The latest attack mailer by the Opportunity PAC charges, “What did Bill Dodd’s Broken Bolts Cost Us?” They argue that mistakes made by Bill Dodd cost taxpayers $35 million on the Bay Bridge snafu.
“Career politician Bill Dodd traveled to China twice as Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). His official duty – inspect the manufacturing of materials for our new Bay Bridge before being shipped and installed,” the mailer states.
“He failed and so did the bolts. 32 of the bolts cracked in the Bay Bride and the fix is costing taxpayers an estimated $35,000,000.00 for repairs and monitoring,” it charges.
However, Steve Heminger, Executive Director of the MTC told the Vanguard on Friday, “Bill Dodd did not pick (the bolts) and MTC didn’t pick them. The bolt specification was developed by CalTrans and issued by CalTrans.”
And, while both Mr. Heminger and Bill Dodd acknowledged that Bill Dodd went to China, the bolts themselves were manufactured not in China but in Ohio.
“The connection is pretty wild, I think,” Bill Dodd told the Vanguard. “This one is so far and away above my pay grade, it’s almost even comical that there’s even a connection.”
The attack ads mark just the latest in a series of negative ads that are way off base in the Assembly race.
Dan Wolk on Saturday morning issued a statement, “Like everyone else, I’m disappointed by the negativity that special interests have injected into this campaign. I would much rather we talk about the real issues that matter to the people of our district, like reinvesting in our public schools, standing up for women, and fighting for the middle class.”
“But I do believe it is critically important to look behind these groups and follow their money and their motivations,” the Mayor Pro Tem added. “Those supporting me are funded by teachers, nurses and firefighters. The PACs attacking me, and supporting my opponent, are funded by big oil, big tobacco, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry and other special interests. Big tobacco doesn’t like my effort to keep e-cigarettes away from children. Big oil doesn’t like my support for a ban on fracking. It’s up to the voters to decide which side best represents them.”
Joe Krovoza on Thursday sent a statement to the Vanguard, “This latest attack by Opportunity PAC targeting my opponent Bill Dodd is a new low for this race. Luckily, I think it’s preposterous enough that voters will see through it. I continue to be thankful that no organization supporting me has issued negative ads about my opponents — my supporters and I have kept everything positive and civil, focusing on my candidacy.”
This is the second in a series of false negative ads attacking Bill Dodd by the opportunity PAC. The FairPAC representing business and insurance and conservative interests falsely attacked Dan Wolk of flip-flopping.
Mr. Heminger explained that the MTC had two roles in the Bay Bridge project. They selected the overall design of the bridge in the late 1990s. Following that, however, MTC was on the sidelines and CalTrans was in charge of the project.
During that time, the decision about the bolts and the fasteners was made – by CalTrans.
“We were brought back into the project in 2005 after repeated cost overruns and delays on the project,” he said. MTC has a role in something called the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, a three-agency committee that Steve Heminger chairs which includes MTC, CalTrans, and the California Transportation Commission. “From a period of 1998 to 2005, the project was really being managed by CalTrans alone. That’s the period – it was actually in 2002 or 03 – when the bolt selection decision was made.”
“We didn’t have anything to do with that decision, it was made by CalTrans,” he reiterated.
The mailer also implies that Bill Dodd went to China and was supposed to inspect the bolts, therefore he’s connected to the bolt failure.
Bill Dodd explained that their job was mainly a financial oversight, “None of the technical stuff was even part of our purview.”
“The fact is that the bolts were manufactured in Ohio, it had nothing to do with China,” Mr. Heminger told the Vanguard.
MTC Officials including Bill Dodd, who was chair of the MTC from 2006 to 2007, did travel to China. The contractor that was hired to deliver the steel portion of the new bridge, the suspended portion of the bridge, decided to use a supplier in Shanghai.
The result of this decision is that MTC officials had to travel to China to meet with officials of the supplier and to get briefed on how the project was going. At times they put pressure on the supplier to speed up delivery and improve the quality of the projects.
Mr. Heminger said he was there about half a dozen times following the 2005 decision to bring MTC back aboard.
He explained that some of these were effectively political meetings between the president of the company and representatives from the Bay Area. “Bill’s role at the time as chairman of the commission, we asked him to come along so that he could fulfill that leadership role on our side of the table,” Mr. Heminger explained.
Neither Bill Dodd nor Steve Heminger played a role in inspecting bolts or any other materials. “We were over there to deal with our counterparts who were executives and managing the project.”
Bill Dodd explained, “As Chairman we had a $500 million contract with a steel company in China. During the fabrication and construction, CalTrans uncovered some incidents they felt like needed special attention.”
“The tradition and custom of respect in China calls for the chairman to be the leader of the delegation on trips,” he explained. “That was my duty of the chairman of the board to represent (the state) on that trip.”
Steve Heminger explained MTC’s role in the Bay Bridge Project was due to the fact that the state legislature did not want to leave the decision to CalTrans alone to select the bridge design.
“The legislators were looking for a public process and a local agency that could help make a decision that we’d be living with for 100 years-plus,” he said. He would add, “After all of the delays and cost overruns, we were brought back in 2005 in a different role and that was really to provide oversight on the project.”
Bill Dodd told the Vanguard, “In 2005, after CalTrans had taken the project from a $1 billion project to a $6.5 billion project, legislation got passed… to take away full control of the Bay Bridge from CalTrans and allowed the California Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority to create a team for oversight on the bridge to help control cost overruns.”
As we were sorting out this issue, another mailer making similar charges hit on Friday afternoon. The question is, what impact will this have on the Assembly race and to whose advantage does this series of attacks – most of them based on completely false premises – play.
—David M. Greenwald reporting