Mimi's Influence Cafe

Assemblywoman Mimi Walters (R-73, 241, 133) is a class act. And like any act, she can be yours if you can afford the hiring fee. Just ask Big Tobacco. Hell, just ask Rancho Mission Viejo; she's really going the extra mile for them. Sixteen miles actually—the length of the proposed Foothill-South toll road extension.

Let's warm up with tobacco. RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris are both opposing Proposition 86, the Tobacco Tax initiative. It would add $2.60 of additional excise tax per pack, diverting the money to health services, children's health services and tobacco-related programs. Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds have thus far contributed a total of $7,600 to Mimi Walters for Assembly 2006; unsurprisingly, Walters is opposing Prop 86. Opponents say the initiative is a front for hospitals to rake in dough and violate anti-trust laws. Why shouldn't we believe them? It's not like they lied about nicotine's addictive qualities, right?

Moving swiftly on, let's examine the toll road. The Transportation Corridor Agencies manage Orange County's network of toll roads (including the 73, the 133 and the 241). They want to extend the 241 through the Donna O'Neill Land Conservancy, San Onofre State Beach and right next to a Juaneno Indian burial ground. Naturally, they're being sued three ways from Sunday over this, but their lawyers (Nossaman Gunther Knox & Elliot) are top notch. Nossaman has also donated $3,500 to Walters's campaign committee, as the toll road runs through her district. Specifically, the extension would run right through Rancho Mission Viejo (RMV).

Walters has long been a champion of the 241 toll road, vocally supporting it (to widespread derision) at a State Parks Commission hearing last year and even using her campaign consultants, Keena Communications, to help convince civic leaders to join her crusade. You'd think Walters would stop there; she's already more than justified the $3,300 donation to her committee from the RMV Entitlement Co. But when you hire Mimi, you get more than you bargained for.

After her own eminent domain initiative died in committee like a patient overly etherized upon a table, Walters threw her diminutive weight behind Proposition 90. She became honorary chair of the Save our Homes Coalition and lassoed nefarious financier Howard S. Rich to help fund her new baby. Help he did, providing $3.5 Million in out-of-state support for an initiative which could bankrupt California. But it sure will help RMV rake in the cash.

Here's the money shot: under Prop 90, the government (of which the TCA is technically a part) must compensate property owners to the tune of "the use to which the government intends to put the property, if such use results in a higher value for the land taken." Instead of buying open space, the TCA would suddenly have to pay for the land as if the toll road were already on it. And toll roads inflate land value—just ask Dana Point Councilwoman Diane Harkey. "Our property values went up enormously once we had the toll roads," she told The Blotter back in April.

Recently, at a League of Cities debate on Prop 90, Mission Viejo Mayor MacLean expressed his concern that the so-called "Taxpayer Trap" initiative would force the TCA to pay "highest and best use" value of the land for the 241 extension. He didn't even go into the possibility that RMV would have to be compensated for a portion of the tolls – after all, that's a use to which the government intends to put the property, isn't it? Keep in mind, MacLean sits on the board of directors for the Foothill/Eastern TCA, the road-builders themselves. Boy's got some knowledge is all I'm sayin'.

Who's the 241 toll road extension's biggest cheerleader? Mimi Walters. Who's Proposition 90's biggest cheerleader? Mimi Walters. Who profits from the 241 toll road extension? Rancho Mission Viejo. Who profits from Proposition 90? Rancho Mission Viejo.

Who's remaining remarkably quiet about the threat posed to the Donna O'Neill Land Conservancy, which they manage? Rancho Mission Viejo. The Conservancy is named after the late wife of Dick O'Neill, who used to run what company? Rancho Mission Viejo. Now it's run by Dick's nephew Tony Moiso, who stands to reap the windfall—all he has to do is pave over his aunt's memory.


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