Welcome to the Blogroll: Bus Riders Union

8_12_09_bru.jpg

Last month, the Bus Riders Union quietly opened its own blog to further push its advocacy efforts online.  While there’s nothing that is technilogically amazing about the blog, if anyone remembers what the BRU’s website looked like two years ago when I first arrived or last year during the "No on the Six" campaign, it’s nice to see a more professional looking website with regular updates.

As you would expect, the BRU Blog focuses on their advocacy efforts by covering their events and posting videos from testimony at Metro Board meetings.  What drew my attention to the blog today was a post from the Metro Library linking to a post by Esperanza Martinez that was a "Streetsblog Style" post looking at how the media is beginning to cover transit differently than in year’s past.

As our fight for our
Clean Air and Economic Justice Plan continues, we are also building our
understanding of what other cities and agencies are doing to push the
bounds of what we think is possible in the realm of public
transportation. Critical factors that shape the BRU’s programmatic
demands – auto restriction, bus-centered system with bus only lanes and fare reductions as a means to free fares

Whether you’re a BRU supporter, hater or just casual observer; you can now easily follow the BRU’s efforts and messaging online.

  • Thanks to the folks at the website Guidestar you can examine the 2007 Form 990 filed by the Labor Community Strategy Center, of which the BRU is a subset–some of you may find it a real eye opener

    http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2007/954/201/2007-954201669-047ca42c-9.pdf

    And this is the page on Kymberleigh Richards’ website with some of the research I have done on the BRU

    http://transit-insider.org/bru/index.htm

    Glad to see a healthy discussion about these issues. Like much in transportation advocacy things are not as cut and dried as some want to make them out as being. The BRU has done some laudatory stuff, and some that have made them the object of criticism.

  • Wow, Dana. That Form 990 is an eye opener and a jaw dropper to boot.

    ———

  • I know we’re trying to make LA Streetblogs a happier place, but come on Dana. You’re really like Dr Evil here in Austin Powers. Remember when Dr Evil said he was going to blow up the world if he didn’t get one million dollars. I know the point of Dana and Dan’s little exercise is that Eric Mann makes 135,000 dollars a year, but come on gentlemen, he’s been in this field for like 40 years, he’s educated, he has books published, he’s actually accomplished things with his life. I fully expect on being able to at least clear 100,000 per year with ten years. Maybe you don’t have a job or the jobs you have you are making very little, but he’s not making a super amount of money for normal professional people who have been successful (the key is successful,) just saying if that’s the amazing thing you got from little form.

    A cop or teacher could clear 100,000 per year if they worked 40 years.

    Also lets not forget he went to Cornell, that’s a good school, what do you expect him to be doing? Making 40,000 a year and living in an apartment in Van Nuys.

    Browne

  • Erik G.

    Keep up the good work Dana!

    Sorry Browne, Ivy League degrees don’t entitle people to high salaries in any and all fields and this tax return has fishy written all over it.

    So who exactly gives BRU over $1m a year?
    And the Manns are able to take $220k of this home?

    I wonder what the ratio of donations to salary of Executive Directors is at other 501(c)(3)’s and charities in L.A., and charities elsewhere in the world.

    And how are they allowed to take the left-over money to acquire stocks and bonds to create a trust fund…

    …or were these securities donated to them by (a) private person(s)?

    Can someone also explain to me how videos can depreciate?

    I gotta visit that office, with $500k furniture and equipment, it must be palatial.

  • I have to laugh at Ms. Molyneux and her special pleading. This no dossier of secret knowledge but information that has long been available for anyone who bothered to look and ask questions.

    Years ago I remember Martin Hernandez telling me the BRU was a street organization, as if it was a doughty group living on a shoestring. When I eventually began some digging the picture that emerged was far different.

    My opinion isn’t an ignorant kneeejerk reaction. I’ve read Mann’s book on the Van Nuys G.M. Plant campaign and his 1996 booklet “A new vision for urban transportation” plus various articles he has written over the years on their campaign. I even read his daughter’s memoir, which I didn’t expect to contain any deep revelations (and it didn’t) but was interesting for the glimpses it provided of Mann as a parent and spouse whereas we mostly see his public advocacy persona.

    And of course my opinion is just that, but understand it is born of a context and built on solid knowledge. And while they tend to shy away from being public about it because Mann has a reputation of being a strident bully, many on the left have quietly over the years expressed to me disappointment with Mann and the path he has taken. And despite all the lauding Ms. Molyneux showers on Mr. Mann, his style has burned some bridges and meant the LCSC (especially of late) has not been able to take full advantage of the opportunities the consent decree should have opened. As one of Mann’s former colleageue noted over a decade ago in a L.A. Weekly profile of Mann, he tends to hold to himself what direction is taken and any opinion other than his can quickly make you unwelcome.

    And I hope Joe Linton can understand a plea to debate openly and respectfully is not so easy to honor when we who aren’t on the Bus Bench/BRU/Damien Goodmon bandwagon are constantly the target of attacks and attempts to squelch. They declare they have all the answers, which gets tiresome after a bit to endure. I noted that they have done some good, but sadly are prisoners of Eric Mann’s ego and limitations. A group that says it is a bus riders union should have their needs as it chief goal, and in my view that is not the case with the BRU. And I see no sign of that changing.

  • “I know the point of Dana and Dan’s little exercise is…”

    —————–

    Now did I mention you or criticize you? As “on-script” and predictable as ever I see.

    I was merely gasping at the $1.4 million that gets thrown away on the BRU each year.

    However, since YOU bring up the topic, it is true Mr. Mann gets paid $135,000 a year, but he also gets paid over $56,000 in employee benefits and deferred compensation for a total of $191K.

    It is for the working class volunteers and donors of the BRU to decide if it is worth the expense. I haven’t and won’t give them a single dime, so I’m not out any money.

  • All Browne is here for is the promotion of her blog, nothing more nothing less. I look at her as the Harvey Levin/TMZ of Transit.

  • It’s not the BRU that gets over one million per year it is The Strategy Center and the BRU is just one slice of all of what they do, again you guys are in Austin Power land. One million dollars isn’t all that much considering what they do, I mean if it was 40 million ok, but one million dollars that’s just a house in an upper middle class neighborhood it’s not even a rich person’s house in LA. A house across the street from Albertsons in Los Feliz went for 850,000 last week, even in this economy.

    I think you guys just really need to get out of 1982 and loserville and then you wouldn’t think this is all that much money, for god sakes my dad is an immigrant and never gradated from high school and he has a million dollar house. A million dollars isn’t like some crazy amount in 2009 sorry, its not.

    Lots of people work at the Strategy Center and they have expenses and again they’ve accomplished stuff so they get funding, I know Dana is confused about this concept. (If SoCATA did something you might be able to get a grant, but the key is doing something.) I’m not sure why one million dollars seems so weird to you its a successful organization run by smart people. You guys hate them but you go on and on and on about them and they don’t even acknowledge that you are alive which says alot really…

    How much do you think successful nonprofits and for profits run on? You have to pay people, rent an office, advertise…that’s not cheap or easy. I bet PETA makes alot more than The Strategy Group the nonprofit that the BRU is affiliated with. I think if you want to make what you are doing right now more impactful is find an organization that is comparable to the BRU and have accomplished what they have accomplished , like the decent decree that the BRU won for METRO riders and show us how much successful organizations make (that would obviously exclude SoCATA since you do nothing) in comparison to the BRU then everyone could see the truth.

    Just for reference for SEC purposes a small business is a business that has less than 25 million in revunue. A small business is also a business in other financial defintions is a business that makes less than 1.5 million gross annual sales.

    One million dollars isn’t an insane amount, but whatever just keep freakin out about it, it just make you look more sad to people who understand the real world.

    And it’s not just Ivy League world its pretty decent state college world also.

    Browne

  • Don’t forget the Transit Coalition’s “BRU Truth” at http://thetransitcoalition.us/BRUtruth.htm – ironically one of the few things Kymberleigh Richards and Bart Reed can agree on.

  • The problem is that the BRU lacks nuance and detail. They run on the classic Alinsky organizing model, which is great for political campaigns (see, for instance, Obama) and requires strong leadership. But the strong leadership also fends off any challenges to their authority, as evidenced when the BRU rejected Dana Gabbard’s application for membership. It’s not that Mr. Gabbard would start running for office at the BRU – he wouldn’t – but rather they didn’t want him to be on the mailing list, to have any say at all in the organization. It’s just like Obama’s organizers parachuting into Iowa. The Iowans they recruited have a say in what they do, but ultimately Chicago made the calls on what to do and the Iowans don’t have much say in what Obama’s positions are on certain thing.

    Blunt statements like “four wheels good, two rails bad” makes for good street theater, but it ultimately fails to address the challenges of transportation in Los Angeles. The BRU trumpets the passage of the Wilshire bus lanes but did they send anyone to Washington to make sure the funding was coming? What did they do to outreach into the community that used the 720 bus line to call their legislators and city councilmembers and make the Wilshire bus lane a priority? I am aware that SOCATA did several meetings in the Westside community, independent of the MTA’s outreach, that basically discussed the project and told residents how to write letters and tell them why the Purple Line should be a priority. Other than passing flyers and gathering the media through a press conference (apparently City News Service moves any moment the BRU sneezes on their daily calendar to media), I am not aware of serious organizing done on the bus lane issue.

  • “think you guys just really need to get out of 1982 and loserville…”

    ————–

    Gee, and she wonders why she ends up banned from discussion boards.

  • I think that if Southern California Transit Advocates and the Transit Coalition screamed racism at every opportunity they’d get more attention too…

    The BRU is sort of like transit’s version of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Have the audacity to speak for all members of a group and play the race card constantly. It really helps if you have little of actual substance to say (Hey, these guys get it right every once and while, I mean, I’m certainly against racism, lol). Ever since Obama was elected does anyone notice these guys anymore? Last I heard Jesse Jackson was campaigning to get Michael Vick back into the NFL and compared his struggle to Jackie Robinson’s. Now that’s obscurity.

    It’s sort of like when the consent decree expired and Measure R went into effect, the BRU lost all influence. The race mongers are pretty much being exposed for what they are these days.

  • Mattlos

    The debate on this thread: Is it demagoguery to discuss race and class in the context of transit capital investments? And also, does Eric Mann make too much money?

    The debate we should be having: Are there disparate impacts to transit investment along race and class lines? If so, how can we mitigate them?

    In the end, I’m sadly disappointed by the tone of this thread.

  • “Is it demagoguery to discuss race and class in the context of transit capital investments?”

    Are there disparate impacts to transit investment along race and class lines? If so, how can we mitigate them?”

    ———–

    Well, these questions are not mutually exclusive. There are obviously people who demagogue on race and class to influence how capital investments are decided.

    This brings up the issue about how much it is the role of transit investment to provide a form of social welfare and social justice and how much it is the role of transit investment to focus on mobility for everyone without regard to race and class. That is several sociology and public policy dissertations in the making.

    Either way, since this is a thread about the BRU, I will argue that the BRU’s policies are counterproductive to the mobility of everyone of all races and classes, and have thankfully been rejected by the voters.

  • I have laugh at Ms. Molyneux’s special pleading redux that substitutes turning up the volume for actually having any meaningful response. Boy, have you really drunk the BRU flavor aide.

    Mattlos, to talk of disparate impacts, etc. buys into the whole EJ worldview pedaled by folks like Eric Mann, Damien Goodmon and Browne Molyneux. These issue are more complex than simplistic soundbite slogans etc. Goodmon in particular seems on the verge of losing contact with reality, given the latest post on his blog (http://fixexpo.blogspot.com/). Imagine the NIMBY pushback from the corridor residents if Goodmon’s tunnel demands were to happen. But of course it is all moot given Goodmon seems to be fast fading as any sort of political force — Darrell Clarke tells me Goodmon has removed himself from being a party to the PUC proceedings in re Farmdale and has instead just asked to be informed of dates and times for hearings, etc. Does this constitute taking a step away from the street crossing issue? Maybe Mr. Godmon could explain why he did this.

    “I’m sadly disappointed by the tone of this thread.” Well, I am sorry but these are serious matters and I reject the view advocates should be held hostage by decorum. Mann et al should no such inclination so the rest of us need to steel ourself and give as good as we get. That is the reality of the rough and tumble of public policy politics. It sure isn’t for the fainthearted.

    I’ll close by quoting from the BRU bylaws, “The Planning Committee will consist of seven (7) Bus Riders Union members and up to five (5) Labor/Community Strategy Center staff members. For members, participation in the National School for Strategic Organizing does not preclude participating in the Planning Committee.”

    This means potentially a majority of the collective policy making leadership body of the BRU can be made up of employees of Eric Mann or trainees getting a stipend. In membership groups like the Sierra Club having staff in such policy making positions is verboten. It makes me question how much real say BRU members have in what is supposed to be a membership organization.

    http://oldbru.thestrategycenter.org/espan/JoinUs/member-bylaw.htm

    P.S. – I only sent them a check because by joining I would have been added to the mailing list so I would get their propoganda. Remember, at the time they were functioning as plantiffs in a federal consent decree on the basis that they represented the interests of bus riders. Understandable I wanted to know what they were saying in that capacity. I certainly had no intention to attend the meetings. I already went to a BRU meeting circa 1994 and that one time amply answered my curiousity about what they are like (this was when I was just starting to learn the lay of the land).

  • The link to Goodmond’s post may not work– try this: http://fixexpo.blogspot.com/

  • On the other hand, Environment Justice is a legitimate issue to be considered, and EO 12898 requires agencies to address environmental justice, through outreach to affected communities, consideration of disparate impacts, etc. It is my contention, however, that they are already addressed through the existing governmental and political framework. Unlike the 1960’s, the Voting Rights Act has created majority-minority districts that have allowed members of historically disadvantaged communities to elect people of their race, like Gloria Molina, Yvonne Burke, and Bernard Parks. All Metro Rail lines serve majority-minority communities. If they don’t represent the community’s interest, the community should vote them out.

    Also, the communities should realize that striving for the “perfect” project that protects minorities 100% can result in other projects that serve communities with fewer minority or poor people, or projects elsewhere in less poor areas, to go ahead of you. I am sure that secretly the Foothill Gold Line Authority wouldn’t mind if the Expo project were killed and the money transferred to the Foothill Extension, a “shovel ready” project that has virtually no organized opposition against it, from the communities that they serve. They would never admit it on the record, but when projects die because of infighting, easier projects like the Foothill Extension, High Desert Corridor, and SR-47 Expressway go forward.

  • FixExpo.org is live again.

    They run on the classic Alinsky organizing model, which is great for political campaigns (see, for instance, Obama) and requires strong leadership.

    Confusing Alinsky’s organizing model with a presidential campaign? That is flawed on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Why am I the only one to point this out?

    Blunt statements like “four wheels good, two rails bad” makes for good street theater

    Given that there’s a body of academics who agree, why would you attempt to reduce their argument in such a light. It doesn’t serve to accent your own.

    You guys hate them but you go on and on and on about them and they don’t even acknowledge that you are alive which says alot really…

    In his world, Mr. Gabbard’s finds his relevance by attacking others. It’s apparent that he considers it much less physically challenging than doing the type of organizing that brings about results.

    The BRU trumpets the passage of the Wilshire bus lanes but did they send anyone to Washington to make sure the funding was coming? What did they do to outreach into the community that used the 720 bus line to call their legislators and city councilmembers and make the Wilshire bus lane a priority?

    How do you know they didn’t? This tactic of claiming or implying, without any basis, that organizations aren’t fulfilling their rhetoric is, in technical terms, a punk move.

    I am aware that SOCATA did several meetings in the Westside community, independent of the MTA’s outreach, that basically discussed the project and told residents how to write letters and tell them why the Purple Line should be a priority.

    I’m trying to understand your point. Is it that SOCATA does real organizing while the BRU does fake organizing? And just how many faulty premises and assumptions does that argument lay?

    I just have to ask, does anyone else see the utter arrogance of assuming that unless information is filtered down to one’s own little world it doesn’t exist? I see it displayed A LOT in these debates.

    Oh and incidentally, those meetings conducted by SOCATA were funded by a $4,000 grant and according to statements by the grant writer at SOCATA meetings (Kym Richards), the Mayor’s office sought them out to apply for the grant.

    Are there disparate impacts to transit investment along race and class lines? If so, how can we mitigate them?

    Can’t be conducted in this forum with the characters as they are. It’s been tried here and elsewhere numerous times. We elaborate on the law and the discrepancies on Expo Phase 1 here: http://fixexpo.blogspot.com/2008/05/environmental-racism-law.html

  • Oh and incidentally, those meetings conducted by SOCATA were funded by a $4,000 grant and according to statements by the grant writer at SOCATA meetings (Kym Richards), the Mayor’s office sought them out to apply for the grant.

    Distortion of facts, Mr. Goodmon.

    Indeed there was a $4,000 grant from APTA, the American Public Transportation Association, given to So.CA.TA for the purpose of educating the public on the possible Wilshire subway project and on lobbying their elected officials on the issue of public transportation funding. APTA required that applicants have a specific project to advocate for and educate the public about. And we had to supply letters of support from all agencies that provide service in the project corridor; thus our application included letters not only from Metro, but from LADOT, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, and Culver CityBus.

    The Mayor’s office did not, as you perceive, seek us out to apply for the grant. We were approached by Deputy Mayor Jaime de la Vega to see what grassroots support So.CA.TA could provide, but at that point in time APTA had not announced the availability of the grant. That came several months later, when we received information from APTA directly (we are on their mailing list for grant announcements as the result of having been a grant recipient about ten years ago to fund community outreach in Orange County). In fact, until we received word of the grant availability, we didn’t know how we could fund the kind of advocacy the Mayor was hoping for.

    So, before you put words in my mouth, please make certain they are words I actually used in the context you are saying they are.

  • Erik G.

    Of the $4000 that SoCATA got in the grant, I hope that the two top officers were able to take home $800 so that SoCATA is in line with the practices at BRU.

  • The APTA grant is actually listed on their website (albeit sans the dollar amount) so it is no deep dark secret

    http://apta.com/government_affairs/advocate/grants06.cfm

    We have about $1,500 left and are mulling options for corridor advocacy, likely linked to federal reauthorization. I’ve been scrupulous about the money only going for out of pocket expenses (photocopying, venue rental, etc.) submitting receipts etc. for all checks written. The El Rey theater in the Miracle Mile was the pricey location and then logistics etc. resulted in that meeting being a disappointment. Advocacy has harsh lessons even when you have been doing it for a while.

    No surprise that as par for the course, Mr. Goodmon didn’t answer my question in re the PUC hearings. But what do you expect from someone who cheerypicks to make ad hominem/strawman arguments along with his dubious pose of being some sort of expert. I detect worry that the great crusade is fizzling.

  • LOL, Erik!

    (For the record, even though I know Erik isn’t questioning it: APTA restricts grant usage to tangible expenses, such as printing, event location rental, and the like. Paying organization personnel is a non-allowable expense.)

  • Erik G.

    $1500? Why here’s the new SoCATA official car:

    http://losangeles.craigslist.org/lac/cto/1344458946.html

  • Jim

    Transit advocacy of any kind is almost always a good thing for those who advocate transit, but it would be better to see the BRU advocate against Sacramento’s poaching of Measure R funds, and the expansion and improvement of all types of mass transit.

    Even in November 08 it was clear that the economy was in for trouble times, but we approved a thirty-year sales tax to fund transit improvements–and that by the necessary supermajority. I’m pretty sure most voters didn’t approve this just to have the MTA roll out more buses. A ten mile bus ride in L.A. during rush hour, much of it at walking speed, sucks. It sucks because bus transit was never meant to provide effective crosstown traffic over tens of miles, in congested urban districts. In L.A., particularly, it sucks because if you don’t have a car you are forced to ride the bus the entire way. In NYC or San Francisco you would get off the bus after a few miles and transfer to the rail system.

    Early last Sunday evening I happened to be on a westbound Red Line train; at 7th Street the train filled with families transferring from the Blue Line, and on their way to see the Christmas parade in Hollywood. It was SRO after that. I need hardly mention that nearly everyone was black or brown as reflects the population of South L.A. I’m not sure what the BRU would say about that; it appears they would prefer these people plod up to Hollywood and Vine on rumbling, lurching buses.

    Even the Times as finally realized that Metro Rail isn’t just a boondoggle for white folks.

    When the Purple LIne does reach Westwood, it will become practical for many more inland suburbanites to to take Metrolink trains to downtown L.A., and then the subway out to West L.A. At that point we probably will see more white (and probably Asian) faces riding Metro Rail. I don’t know how to justify that to the BRU, nor should I have to. But the potential to relieve traffic congestion throughout the neighborhood is great.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Metro Proposes More Cuts to Bus System

|
Earlier this week, Metro announced another set of proposed cuts to its bus system.  Following so soon on the cuts from just last month, Metro CEO Art Leahy took to The Source to defend the changes.  Oddly, rather than defend the good work being done by the bus division at Metro and push for the […]

Spinning a Civil Rights Complaint

|
Late last week, most likely in response to a report by the Bus Riders Union and their community allies, a letter from Metro CEO Art Leahy dismissing the Civil Rights complaints of the BRU appeared on The Source.  The letter basically announced that the Title VI complaints against the agency announced last Spring were dismissed, […]