Next on our list of toll road lobbyists who’re wasting your money is an OC favorite: the former Mayor of Anaheim, the Dark Lord of Anaheim Politics himself, Curt Pringle!
For those who don’t know, the city of San Clemente is embroiled in a lawsuit against the Transportation Corridor Agencies (aka the TCA, aka the people who pickpocket you when you drive on The Toll Roads). San Clemente’s lawsuit seeks to force the TCA to tell which lobbyists and public relations firms the TCA has been paying, and how much taxpayer money the agency is wasting in those lobbying contracts.
It is estimated the TCA has spent millions on lobbyists, and that the proposed extension of the SR-241 will not improve traffic in south OC. Meanwhile, TCA executives boast record high salaries (CEO Mike Kraman made $412,487 in 2017). While we at the Weekly wait for the TCA to disclose how much of our money they’ve wasted, we’ve decided to look into who these lobbyists are.
For more on the lobbyists, click here.
For more on the how the SR-241 will not improve traffic, click here.
According to San Clemente, Curt Pringle & Associates contract with the TCA nabs the politically connected firm at least $72,000 annually. But this contract is likely chump-change for a lobbying mega-firm like Curt Pringle & Associates.
A quick look at Curt Pringle’s lobbyist registration form reveals that an Australian infrastructure and investment company, the Macquarie Group, is pulling the TCA’s strings for Pringle. Macquarie’s contract with Pringle was activated on Sept. 24, 2015 and lists Geoff Segal–Macquarie’s Government Advisory and Affairs Manager– as the primary lobbyist. Macquarie is a multifaceted international company with its hands in banking, insurance, defense and government services, energy, real estate, mining, telecommunications, data collection, and not least of all infrastructure. In short, Pringle hired Macquarie because they’re the one-stop-shop company perfect for lobbying your government, financing, and building a toll road that’ll make your bank account swell. Macquarie is like the Motown of doing shady shit in government: they’ll write, record, and sell your project for big dough.
None of this is surprising. What you didn’t expect, though, was that Macquarie has tried this before in California and the results were both dismal and eerily similar to the fight over the SR-241.
Macquarie’s role as a toll road player in California began in 1990 when San Diego approved the extension of the SR-125 to become a toll road. The same year, the 91 freeway and three other freeways became tolled. The idea that private companies could build and manage toll roads was at an all-time high. Caltrans even stacked the odds in favor of the CTV by deciding not to add toll lanes to the 805 south to promote use of the SR-125, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. The SR-125 seemed like a guaranteed win, and Macquarie signed on as a financier.
But before the building could start, the communities of Santee and Bonita Canyon rose up against the CTV and the proposed toll road. The SR-125 would pass through the existing Bonita Canyon Golf Course, a little league field, ruin the local water supply, and destroy the natural habitat of an endangered species. By the year 2000, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board withheld their approval permits for the SR-125. The Water Quality Board and Army Corps of Engineers quickly brushed these concerns aside, weathered a lawsuit by a local advocacy group, and proceeded to build.
After the battle with the Water Quality Board, the SR-125 faced another lawsuit in 2001. This time, the Sierra Club was preventing the toll road’s extension by suing the Army Corps of Engineers and US Fish and Wildlife for violating the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit didn’t get far, however, as a San Diego judge sided with builders and CTV in 2003. If this sounds familiar, think back to the 2008 Save Trestles campaign, where the Sierra Club sued the TCA for violating another natural habitat.
All the lawsuits against the CTV were frivolous, and by 2003 construction on the extension was underway. Just prior to construction, in 2002, Macquarie aquired an 81.6% stake in the CTV, according to MetTrans. Between the initial groundbreaking and the completion of the SR-125 in 2006, 1.5 million cubic meters of rock were blasted from San Diego hillsides to create the $843 million dollar toll road, according to the Union Tribune.
In 2003, Macquarie bought out the remaining stake in the CTV, according to MetTrans. Macquarie would change the name of the toll road to the South Bay Expressway to boost ridership in 2005, and in the same year they signed a 10 year extension to their 35 year deal with Caltrans. By this time, Maquarie, the CTV, and other toll road sponsors spent 50% more than the estimated costs of the road.
For all Maquarie’s hard work of lobbying local governments, blowing up San Diego mountainsides, and killing endangered species the SR-125 declared bankruptcy in 2010. The SR-125 South Bay Expressway toll road failed to turn a profit, and on June 29, 2011 the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDG) bought the road for $345 million, according to MetTrans. San Diego could’ve saved everyone the hassle by building the road themselves, and realizing that private industry has no business in toll roads.
By all measures Maquarie’s last venture into buying and building a toll road was an abysmal failure. Now, it seems Curt Pringle is welcoming the Australian firm to repeat their same mistakes in Orange County. It can be safely assumed that the price tag for Pringle and Maquarie’s lobbying is much more than $72,000 a year. Siphoning taxpayer money to fund an absurd infrastructure dream doesn’t seem out of the ordinary for Curt Pringle–father of California’s mysterious train to nowhere–and it surely deserves a spot next to the Dark Lord’s other greatest hits.
You may remember some of them:
*Click the links below to learn more about Pringle:
There was his 1988 Aryan inspired pop-punk jam, “Don’t Let Latinos Vote.” The single went certified douchebag when Pringle allegedly used polling police to intimidate Anaheim latinos into staying home. For his efforts, Pringle won Anaheim’s Mayoral race.
There was also his inspiring 2002 love ballad, “Gigante Apology.” In this smash hit, Pringle appeared to resurrect his standing with Latino voters by appearing at the opening of a Gigante supermarket in Anaheim. But, according to Gustavo Arellano, his apology was as bad as his haircut.
And what about his experimental techno-fusion album, “Ride my Rail.” The song rose quickly, but after a quick peak Curt Pringle’s rail fell flaccid. As the Chairman of California’s proposed High-speed Rail, Pringle was criticized for his potential conflicts of interest.
But Pringle’s greatest hit was his 1996 election fraud bump-and-grind slow-jam, “Behind Closed Doors ft. Scott Baugh.” Some considered this song too sexual. Many lost their virginity to the provocative sound of Pringle’s voice. But ultimately, Pringle didn’t lose any of his political power, despite being found guilty of election fraud in the 1996 special election of G.O.P. Assemblyman Scott Baugh.