Vote for the 2009 Livable Streets Person of the Year!

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.

  • My top three:

    Stephen Box
    Joe Linton
    Bill Rosendahl

  • skd

    A great list and I would give a tip of the hat to Damien Newton. Thanks for being informative and exposing the stories that would not have been mentioned in traditional media outlets. Please keep up the good work in 2010 and beyond.

  • dudeonabike

    No nominations for @MichelleMeowry?

  • michael macdonald

    1. Stephen Box
    2. Bill Rosendahl
    3. Joe Linton

    I’d also like to give hat tips to Damien (Newton) and Aurisha Smolarski, and had either been nominated they would have been on my list.

  • There were two “bike people” that were on the nominating committee that didn’t get a nomination in for person of the year. I suspect that Aurisha would have gotten a nod from at least one of them.

    Thanks for the kind words. I think it would be weird to be up for an award at a blog I work for, so even if nominated I wouldn’t have accepted and of course I’m the only person that can refuse a nomination.

    Dude…more on @MichelleMeowery later this week.

  • Denny Zane, without whose initiation of it there would be no Measure R funding both transit expansion and existing bus service after the governor’s whacks, and who more recently began what became the mayor’s “30 in 10” plan.

  • Stephen Box for sure. I can’t think of one person more central to turning this whole mess of issues into a movement than Stephen and Enci Box et al.

  • It’s also the little things that count, so I vote for Joe Linton. When my bicycle was stolen in October, Joe (whom I had never met in person nor did I actually understand his influence and position in the cycling community) offered to meet up with me to look at a prospective bike from Craigslist (since my knowledge of bikes-even though I had been bike commuting for over a year) was extremely limited. After I purchased the bike, he helped me lower the seat and grease up the chain so it was ready to ride.

    Joe’s love of cycling and his desire to convey and share that love of cycling is evident. How many activists/advocates do you know meet up with pure strangers to help them replace a bike and keep them cycling? Joe really cares, on an individual personal level (not that the others don’t) and he works on all levels of the community from singular riders to group rides to working with the bureaucratic government to grow the cycling community in size and spirit.

    Thanks for everything, Joe!

    (And he’s an excellent artist too!)

  • I second Darrell Clark’s nomination of Denny Zane. And add Jane Reifer, activist par excellance who has worked hard to organize riders in Orange County to minimize the impact of the cuts OCTA has made.

  • James Fujita

    I’m not really a “Top 10” or “Of the Year” list sort of guy, but I am glad that you mentioned that the “Person of the Year” award doesn’t have to be a transit hero.

    Too many people fail to recognize that without the villains, there would be no need for heroes.

  • I dislike for movement credit to be too focused on individuals… So much of the work I’ve been up to has been informed by so many people I collaborate with – I wouldn’t have gotten anything done without lots and lots of help from: Liz Elliot, Bobby Gadda, Bob Gottlieb, Herbie Huff, Dorothy Le, Alex Kenefick, Erik Knutzen, Jimmy Lizama, Adonia Lugo, Allison Manos, Ramona Marks, Kelly Martin, Ramon Martinez, Ron Milam, Efren Moreno, Jen Petersen, Aurisha Smolarski, Shay Sanchez, Alex Thompson, Stephen Villavaso, D “Roadblock” W, my fellow eco-villagers, and many, many others – including the other folks I’ve named below. I am happy to be playing my small role in an important movement.

    Denny Zane is an excellent choice.

    I think that, given this year’s opening of the Gold Line Eastside Extension, Gloria Molina should be a strong contender. The GLEE wouldn’t have happened without her persistence.

    For the bike world, I would say Stephen Box is way up there – for consistently and loudly shaking things up. Also these two:

    – Glenn Bailey – Glenn has been improving the effectiveness of the city of LA’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. It was through Glenn’s thoroughness and attention that we now have another key mile of bike lane on Reseda Blvd, and another couple miles on the way soon.

    – Ted Rogers – Ted’s day-in day-out http://bikinginla.wordpress.com/ is simply the best way to keep up with what’s going on in L.A.’s bike world. Along with Streetsblog and the Bike Writers Collective (and, self-servingly, C.I.C.L.E.), bikinginla keeps bicyclists informed. Well-written, clear, concise, even-handed (neutral while pro-bike)-read Rogers! Glenn Bailey laid the foundation and lots of others contributed, but it was really bikinginla that broke the LADOT’s plans for Reseda Blvd – which ultimately lead to the new lanes.

    Lastly – I know he can’t toot his own horn, but Damien Newton!!! You’re doing fantastic work here at L.A. Streetsblog. LASB is a game-changer! We’d be in the dark ages without you!

    (Also, fyi – I am no longer the chair of the Green LA Transportation Work Group. I am still involved, but, after 2 years of my and Darryl Clarke’s service as co-chairs, the group has elected Transit Coalition’s Jerard Wright and Bike Coalition’s Dorothy Le as new co-chairs.)

  • My votes are:

    1. Stephen Box for never settling for “better then it used to be” but always standing up and fighting for the people.
    2. Joseph Bray-Ali for loving his neighborhood and doing the best he can to revive his community and the businesses in that area.

  • Box, Rosendahl, Zane for a good mix of outside-the-box activism (no pun intended) and insider political arm-twisting.

  • My vote was going to Joe Linton even before I read his kind words. If anyone does more, in more different areas, to make this a better city, I’m certainly not aware of it.

    Next would be the Boxes, Joe and Enci, who bring more commitment and passion to their populist activism than anyone I’ve seen this side of the ’60s.

    After that, let’s call it a tie:

    Glenn Bailey has turned the BAC from a meaningless bureaucratic appendage into a vital and viable organization. And he was the driving force behind Reseda Blvd, I just told the story.

    Alex Thompson is simply brilliant in his tireless efforts to drive the cycling community forward, take the punches and keep on fighting.

    Josef Bray-Ali is the ultimate bike wonk. He’s the one who can dig through government budgets and bureaucratic reports to find that one nugget that proves our case or provides a workable angle of attack.

    Rosendahl is off to a good start, but the jury is still out. But if he keeps up the way he’s going, he could have next year’s award wrapped up by July.

    And I have to agree with Joe that Damien Newton’s work is invaluable. The Reseda Blvd story, and countless others, wouldn’t have made the waves they did if Damien hadn’t picked up the ball and run with it. While it would be awkward to honor himself on his own blog, I hope he doesn’t mind if we do it for him.

    But an honorable mention should go out to the Good Doctor. Christopher Thompson did more to bring the cycling community together and motivate change in L.A. than all of us put together.

  • Steve

    Joe Linton. I’m impressed and inspired by his ongoing work in so many aspects of improving quality of life in the city of L.A.

  • Spokker

    I’m voting not necessarily for who I agree with the most, but the person who I think exudes the most passion for their cause. That award should go to Stephen Box. He clearly has passion and has the balls to act on it and confront authority on the front lines.

  • Spokker

    My second choice would be Art Leahy. I’ve had a chance to meet Leahy in person and whether or not he can overhaul the bus system and take Metro in the right direction, he clearly cares deeply about bus operations and everything that goes with it. He cannot be in anybody’s face about it, of course.

  • DJB

    I’ve gotta vote for Goodmon. I went to one of his NC meetings and I’ve got to say I’m impressed with the way he’s been able to engage the community, the press, and electeds (listening to that ex – Blue Line conductor was something I won’t soon forget). Add to that the excellent work he’s done documenting problems with the Blue Line, and pouring over the Expo EIRs, etc. I don’t really know him, and we don’t agree on every little point, but it’s evident that he eats, drinks, and dreams transit activism, with no fear of touching 3rd rail issues like grade separation.

    I’d also like to tip my hat to everybody who rode transit or a bike, walked somewhere instead of driving, carpooled instead of driving alone, or bought a cleaner car this year. The revolution has many fronts. The more people in the struggle, the better :)

  • Stephen Box for his YouTube videos and facial hair.

  • I second Joe Linton’s and bikinginla’s pick of Damien Newton. Give yourself more credit Damien!

  • My votes:

    Stephen Box for insisting on common sense planning and a simple idea that what is good for cyclists is good for the community as a whole. I stole that idea and put it on page 1 of our bike plan. Much love!

    Josef Bray-Ali for saying the things I cannot and doing the things that I strive to. He takes pride in place under his feet and understands what it takes to truly make it better.

    Joe Linton (and the rest of the CICLE folks) for realizing that cycling is a very personal activity that requires personal interaction. People are social beings and that organization advocates making a difference one person at a time. I love that.

    As an honorable mention I would like to throw Lynne Goldsmith’s name out there. If you know her, you will understand why.

  • T Sandusky

    Stephen Box is my choice for Person of the Year. He has been at the forefront of the Bicycle Civil Rights movement, even getting ticketed in the process, harassed by everyone from law enforcement and the MTA, to homicidal car drivers.
    He has consistently “taken one for the team”, over and over again.
    If Michelle Mowery ever resigns from the LADOT Bicycle Coordinator position, Stephen Box should be the prime candidate to replace her.

    Honorable Mention:

    Alex Thompson also has worked tirelessly for the bicycle community. If both Alex and Stephen could work for LADOT Bicycle services, this city would have sharrows, bike lanes and a lot more bicyclists on the road.

    Josef Bray-Ali is one of the owners of Flying Pigeon Bicycles in Highland Park. I know he has is an avid bicycle advocate and activist, though I must share this story. While I was riding the Red Line over the weekend with my bike, some kid (probably in his twenties)was also on the train with his bike. We started talking, he had purchased an old used 12-speed a few months earlier and was trying to fix it up. He especially needed a new fork. All the bike shops he had visited were charging north of $150 for a fork (not installed). He was a student and didn’t have much money, he also had never worked on a bike before. Almost out of hope he went to see Josef, expecting the same price, song and dance. Josef told him he would special order a cheaper fork and would install it without charge. Long story short, now this kid rides everywhere, his bike is his only means of transportation besides the MTA.
    One more person on a bike in LA may seem insignificant, but that is one more person who isn’t driving, polluting, and feels that he can count on the LA Bike community to support him. We need more people like Josef out there.

    Happy New Year.

  • Here are my thoughts on the actual nominees I best know ….

    Joe Linton really took the lead as Green LA Transportation co-chair. I would especially commend his good humor in seeking common goals among coalition members whose platforms have inherent conflicts. Coalition building is a really important skill (also applies to non-nominee Denny Zane).

    Stephen Box seems an unstoppable force who makes things happen by sheer force of personality.

    Art Leahy brings a focus on the little things that are really big things, like the necessity that buses pull out on schedule, facilities be kept up, users of the system be thought of in decisions, and service hours match demand. He combines speaking the truth with being responsive to his board, a difficult but vital combination.

    And my kudos too to non-nominee Damien Newton, for quickly making Streetsblog the center of L.A. transportation advocacy and organizing a larger constituency to move forward.

  • Wendy

    Denny Zane – too often the unsung hero. Clearly should have been on your list to begin with.

  • Park Czar

    Stephen Box for sure. A close second would be Dr. Thompson but which one?

  • Stephen Box. Box is the get it done, go to person. You can count on Stephen to make the difference, show up, communicate and carry the voice.

  • Park Czar

    Stephen Box for sure. A close second would be Dr. Thompson but which one?

    Btw, thanks for the Honorable Mention.

  • Ben Allen

    I’ve got to agree with the nomination of Denny Zane. No one thought that Measure R would have a chance, but he pushed it and now there is some light at the end of the traffic tunnel as a result. Though I suppose we could nominate him next year once the positive effects of Measure R funding begin to be felt.
    This is certainly an impressive list of folks who have done good for our community, including the Bike Coalition and the ever-talented Dorothy Le!

  • LAguy

    Stephen Box, not just for what he has done but also how he has done it — he’s traveled to every corner of this city on a bicycle (and public transportation).

  • Stephen Box

  • Marcus Twain

    Top three:

    Stephen Box, Stephen Box, Stephen Box

    He’s done enough and deserves it.

  • The elder Box.

    Thanks for the love to those above who gave me props! Never stop starting!

  • Stephen Box!

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