On Friday March 10th, a survey link was sent out to a private group of individuals asking them to take a survey about the “Newport Trolley”, which is actually a bus. The survey asked about 5 different designs, and had an option for “Other”– but the public was not informed of this survey until a full five days later on March 15th when the city announced it publicly through their Facebook and Twitter accounts– just 48 hours before the survey closed.
The city was asking for feedback– a rare event, considering that most of the feedback comes from the small echo-chamber that they are confined in, comprised of about only about 500 people. We launched an awareness campaign for the crony project, asking people to click “Other” and sign “NO BUS” if they didn’t want to have a bus on the peninsula that cost taxpayers $22 for every trip someone took on it, a taxpayer-funded business operated by an out-of-town political insider.
The campaign appeared to be working, until out of nowhere, the “Other” option was removed without warning. I immediately wrote into the city council and contacted the media with an email subject of “Silencing the citizens”, explaining that they could not simultaneously pretend to care about citizen feedback and then also remove the option for citizens to give feedback when the feedback wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Later, Diane Dixon would publicly ask a county official in a room full of 200 people how she deals with “problems like people on social media”, only to be ignored completely.
While the local papers are writing articles about this bus and calling it a “trolley”– an insult to all of their readers– the city staff is also coming out and saying that taxpayers don’t pay for taxpayer dollars– Seriously. here is a direct line from the Newport Indy: “The shuttle program is funded by Measure M funds, according to Wisneski, not taxpayer dollars.” Later on, though, Wisneski would confirm “Measure M is Orange County’s 1/2 cent transportation sales tax“– sounds like taxpayer dollars to me.
Note that the Newport Indy also incorrectly reported that the option for a red trolley design was the highest-ranked option. At the end of the survey, there were only 118 total votes for that category, and even at the time of their reporting, the Newport Beach Indy reported that 131 votes were in the “Other” category, which would have put the “NO BUS” as the clear winner. Why they decided to report something so provably inaccurate, I do not know. You can make your own decisions as to the reasoning, though.
So far with this bus project, the city has received taxpayer dollars from the county in order to market a product that doesn’t exist (they’ve already committed $30k to marketing). The presumed need for this bus project was based on a 4-year-old request from the Balboa Village Merchants Association which they said they would like “anything but a bus” to get people around Balboa Peninsula for free. But just 18 months ago, the Downtowner came to Newport Beach, offering rides on-demand for free, negating this need. However, the city didn’t abandon ship when the project was clearly no longer needed– they are pressing forward and the cost according to their own estimations will be $22 per rider– and frankly, that’s a very low estimate, by my calculations– the number will be substantially higher.
The benefit of all this, for all this money? The shuttle will run a whopping 22 days per year. A colossal waste of tax dollars.
Sick of government wasting millions on programs that accomplish nothing that the free market doesn’t already accomplish? Sign the petition to stop the bus, here: http://savenewport.com/stop-the-bus/