On Sunday morning, transit reform champions Move LA hosted a garden party to raise money for its campaign to support Mayor Villaraigosa’s 30/10 plan and to enlist Los Angeles’ stalwart political activists in its efforts. Held in the often traffic-swarmed West LA neighborhood of Brentwood, the event was organized by Streetsblog friend and Huffington Post transportation writer Joel Epstein.
Brought on board by Denny Zane this summer, Epstein is helping Move LA broaden nationally its coalition of labor, business, and environmental groups. Expanding its clout beyond Southern California would help Move LA convince Washington to support the kinds of infrastructure financing reform – i.e. a national infrastructure bank – that could make 30/10 feasible, as well as benefit other localities hoping to take on similar projects.
The event featured an array of local leaders who came to pledge their support, including: US Rep. Jane Harman (D – Venice), CA State Assemblymember Mike Feuer (42nd Dist.), Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz, Inglewood Mayor Danny Tabor, and Santa Monica City Councilmember Terry O’Day.
Each speaker touched on the potential for Measure R’s public transit component to transform our region and on the importance of getting it done in ten years rather than 30.
Particularly of note, Harman mentioned that she is working with Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transportation, to obtain an “early systems work agreement” from USDOT on several longer-range Measure R projects. Her goal, she said, was to speed up funding consideration for projects that have not yet reached the environmental review stage (which might, for example, include the 405 corridor transit project that could be anything from better bus service to grade separated light rail). Citing the 40% unemployment rate among construction and trades workers in the County, Harman resolved to accelerate construction as much as possible.
Subsequently, City Controller Greuel lauded Los Angeles for being a “self help city” and emphasized the importance of developing an intense grass roots effort for 30/10. Taking that notion up a notch, Asm. Feuer implored those in attendance to “be a part of changing history forever” and called 30/10 “nothing less than transformative of the environment and economy” of LA County.
However, I’ll give the final word to Koretz who, in addition to voicing support to Move LA’s goals, asked an interesting open-ended question: what should he be doing as an LA City Council member to help realize 30/10? And moreover, what should the Council be doing as a whole?
Undoubtedly, there are a number of great answers to that question, beyond asking for the Council’s official thumbs up. The one I offered to Koretz on Sunday was a suggestion that he go to his constituents, and to the Neighborhood Councils, and start explaining what is actually in Measure R and what 30/10 can do to make it all happen sooner. Let Villaraigosa take care of talking to Obama and let Move LA build coalitions. But starting now, the City Council and political leaders throughout the Southland need to set to work building up that grassroots support. Get people excited about and involved in transformative transportation. It never goes well when you wait until the backhoes and jackhammers have shown up.
Measure R champions love (justifiably) to trot out the fact that 67.9% of LA County voters chose to tax themselves during a recession in order to improve our mobility, our air, and our communities. But that 67.9% actually represents only two million of the County’s ten million residents. That’s eight million more who need to know what’s coming and how they can get involved.
So, that’s my two cents. I’ll open the question to the floor: What should our civic and political leaders in LA County be doing in support of (and in planning for) Measure R and 30/10?