What Was the Point of Yesterday’s Half Hour Filibuster from Gloria Molina?

10_23_09_eastside_grondbreaking.jpgBetter days: Molina, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Villaraigosa, Former Metro CEO Roger Snoble, and Board Member Pam O’Connor at the Eastside Extension Groundbreaking.  Photo: Metro Library

(Editor’s note: Originally, this was going to be a post written by Dana Gabbard about Metro placing their public Gold Line Eastside Extension documents online.  As I was writing the introduction, the story got away from me.  A deep hat tip to Dana for his help with this article and you can see the Metro presentation on the extension at the Transit Coalition Website.)

As was noted in Streetsblog’s coverage of the Metro Board Meeting, and more with its own article at The Source, yesterday County Supervisor Gloria Molina held the floor for roughly a half hour, delivering a powerful rant against Metro staff concerning the soon-to-be-opened Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension.  Molina accused staff of pushing for the opening of an unsafe line for political reasons, and only doing work for certain favored members of the Board.  Meanwhile her fellow Board members, and L.A. County voters, received a lesser tongue lashing for intentionally short-changing the Eastside.

While I admit that I find Molina’s monthly displays of self-pitying on behalf of the San Gabriel Valley, where admittedly I don’t live so I’m hardly an expert on the area, to be an exercise in self-promotion; this time she came armed with reports and concerned locals to raise the question:  Is the Gold Line Eastside ready to be opened as a safe line?  The evidence seems to say that it is not.

Yesterday’s rant was hardly the first time people have raised questions about the Extension.  Safety concerns have been raised by residents from Little Tokyo through the Eastside and into L.A. County.  This summer, Metro began to go into communities to explain why and how the Eastside Extension would be safe.  A good example of their public presentations can be found at Little Tokyo Unblogged

Many in the group were equally dismayed at the lack of barriers or
gates to prevent an accident. MTA staff assured us, however, that gates
are being evaluated, and that a study on the issue will be released in
July or August…and there will be an opportunity for public comments.

The
other questions that came up time and again were the lack of
language-appropriate signage (some of the signs that were up did have
Spanish translations). Many in the group expressed concerns over how
local Japanese and Korean residents, most especially seniors, would be
able to read the warnings. The MTA is also going to take into account
the timing of pedestrian lights to enable seniors sufficient time to
cross sidewalks.

The safety issued remained a simmering local issue as rumored opening dates came and went, but the arguments became more heated after Dakota Smith, the editor of the pro-development blog Curbed, which referred to the above quote from Little Tokyo Unblogged as "fear mongering," almost got hit by a train that was testing the tracks while she touring the future Eastside train stations.  Dakota seemed even more annoyed by the somewhat bemused attitude of Metro staff even as they tried to explain how the incident was her fault and the crossings are completely safe.

While Curbed was annoyed, local concerns were still being raised causing Metro to bring in a group of rail safety experts from San Diego, San Francisco and Arlington, V.A., to review the preparations being made for the opening, currently rumored to be November 15.  Their somewhat confusing findings could be summarized as: this line is safe, but here’s what needs to be done to make it safer.  For example, the safety experts noted that ""no trespassing" signs were placed in appropriate places but advised that the wording on the signs be larger.  Yesterday, Molina admitted that she had no idea the status of these proposed changes, which undercuts her overall message that the staff isn’t addressing safety concerns; especially since staff claims that they’re working on it and the Board passed $4.5 million in funds to complete the improved safety standards earlier in the meeting.  The major fix will be miles of fencing separating the tracks from the community.  How they were planning on opening that line without fencing is beyond me.

Molina ended her rant by making the somewhat bi-polar claim that she would be at the opening of the line, whenever that will be, to share that moment with her community and assure them the line is safe.  However, she isn’t sure the line is safe and called the line "sub-standard" several times.  If Molina had kept her comments focused her comments on just the Gold Line and the safety issues, and stayed away from re-airing her grievances for perceived slights going back over a decade; she could have pushed her message without the monthly beating of a dead horse and perhaps scored more points with Board Members, and advocates beyond her San Gabriel Valley Base.

In truth, Molina is still angry that back in the 1990’s voters approved a transit funding plan which excluded an Eastside Subway, yet the same pols fought against an Eastside Subway are enthusiastically supporting the Westside Subway.  Her attacks on the Gold Line and staff are a fill in for calling out Zev Yaroslavsky or ranting against voters across the county for not following her sage advice to vote against transit funding plans, such as Measure R.  While transit advocacy groups and blog writers can decry her obstructionism tactics, the reality is; they have been somewhat effective. 

While she has been unable to move voters outside her base to vote against transit taxes, she was successful in getting what are now called "FAST Lanes" and the hundreds of millions of dollars of transit improvements off the I-210 in her district and on the I-110.  Hooray?  The problem is, that in cases such as this, her sense of victim hood, combined with other substance-free grandstanding from the state and congressional delegations, and outrage actually cost her constituents hundreds of millions of dollars in transit improvements for a "congestion pricing" plan that won’t actually change traffic patterns at rush hour and actually increase capacity at other times of the day.  Is that really the sort of advocacy that the San Gabriel Valley needs on the Metro Board?

  • You know the 57 page punchlist she was waving at the Board meeting yesterday?

    Well, thanks to an anonymous person, this looks like it was it:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/21544481/Systems-Punch-List-90709

    Just from glancing at it, not all 57 pages were safety items, and many of these items were actually fixed well before October 20 (the date of the list provided was September 7). The other thing is that people pasted in their whole comments, and because it is an excel spreadsheet they wrap. Therefore, the 57 pages. It’s _not_ that the Eastside Gold Line had thousands of errors, which is what Molina was implying, it’s just that little things need to be wrapped up prior to opening, which they have.

  • DJB

    What does the number of people on a train or in a car have anything to do with the safety risk posed by the transportation mode to those who are outside of both and must interact with it at crossings?
    ——

    The number of people on a train is directly relevant to the safety of others because of what train passengers would be doing if they weren’t on the train.

    How would people get around if there were no Blue Line? In that case, there would be additional vehicle and bus trips. Those trips would pose a direct threat to public safety.

    The key question is, is that threat greater than, less than, or equal to the threat posed by the Blue Line? If the answer is “greater than”, the Blue Line improves public safety, by heading off even more dangerous behavior.

    By only focusing on “train miles traveled”, we ignore the fact that the train keeps people from using other modes which create threats. The rate at which it keeps people from driving and adding pressure to increase bus service depends on the number of people on the train and demographic factors.

    That’s why we have to look at passenger miles traveled.

  • Here is a more recent list of “punch list” items, 10 pages in length, with the vast majority of them completed:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/21544788/Metro-Facilities-Closeout-List-09101006

  • Erik G.

    Ladies!

    Gentlemen!

    If I buy you all a copy of the Roady the Road Builder Coloring Book and the new book “Roady Saves Little Town”from these folks:

    http://www.betterroads.com/community-outreach

    Will you simmer down??

    Here’s the synopsis:

    Follow Roady the Roadbuilder™ on a journey into the world of road building and traffic safety. Roady’s team builds a bridge so Sammy the school bus won’t have to wake up so early to get the kids to school.

    Sounds like fun, now who will earn their book first?

  • “Well as long as you feel safe Spokker that’s all that matters.”

    Well, I figure that if an idiot like me can stay safe around trains, anyone can!

  • Dakota

    “Dakota seemed even more annoyed by the somewhat bemused attitude of Metro staff even as they tried to explain how the incident was her fault and the crossings are completely safe.”

    I wasn’t really annoyed, actually. I made fun of them for accusing me of doing my nails. But I didn’t intend for the piece to come across as annoyed.

    I wanted them to have a chance to say what they think happened.

  • “And hey man seriously what heterosexual male can’t find something to like about the BRU?”

    Are you kidding me? throwing up

  • jef

    I definitely think the MTA should install crossing arms at the Indiana crossing, just like they do at the at-grade crossings in Pasadena and So. Pas.

  • Via The Source, a link to Rick Thorpe’s memo to the Metro Board responding to Molinas’ comments

    http://www.metro.net/news_info/press/images/eastsideSafety.pdf

    P.S. Thorpe also just left metro (but will continue to oversee Expo construction), just the latest person who finally had enough of Metro Board member grandstanding attacks.

    http://thesource.metro.net/2009/10/28/metro-official-overseeing-projects-resigns/

  • So less than a week after this so called filibuster, both staff members who were called out by Molina (Carol Inge and Rick Thorpe) have “resigned.” Yea…

    Sounds like that “filibuster” was the biggest shake-up to happen at Metro since Measure R was passed a year ago.

    Incidentally it was Inge who first came to mind when Molina said, “some staff only work for some board members.”

  • Holy crap – who’s going to take Inge’s place? Her office judges projects in the Call For Projects. Who will take her place, and will they support bicycle projects that take away car capacity and LOS?

  • I interpret Thorpe’s stance as since he has 5-6 years of work ahead of him constructing the Expo line why continue dealing with the grief of Metro Board member grandstanding attacks?

    And Mr. Goodmon should not celebrate too much since Mr. Thorpe will indeed continue in his role with the Expo Line. In fact Mr. Goodmon should be very unhappy as by all signs the great community crusade has been a giant flop (both at Dorsey High AND Cheviot Hills). Mr. Goodmon, are you still having fun as your ambitions wilt?

    “some staff only work for some board members.” If you change the word staff to consultants that would hit a little too close to Ms. Molina for comfort…

  • I interpret Thorpe’s stance as since he has 5-6 years of work ahead of him constructing the Expo line why continue dealing with the grief of Metro Board member grandstanding attacks?

    Let us review:
    -A year behind schedule
    -No resolution at Dorsey HS (adding even further delay on top of the year delay)
    -Hundreds of millions of dollars overbudget.
    -Failure to meet the local hire requirement
    -Pulled Expo Phase 2 out of the New Starts process, leaving LA in the dark for a good 3 years for New Starts funding.

    Tells us again about what a great success Thorpe has been for Expo.

  • Mr. Goodmon, your comments have no bearing on what I posted. I just noted Mr. Thorpe will continue with the Expo project. Never said anything about how he is doing, status of the project, etc.

    “No resolution at Dorsey HS” — isn’t that delay basically because the PUC and LAUSD belatedly are cleaning up a mess created by comissioners and board members who played politics with the crossing? Pandering has yielded to reality.

    And most of the delay otherwise is due to problems with DWP. Anyone knows how dysfunctional it can be.

    And let us review:

    Demand for congressional investigation of Blue Line going nowhere

    Tunnel etc. demands for Expo Phase 1 are DOA.

    Lawsuit to be filed in against Expo Phase II never filed

    Looks like Mr. Goodmon is 0 for 3 (or worse)

  • I always chuckle at the bravado of the pawns, primarily for two reasons:

    1) They really are always 3 steps behind and too lost to know it, yet remain so confident in their rhetoric.

    2) They really are too stupid to realize that bureaucratic apologists are typically smart enough to get paid. I mean the folk are really too stupid to realize that the only people willing to say the stuff they do get paid to do it. I mean at least folk like Fred are smart enough to cash it in!

    You know, before we posted our request to Fire Thorpe on the FixExpo.org website, I had someone send an email saying, “Friends 4 Expo will probably send in support letters.” I responded I HOPE THEY DO!

    You see I love seeing So.CA.TA and Friends 4 Expo endorse the holding pen at Dorsey.

    Loved all the emails you guys sent in encouraging the commission to overturn the ruling of a judge composed after days of testimony including the pre-eminent rail safety expert in the country.

    Love seeing you guys defend at-grade crossings of Sepulveda/Expo on Phase 2, and the 1st/Alameda at-grade crossing on the Regional Connector.

    I love it because you strengthen the most powerful narrative against you individually and your organizations: that you’re part of the problem at Metro – you defend their incompetence and do absolutely nothing to challenge severe errors. You’re their very weak, very small but vocal cheerleaders.

    I’ll leave it up to the psychologists to figure out why you love this role, but I have a good background in politics so I know how even secure and successful people can be lured by the prospect of being close to power and living under an illusion that they are an integral part of something big, and accordingly will sell their souls to live in that fantasy world. That’s secure and powerful people, so you can imagine how insecure people who have spent a life time as society’s outcast react.

    So please Dana, give us more on why Thorpe has been great for Expo, so can further strengthen the narrative.

    -A year behind schedule.
    -No resolution at Dorsey HS (adding even further delay on top of the year delay).
    -Failure to qualify Phase 1 for New Starts, and pulled out of the process IRONICALLY to open the project early
    -Hundreds of millions of dollars overbudget.
    -Failure to meet the local hire requirement.
    -Pulled Expo Phase 2 out of the New Starts process, leaving LA in the dark for a good 3 years for New Starts funding.

    Please tell us how those are all good things.

  • You are still putting words in my mouth.

    Amazing that you continue burning bridges with electeds, activists etc. Have you no concept that of any strategy beyond using a flamethrower of rhetoric about everything? A sledgehammer of simplistic hyberbole is a poor way to build support. ou talk a good game but hold a weak hand.

    You are snide and condesecnding while evading how being 0 for 3 is any reason to continue paying attention to your alleged insights. Your pop psychology analysis of those of us who aren’t on board with the great Damien Goodmon crusade is beyond pathetic and insulting.

    “…leaving LA in the dark for a good 3 years for New Starts funding.” I see good reasons why LA is working toward a big payday for the connector and purple line in a few years and thus forgoes small potatoes for Expo Phase II to let us build alliances. A concept foreign to your “I have all the answers” mentality.

    Amazing what a success you are. Oh, wait–for all your snark, you aren’t.

    And again–Mr. Goodmon, are you still having fun as your ambitions wilt?

  • Martin Trammell

    As I delve deeper into the issues surrounding all Metro and Los Angeles transportation issues, which affect all of us, I can only see how petty and juvenile each side treats each other.
    The only thing I can add here is, it is very easy to see why L.A. is a stagnant mess with the worst transportation and education system anywhere I have ever been.
    To make it clear, I am trying to figure out how to do my civic duty, but none of your entrenched factions make any sort of argument that compels me to stand by either of you. I’m sure you are all impassioned with your causes, but you have made it all such a convoluted mess that no citizen with a lick of common sense wants to help your cause. Even when it benefits the greater good.

    I mean really, gender, obesity, race card,sexual orientation, filibustering? You are making great strides to keep your little part of the world encapsulated.

  • “The only thing I can add here is, it is very easy to see why L.A. is a stagnant mess with the worst transportation and education system anywhere I have ever been.”

    It’s very hard for me to see how a bunch of mildly autistic transit advocates with too much time on their hands arguing on a message board really affects transit in LA. I include myself in that group, of course.

  • Dana Gabbard, launching personal attacks, that’s a good one.

    Nothing more needs to be said here.

  • And Newton forgive me forgetting the Pig Rule: Don’t wrestle with them; all you do is get dirty and the pig loves it.

  • In re #67 -I don’t quite understand why folks show up sometimes on this blog and wail that we longtime hands and our bare-knuckled posts somehow discourage the public about becoming involved with these issues. Long before the internet existed this was often how advocates, stakeholders etc. worked things out–back then via letters to the editor, community forums, etc. And if a few slightly hardball posts make you shiver and cry, then you would do us all a favor by not getting involved. Any involvement with political processes (and that is what transportation funding and policy issues are–political) calls for having a bit of a thick skin and willingness to be forthright about where you stand.

    And maybe part of the problem why our problems have festered is many have taken Mr. Trammell’s stance of decrying the situation but flinching from getting their hands dirty.

    Personally I believe in doing heavy lifting, which is part of what my recent opinion piece on L.A. Observed was all about.

    http://www.laobserved.com/visiting/2009/10/take_transit_seriously_la_obse.php

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