Amongst the most prestigious of the annual Streetsie awards is the Person of the Year, the award bestowed on the person not named Villaraigosa or Schwarzenegger who most dominated the discussion and debate during the last year. The person doesn’t have to be a hero, they could be a villain. Nominees were submitted by the committee that volunteered to help with the Streetsies this year and by me. However, the Person of the year will be selected by all of us. The top ten figures that are near and dear to our Livable Streets’ hearts can be found below. Leave your top three choices for Livable Streets Person of the Year in the comments section. I’ll start.
The Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Stephen Box – While he holds no formal titles, outside of the ones he gives himself or the expletives used to describe him by some hapless member of the city bureaucracy, Box has plenty of accomplishments to put him at the top of any list of local activists. He placed himself at the center of the controversy over raised speed limits in the Valley and after helping pressure local Assemblyman Paul Krekorian into introducing and pushing legislation to change the law, traveled to Sacramento to lobby for and testify on behalf of the legislation. When a Hummer crashed into Andres Tena and the LAPD wrote a slanted report, Box was one of the ring leaders in organizing the cyclists "May Day" ride to Van Nuys City Hall and the ride to the police commission to get the story on the map. All of this is on top of his writing at his blog, City Watch, and here at Streetsblog, co-founding the Greensters, producing "At What Price" for Rebel without a Car Productions, organizing the Festival of Rights and organizing the "Bike Working Group" meetings to produce a "better bike plan" than the one the city is producing. True, Box has a team that supports his vision and more than helps carry the load, but he was a dominant figure in too many debates to not be on this list.
Barbara Boxer – California’s Junior Senator is in the middle of a lot of transportation debates as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee in Washington, D.C. Boxer was probably the most featured Senator on D.C. Streetsblog this year, as her positions on moving a new Federal Transportation Bill, Cash for Clunkers, and position on the transit/highway split in the stimulus earned her low marks from the transportation reformers in D.C. Conversely, she earned praise for keeping transportation as a major issue in the Climate Change Bill and for protecting environmental regulations for projects funded by the stimulus.
Josef Bray-Ali – In addition to typing more words in the Streetsblog comments section than I type in articles, Bray-Ali also provided an example of what an activist business looks like. The Flying Pigeon bike shop, which he owns with his brother Adam, sponsors rides, offers discounts to transit riders, and hosts special events and lectures, such as a visit from "Pedaling Revolution" author Jeffery Mapes. Of course, the Bike Oven founder isn’t just limited to activism through ownership, he also helped push the city to hold Bike Plan meetings in N.E.L.A. after the city had pretty much ignored the area in its outreach processes.
Damien Goodmon – Goodmon maintains his position as the most high-profile transit advocate in South L.A., which positioned him at the center of two major stories this year. First, Goodmon’s Fix Expo Coalition won a partial victory from the California Public Utilities Commission when it ruled that at least one of the school crossings at the center of the Expo storm were too dangerous. Later in the year, Goodmon claimed victory again when the Metro Board ordered a study of the Crenshaw Corridor rail plan that included a large stretch below grade.
Art Leahy – The new Metro CEO earned praise from advocates when he spoke out against renewing the contract of AnsaldoBreda, the Italian rail car manufacturer with a scorched earth lobbying plan but a dubious reputation when it comes to building quality rail cars. Leahy also expressed doubt that the turnstiles being installed throughout his system are actually going to accomplish much of anything other than be a nuisance. However, the Metro CEO will ultimately be judged not on his "executive director’s reports" at Metro Board meetings but how he performs on his promise to get the buses running on time and advancing the Mayor’s "30 in 10" plan.
Joe Linton – The Bike Coalition co-founder and Green L.A. Transportation Committee co-chair managed to keep himself more than busy this year. Whether it be upgrading C.I.C.L.E.’s advocacy profile through a series of articles here and on the C.I.C.L.E. blog about the bike plan, overseeing the "Bike Summit" and planning for next year’s "Bike-Ped Summit" with Occidental College or even organizing events for the Eco-Village such as the "closed street" block party and street painting or a visit from Jeffery Mapes; Linton left his stamp all over 2009.
Michelle Mowery – The LADOT’s Senior Bike Coordinator has a penchant for causing cyclists to slam the palm of their hands onto their foreheads in exasperation. Before the "Portland is whiter than L.A." comment there was "Sharrow paint is slipper" and "D.I.Y. efforts are causing cyclists to lose goodwill." She’s been nominated as the Grinch of the Year in Metblogs and has been slammed in bike blogs from L.A. to Portland to New York City. However, to a lot of people she still represents the best hope to bring better bike facilities to Los Angeles and has staunchly pushed the Draft Bike Plan as a big step forward for local cyclists.
Bill Rosendahl – The Westside City Councilman has been a central figure in the debate over cyclists rights even before he ascended to the Chairmanship of the City Council Transportation Committee. Rosendahl has earned high marks for trying to pressure the LADOT to move forward on bike projects, questioning the wisdom of ripping up traffic calming in Holmby-Westwood, and holding the LAPD’s feet to the fire on its treatment of cyclists. He was also the lead figure in the Council on a couple of Livable Streets victories this year such as the city’s revoking of free parking rights for hybrid vehicles and the cancellation of the LAPD’s bicycle licensing program.
Andres Tena – If the LAPD were looking for the wrong person to make the posterboy for bad cycling behavior, they picked the wrong person in Andes Tena. After Tena was clipped by a sideswiping Hummer Driver on an early April morning, the reporting officer wrote a report basically blaming Tena and his friends for the crash despite physical evidence and common-sense suggesting an alternate story. When LAPD spokespeople tried calling Tena and his friends vandals and trouble makers, the good-natured Tena put lie to their accusations just by being himself. All one has to do is watch the reactions of the City Council Members who listened to both Tena and the LAPD to see who was more believable. How often would one believe that a Midnight Rida would get more respect from the Council than the LAPD? Even though the last chapters in Tena’s story have yet to be told, that’s exactly what happened.
Christopher Thompson – Did any single event captivate readers as much as the trial of Dr. Road Rage? After intentionally causing a crash with cyclists on July 4, 2008; the Good Doctor actually showed enough disdain for human life to get the LAPD and District Attorney to prosecute him for his malicious behavior. Earlier this year the Doctor was found guilty on seven counts and early in 2010 will get sentenced. Even if he gets a slap on the wrist, he’ll have spent three months in jail; which is more than too many of the maniacs who threaten cyclists and pedestrians on our streets receive.
While they didn’t get nominated, a big Streetsblog tip of the hat to Enci Box, Darrell Clark, Alex Thompson, Alfredo Hernandez, and our friends with the Bus Riders Union, C.I.C.L.E., the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the Southern California Transit Advocates, the Transit Coaltion, Transit People and everyone that spends their time fighting for cleaner, safer, better and more Livable Streets.