CD2 Questionnaire: Chris Essel

9_16_09_Essel_Greuel.jpgEssel has been endorsed by former Council Woman Wendy Greuel. Photo via Essel’s Flickr page.

Chris Essel becomes the most recent, and perhaps last, candidate to fill out our CD2 Questionnaire.  As CD2 residents are hopefully aware, the Special Election is next Tuesday.  On Monday Streetsblog will run a wrap up piece that will include excerpts from all the interviews and a series of videos by Stephen Box.

Essel’s answers show a strong familiarity with the issues and a desire to work with the communities effected by laws be they geographic communities effected by speeding traffic or the bicycle community struggling to make do on L.A.’s streets.  An advocate who’s transportation advocacy routes go back to working on traffic synchronization in the 1980′s, Essel has been referred to by some as the "City Hall" candidate for the open seat.  While some may view that as a negative, with that tag comes the endorsement of Comptroller Wendy Greuel who chaired the Council’s Transportation Committee and remains popular in her home District.  You can read more about Essel at her official website.

Previously, Mary Benson, Tamar Galatzn, Paul Krekorian, Frank Sheftel and Zuma Dogg have all filled out the questionnaire.  Full Streetsblog coverage can be found here.

1) When you commute to work, how do you do it? What percentage of the trips that you take don’t involve an automobile?

When
I worked at Paramount, I drove to work in a Toyota hybrid vehicle.
Currently, I live in Studio City near Ventura Boulevard in walking
distance of restaurants, shops, and most importantly a Trader Joe’s.
This is great because it allows me to take a significant number of
trips on foot.

2) Over the past year, a number of surface streets in the valley
have had their speed limits raised. Are these increases a result of the
natural order, or an interest that needs to be addressed? What, if
anything can be done to reverse these changes?

Thanks to Streetsblog’s focus on this issue, your readers are well
aware of the ridiculous state law that governs our local speed limits.
While the law is intended to prevent "speed traps" in smaller
municipalities, in Los Angeles the result is dangerous speed limit
increases on residential streets.

I am a staunch supporter of more local control over our speed
limits and I will work hard to lobby key state legislators as a
Councilmember. However, these regulations are very difficult to change
up in Sacramento because they are supported by a number of powerful
special interests. The issue is an unfortunate example of how our state
government fails to work in the best interests of Californians. We need
a state constitutional convention so we can redesign the way Sacramento
works from the ground up to make the State more responsive to its
taxpayers.

3) The city is currently studying leasing the rights to its
parking meters and certain parking garages for a large cash payment up
front. Do you support this kind of financing ideas, and if so what kind
of conditions should be part of any agreement with a private firm?

I do not support this idea because it is economically unsound. We
shouldn’t be selling valuable city assets in a down market. It might
have been wise to make such a sale back when times were good but at the
moment it would be a bad deal that the City cannot afford.

4) What can the City Council do to reduce and prevent fatal crashes involving pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable users?

Right
now the budget situation in the City is extremely bleak, but that
doesn’t mean we can allow ourselves to fail to provide infrastructure
elements that will save lives. When it comes to pedestrian safety, that
means we need to make crosswalks impossible for drivers to miss through
lights and large signage.

When I drive through the streets of L.A., I become very frustrated
when I see cyclists struggling to make the most of things while City
Hall does so little to provide them with help. First and foremost we
need more sharrows – they are a great solution for a cash-strapped city
because they necessitate paint rather than street reconfigurations. As
a Councilwoman I’d hope to be able to work with Streetsblog on this
issue – perhaps we could start a comment thread where L.A. cyclists
suggest the best corridors for new sharrows.

5) The former Council Woman for CD2, Wendy Greuel, chaired the
Transportation Committee. Do you want to be part of the Transportation
Committee?

I would jump at the chance to join the
Transportation Committee as mobility and accessibility are among the
most important issues facing the city. If made a member of the
Transportation Committee, my priorities would be to make Los Angeles a
more bicycle-friendly city, to make sure Measure R funds are spent
swiftly and effectively, and to increase bus ridership by providing
more thorough and clear information at bus stops. My first opportunity
to participate in L.A. civic affairs came in the 1980s, when I was
appointed by Tom Bradley to the Hollywood Mobility Action Committee. On
HMAC I worked on some of the early efforts to synchronize stoplights.
HMAC was also able to get DOT, Planning, and other departments to sit
down together and work with the community to solve problems. I would
relish the opportunity to bring that experience to the Transportation
Committee.

6) One of the ways that a City Council Member can effect change
for non-motorized users is by appointing informed activists to the
city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
Are you familar with community activists who could best serve an
appointed position on these committees?

Yes. During the last several months on the campaign trail, I have
had the pleasure of meeting so many activists who care so much about
the future of our community. This includes the indefatigable Stephen
Box who educated me about the importance of the Cyclists’ Bill of
Rights, of which I am a supporter.

7) If you could change one thing about transportation in Los Angeles with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I
would create a comprehensive rail network throughout Los Angeles that
connect Valley neighborhoods to each other as well as to the Red Line,
the West Side, and to Burbank Airport.