Costa Mesa councilwomen call toll-lane ballot measure political

In Costa Mesa, even what should be a kumbaya political moment has a way of becoming contentious.

Last week, the City Council unanimously decided to ask voters what they think about a state plan to put toll lanes on the 405 Freeway.

The question will appear on the city's November ballot, though it will be symbolic, simply asking voters whether they agree with the council that the lanes are a bad idea.

Mayor Jim Righeimer said he hoped to show Sacramento that an overwhelming majority of Costa Mesans oppose what critics call "Lexus lanes."

But on Tuesday, Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece — both of whom oppose the toll lanes and had voted to put the issue before the public — submitted a ballot argument against the measure.

They called the resolution an ineffective political stunt that will waste taxpayers' money.

"To me, it's a brazen attempt to basically get some political candidates' names in the ballot book associated with something that's polling good," Genis said.

Genis and Leece objected during last week's council meeting when Righeimer said he planned to have politicians from neighboring cities sign on to the ballot argument against toll lanes.

"We'd be looking to have that signed by people who are well-known throughout the area," Righeimer said.

The final document now includes signatures from Righeimer, Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper, Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

"I think it's a political stunt to not have the whole council and [instead] to do it with you and other mayors who may be running for public offices," Genis told Righeimer at last week's meeting.

Harper is running for an Assembly seat in November, and Mansoor is seeking a position on the Board of Supervisors. Righeimer is up for reelection to the City Council.

The California Department of Transportation has already said it intends to move forward with the plan to build the toll lanes between the 605 Freeway and Costa Mesa.

Costa Mesa's voice will be stronger if it is joined by neighboring politicians, Righeimer said.

"By ourselves, this doesn't work," he said. "This has to a be a political message to the governor's office [that] this is not the way to run a business."

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