110,300 or more than $251,800 each year. Combined with Measure 2, the maintenance funds apparently would be limited to less than $110K.
  • Measure 4 (81% of the vote): This "advisory referendum" prohibits using $20 million from Measure A funds for building the part of CV Link that serves NEVs (electric vehicles). Because of the restrictive language, it appears that other funding sources would be allowed, and apparently using Measure A funds for the non-NEV routing would also be allowed.
So much for the legal acumen of the former mayor, the city attorney, and the current city council.

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