Its the Traffic, Stupid

Dave Ellis is a fool. two weeks ago, Ellis—one of the front men for pro-airport tycoon George Argyros' Citizens for Jobs and the Economy—ran head-on into the greatest transportation problem facing Orange County, yet he continues to spin the proposed El Toro International Airport as the engine of some future economic renaissance.

The problem—obvious to any normal working person—is freeway traffic.

On Dec. 10, the day on which all arguments for the March 2000 ballot were due in the registrar's office in Santa Ana, Ellis got stuck on the freeway. In the car with him was the pro-airport argument against anti-airport Measure F. The argument itself was fine, an office staffer told him, but the signature of Anaheim resident Gloria Stratton was invalid because the voluble anti-crime activist wasn't registered to vote.

Ellis could have left the argument with the four remaining signatures—District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas, Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly, Huntington Beach Mayor Dave Garofalo and UC Irvine professor Judith Rosener. But the pro-Measure F crowd had filed their argument weeks earlier, and it had five signatures. So Ellis took the argument back and drove off to try to register Stratton to vote.

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Stratton is part of a bizarre group calling itself Parents of Murdered Children. Having her name on the ballot argument against Measure F would lend credibility to Ellis' baseless argument that F will stop the county from building new jails. That, the argument goes, would force the Sheriff's Department to open the cells and free hordes of criminals in a paroxysm of rape and pillage unseen since the Crusades. But Ellis couldn't find Stratton, so he opted to drive to Westminster to get that city's police chief to sign.

Which he did. Unfortunately, by the Registrar's clock, Ellis got back to Santa Ana a few minutes after the 5 p.m. closing time. And that meant no argument.

Ellis—whose right-wing cronies generally rail against "frivolous lawsuits" and the rise to power of the trial lawyer's lobby—took his whining to court, where he prevailed. Ellis convinced a judge that a clock he saw inside the Registrar's office showed it was not yet 5 p.m. And besides, he argued, "heavy traffic" had delayed him.

Let's see: it was around 4 p.m. on a Friday, and he needed to get to downtown Santa Ana from Westminster. That meant he could either take Westminster Boulevard east and hang a right onto Grand Avenue or risk taking the 22 freeway east to the 5 freeway south, then exit at Grand—yup, that's heavy traffic.

It's unclear how Ellis' international airport is going to fix that problem—a problem that will only get worse in the coming years. Transportation officials predict daily commute times in the Southern California region will double over the next two decades as average freeway speeds slow from 33 miles per hour to 23 miles per hour. That's a serious drain on society, with the time wasted sitting in traffic taken straight out of worker productivity. That—not proximity to a hub for nonstops to Maui—should be the first worry of any local corporate executive.

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