Before Next Week’s CPUC Hearings, a New Player Enters Expo Debate

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The Expo Construction Authority must really be feeling the heat these days. 

KPFK’s Francisco Martinez reports that Dakota Communications, the same firm hired to promote the proposed Home Depot in Sunland-Tujunga and found itself in a spot of controversy when one of their strategy memos leaked to the press, has been hired to collect signatures outside of shopping areas in support of Phase 1 of the Expo Project.  Ironically, Martinez broke the story after being approached by a signature gatherer outside of a Home Depot.

The news of Dakota’s hiring was met with anger by opponents of the light rail line.  Fix Expo’s Damien Goodmon charges in the Bottleneck Blog that Dakota Communications’ "…specialty is to create false community support when the community is 100% opposed to something that is not safe."  For their part, the PR Firm claims their just trying to set the record straight on the benefits Light Rail would bring to the community.

Predictably, one’s views of whether or not the hiring of Dakota Communications is a big deal depends on what side of the Expo Line debate you find yourself.  Over at MetroRider, "Aaron" responds to Goodmon’s response by brushing off the news of Expo’s newest ally and focuses on attacking Goodmon and other Expo critics.  "Who needs the BRU, when we have someone willing to act as a voluntary spokesman for Cheviot Hills NIMBYs?"

This newest Expo mini-controversy arrives just before hearings are held by the Public Utilities Commission on whether or not to allow the Expo Line to be built with at-grade, aka street level, grade crossings by two South LA schools.  The re-scheduled hearings are a clear sign that the court ordered mediation efforts between opponents and the construction authority were not successful.  For a full listing of the new hearing schedule, read on after the jump.

From the California Public Utilities’ Commission:

Evidentiary Hearing – September 2 at 1:oo P.M. (through September 9 if necesary)
Commission Hearing Room
320 West 4th Street, Suite 500
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Concurrent Opening Briefs September 22

Concurrent Reply Briefs October 8

Proposed Decision (PD) October 22

Comments on PD November 12

Reply Comments November 17

Commission Decision November 21

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