In the Local section of the OC Register, in the “Our Towns – Central” column, you find the following announcement. This is a fun annual event. In recent years those in attendance have engaged our state and federal electeds in a serious discussion on our crumbling state and how to stem the tide.
Do you have a question you’d like answered by a legislator?
Residents can submit questions to the Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the 29th annual Legislative Reception at 6:30 p.m. March 26 at the Senior and Community Center at Founders Village, 17967 Bushard St.
The chamber has invited: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Sen. Tom Harman, Assemblyman Van Tran, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach and the Fountain Valley City Council.
Submit questions to the Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce, 8840 Warner Ave., Ste. 207, Fountain Valley, 92708 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the writer: 714-796-7956 or email@example.com
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
The LA Times continued the topic of toll roads with Megan Garvey’s “Toll Road’s Bond Rating Takes a Hit – With actual revenue falling further behind projections for the San Joaquin Hills pay lanes, Wall Street downgrades its appraisal of the agency’s ability to pay its debts.” Now her attention is turned to the Transportation Corridor Agencies.
Less than a week after Orange County toll road officials took action called "absolutely critical" for the future of the San Joaquin Hills toll road, two of the three major Wall Street ratings agencies have issued warnings about the financial stability of the project.
One bond rating agency on Wednesday downgraded the toll road’s bonds from BBB to BBB-. Another already had declared the lower rating, but last week it changed its outlook for the project from "stable" to "negative."
While analysts said they don’t believe there is danger of defaulting, traffic on the 15-mile toll road still is falling far short of projections, prompting a reassessment of the road’s financial health.
"When you look out beyond the next 10 years, there are serious challenges for the toll road," said William Streeter, a New York-based analyst with Fitch IBCA, which knocked the bond rating down a notch.
Last week, the Transportation Corridor Agencies took the unusual step of setting aside nearly $40 million in savings–largely from its share of the Orange County bankruptcy settlement–to guarantee payment of the debt on the road through 2007. They had hoped that would appease bond analysts who had let the agency know late last year that they were worried about the lower-than-expected traffic.
But analysts said last week’s action, while a good step, was not enough.
John M.W. Moorlach, Orange County’s treasurer, said the shift in the ratings reports was significant.
"It means the ratings agencies are getting uncomfortable. They are looking at the numbers, and it’s made them uneasy," said Moorlach. "Now the issue is: Was the toll road a mistake? If we are all used to drinking water out of a fountain, maybe we don’t want to pay for it out of a vending machine."
Moorlach said he believes serious questions have yet to be answered about why projections made by the nationally known firm of Wilbur Smith and Associates were so egregiously off the mark.
Toll road officials said last week that traffic on the road was still 16% off the 1997 projections and for the first time admitted that it was unlikely to bounce back. Projections had already been dramatically scaled back from the original traffic forecasts.
The OC Register’s Huntington Beach Wave continued the Buzz column story of February 14 with “City treasurer seen as possible candidate for county post” by Jeff Overley.
City Treasurer Shari Friedenrich’s name is being floated as a possible candidate for county treasurer and tax collector, a position catapulted to prominence after the county’s bankruptcy a decade ago.
Held by Robert Citron until $1.6 billion in investment pool losses came to light in 1994, the tax collector’s post currently is occupied by John Moorlach.
Moorlach plans to run for county supervisor next year, however, and said Monday that he sees Freidenrich as his best possible successor.
“I’ve always sort of felt . . . that when I was done she would run and replace me,” said Moorlach, a friend of Freidenrich’s since 1990.
He added that she “has an incredible amount of qualifications.”
Since being appointed as city treasurer in 1996 and being voted to a full term later the same year, Freidenrich has twice been re-elected, winning new four-year terms in 2000 and 2004. Her work for the city, campaign experience and positions on state and national treasurer’s associations make her well-suited for the job, Moorlach said.
Freidenrich said she met with Moorlach last Friday to discuss the tax collector’s post, which handles county investments and pension plans, but cautioned that talk of her running was premature.
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