Senator Romero Won’t Support Anything Without Guarantees for SGV

Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero is taking a stand.  Romero tells the Times that if she doesn’t get she wants for San Gabriel Valley, at no extra cost to her constituents, she’ll vote to make sure all of LA County is denied the opportunity to to vote to increase everyone’s transit options.  The Senator may have the muscle to back up her threat as AB 2321, the legislation authorizing the sales tax to be on the fall ballot after Metro’s approval, still needs a full vote of the State Senate.

Romero’s position doesn’t make sense from a transportation stand point.  She’s basically opposed to the sales tax measure because Metro won’t guarantee a Gold Line extension without the funding from the sales tax.  While her argument that the $328 million set aside from sales tax proceeds won’t extend the Gold Line as far as it needs to go has some merit; her argument that Metro should guarantee more funds for an extension without the sales tax rests on the argument that San Gabriel Valley residents would be more likely to support a sales tax increase if they have nothing to gain from it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  After all, would you vote for a tax increase that has no benefits for you?

Have a headache yet?  If not, Romero also tells the Times that she opposes congestion pricing and Metro should approve it’s plan for transit for the valley without knowing whether it will have the $213 million in federal funds.  Her argument?  SGV residents shouldn’t be "forced" to pay tolls because there is a lack of reliable transit options.  Last I checked, which was right before I wrote this post, most of that $213 would be going to provide increased transit options for the effected corridors, including the San Gabriel Valley. 

So let’s sum this up.  She can’t support the sales tax proposal without a guarantee that she gets what she wants without the sales tax proposal.  She also opposes spending hundreds of millions of federal dollars to manage lanes and increase transit because Metro hasn’t spent enough money to increase transit. 

This kind of grandstanding isn’t new to Romero.  In the past she’s slammed Metro for not lobbying hard enough for eastside projects after doing nothing to stop the governor’s raid on transportation funds.  I guess the good news is that if she’s as effective opposing the sales tax ballot proposition as she was the governor’s budget or lobbying for local projects AB 2321 should pass the Senate easily.

Photo: Barack Obama/Flickr

  • This kills me in half.

    What about the notion that what is good for one part of the county is ultimately good for all parts of the county?

    Does she really not see the complexities of this issue?

    She should host a gold-line bake sale and i would GLADLY buy a cupcake. But don’t stymie progress lady!!!!

  • I think this is posturing (ditto the South Bay). In the end reasonable compromises will happen, but first the electeds have to put on a public display so they can boast later they fought the good fight.

    Remember the simple equation 100% of 0% equals zero. Nobody wins if the tax doesn’t appear on the ballot.

  • Ken Alpern

    Well said, Dana. I think that the South Bay deserves its Green Line extension and the San Gabriel Valley deserves its Foothill Gold Line extension…they pay taxes, too.

    Yet a failure to pass this sales tax ensures that no one will get anything.

  • Alan Fishel

    Is this so unreasonable in view of the federal bribe to convert tax payer paid for HOV lanes to toll lanes? Who is going to operate and collect the tolls for the lanes?

    Zev at the last MTA board meeting said the same thing at the idea that the SGV Foothill Extension might get federal matching funds and actually get built. He said Either “MY” projects get built including the hugely expensive Subway to the Sea before he would “allow” the ½ sales tax get on the ballet that would help fund the SGV line, The Downtown Central Connector and other projects.

    If it is fair for Zev it should be fair for Romero.

    Lets get politics out of things and get this much needed line funded and built along with the Expo and the other needed rail projects.

  • Alan,

    I wasn’t at that meeting because I was out of town. If I had heard Zev say that, I would have written the same article about him.

  • Wad

    Alan, every major decision governing Metro must be approved by the board, ergo every decision is inherently political.

    There is no way to take politics out of the rail lines.

    The problem is, politicians are in charge of running a transportation authority but are too stupid to do so. Because the governing power is clearly in their hands, the board members will not smarten up to the rigors of knowing how to make a transportation system work. Instead, they dumb down policy to the level their own minds can grasp.

    Parochialism is second nature. Every official on the board, save for the three City of L.A. appointees who are in theory supposed to stand side-by-side with the mayor, wants to grab the bedsheet of funding and pull it into their direction.

    Never has it dawned on to these 13 officials that in their stations on the Metro board, it is their duty to represent the agency as a whole.

  • Wad,

    It’s this fact (that Metro is a completely political body) that kills me when people stand by and defend their decisions as if they came down straight from Mt. Sinai.

    Every report, decision and memo that comes down from this agency should be met with scrutiny.

    Damien

  • And incidentally, why shouldn’t Romero and Molina, or Lowenthal and the South Bay fight to have their region receive funding for projects they find worthwhile and important to their constituents, if their constituents are being taxed?

    The reality is we actually planned our rail systems from a system-wide perspective we’d not only reduce construction costs (allowing us to build more), but also build the necessary political support to get massive investment measures passed.

    This whole discussion about the importance of design consistency and systemwide planning with projects simultaneously being built in multiple regions that took place when putting together GLAM, and people seem to have completely overlooked it while drooling over the lines on the paper.

    I’m just saying, this is all rather…predictable.

  • Wad

    Damien, the reality of why we don’t plan a systemwide approach is not because it’s a bad idea. You are absolutely right. We should.

    We don’t because we can’t.

    Publicly financed projects such the Get L.A. Moving Plan cannot be built in the same way as this decade’s housing bubble. A significant and firm cash outlay is required by the local agency before the state and federal funding agreements are signed.

    The other problem is that the public and cash-strapped governments believe that federal funding is a bingo ticket to a huge jackpot of money. Just have the right numbers and line them up for a cash prize.

    Instead, look at it more like a Faustian bargain. The larger the funding pot is, the more restrictive it is. The feds will dictate how that money must be spent, from procuring to auditing to meeting benchmarks. These added constraints means that more of the money is lost to higher costs.

    The current process is a mess, but trying to reform it would be trying to move mountains.

    Leave the current system in place and you leave all of the problems in place.

    This is when it boils down to how much can we build, rather than what we should build.

    You put a $40 billion estimate on Get L.A. Moving. One of the critiques I gave to you was that there needs to be a hierarchy in place. Which lines will you hold close to your heart and which are disposable?

    Was the $40 billion the worst case scenario or the most optimistic, where we can have all those lines as long as we get everything right along the way?

    Damien, if you want Get L.A. Moving to come in at $40 billion and still have every line, you’d better encourage L.A. County to pay for as much of it as we can and keep the state and feds out of it.

  • Wad:

    I did not say MTA needs to build GLAM. I’m saying they need to start planning from a system-wide perspective. MTA and predecessor agencies have identified system NEEDS and worked to build the pieces. We’re doing the exact reverse. Here we just throw a couple of pet projects on a map and call it a rapid transit plan.

    Where’s the county-wide NEEDS assessment/EIR? Show me and the public that, explain to me how the mode of transit selected SOLVES our needs, and then send it to the voters.

    In the process we identify uniform designs and construction methods that comply with state and federal standards and, to take care of the politics, ensure that expansion occurs simultaneously in the 5 regions: SGV, SFV, Westside-Central, South Bay, and Gateway, which so happen to already be sliced up that way within MTA’s current bureaucracy. (Again, GLAM has always been far more than just projects on a map.)

    We’ll build what we can locally by passing a large measure (I favor $20B in bonds paid for by a variety of sources, instead of a sales tax), and send the most competitive lines/extensions out for federal and state matches.

    And when those projects are submitted for funding, having a system-wide effort in place helps us justify the higher costs (a la WYEs and grade separated alignments) by stating such as future need – part of the plan.

    Just look at the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into and how much ridership and matching funds we’ve lost by failing to plan just 10 years in advance:

    1) The Little Tokyo station (incompatible with a Downtown Connector)

    2) Expo Phase 1 in general with:

    a) the shared Flower St portion with the Blue (minimum 40-48 trains per hour that can’t possibly be turned around in time).

    b) the inability to operate branch lines to LAX or UCLA that would make those two projects (Crenshaw LRT and Sepulveda/405 LRT/HRT) far more competitive for outside funding.

    I’ve spent way too much time talking to the FTA in D.C. to fall for the line that the only or even the major reason we’re not getting the type of return we need is because there’s not enough money. We don’t know how to plan, and everyone outside of LA knows it.

  • Chuy from La Puente

    To be entirely honest, this isn’t that complicated. Senator Romero is simply saying that the San Gabriel Valley should not have to subsidize Westside Interest unless it will get something in return. That isn’t complicated at all.

    And as for her being parochial, well, that’s her job! She doesn’t represent the Westside or the South Bay, just as you won’t hear Henry Waxman calling for more trail lines to the Eastside.

    As for the tolls, it comes to why should the San Gabriel Valley be the guinea pigs in this experiment? There are over a dozen major freeways running through Los Angeles County. Why are the two that are going to be tolled serve the same region? Why can’t MTA come to a compromise and say, toll the 210 Freeway and the 5 or the 405? The answer is that MTA is dominated by LA City and Villaraigosa and he knows LA City voters will be just as angered at the prospect of the 405 being tolled as SG Valley voters are at the prospect of the 10 and 210 being tolled.

    Of course, all of these begs the question – where the state and the federal government in this? And . . . what happened to the revenue from the 1/2 cent sales tax the county raised two decades ago.

  • Wad

    The Metro board gives 4 of its 13 seats to the city of Los Angeles. L.A., though, is 40 percent of the county’s population and produces about 60 percent of all transit traffic. Also, the city of L.A. places the burden on Metro to provide its local bus service, even though the city’s official bus system is operated by the DOT.

    If anything, L.A. is underrepresented.

  • calwatch

    Except that the County Supervisors make up 5 out of the 13 members of the MTA Board, and every single one of them represents some portion of the city of Los Angeles. Two of them (SD 2 and SD 3) have the majority of their constituents within the City limits. So, in reality, the City of LA gets enough representation on the MTA Board. If you really wanted to be just, you would eliminate all city representation and let the county supervisors take over, like in many rural counties in California. But they would run the MTA like they do King Drew Medical Center and the county jail system, which is to say, not very well.

  • What about a directly elected Transit Authority like BART?

    Or would that be a recipe for disaster?

  • Wad

    Direct elections would make things a lot worse.

    You’ll have a rancid combination of creating a low-prestige office combined with interest groups that can organize to maintain a slate on the board.

    The status quo is a bad enough arrangement. However, direct elections will mean getting very green board members who are new to public governance, or who run on a wild-eyed populist plank and will create a policy wreck. The more moderate members will end up carrying the water of public employee unions or companies doing business with Metro. The bad news is that they will be in the special interests’ pocket; the good news is that the special interests provide some grooming for their candidates to become more effective policy makers.

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