Mike Antonovich’s Tortured Point and How the Mayor Should Have Reacted

Villaraigosa, Antonovich, and Frank McCourt in the Dodger Shuttle. For the past two seasons, Antonovich has found the funds to keep the shuttle running. Photo:Mike Antonovich/Flickr

Yesterday, at a meeting of the Metro Board of Directors Construction Committee, L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich became the first public official to throw cold water on Mayor Villaraigosa’s transit dreams by denouncing plans to place an extension of the Measure R half cent transportation sales tax indefinitely.

Much of the coverage of Antonovich’s complaints have focused on his choice of words and the Mayor’s reaction.  Even in the sometimes childish world of the Metro Board of Directors, “gang rape” qualifies as over heated rhetoric.  In response, the Mayor walked out.

While I understand the sentiment, it’s always better to disengage from a bully than roll around in the mud, the Mayor also missed a teachable moment.  Lost in the theatre of the day is that the idea that Antonovich’s rural and suburban Supervisor District is not being served by a thirty year transportation tax.  While I can appreciate the Mayor’s reaction, it would have been better if he had let the Supervisor have his say, and then responded with some facts.

Gang rape?  Really Mike?  Gang rape?

Let’s look at what the 5th Supervisor’s District gets out of Measure R, and then you tell me what is and isn’t ‘gang rape.’

Let’s talk highway projects.  Freeways throughout the 5th District will see capacity increases and other improvements as a result of Measure R.    The I-5 will see HOV lanes from the Kern County Border to Route 190.  The High Desert Corridor and the SR-710 tunnel are back on the table.  The Alameda Corridor is seeing upgrades.  The Arroyo-Verdugo is seeing upgrades.

I understand you’re not happy that nobody is trying to fast track these projects as I am trying to get the federal government to help fast track the transit projects.  Every year, 20% of the Measure R funds go towards highway and road construction.  Not a dime of that money will be spent in the City of Los Angeles.  If you want to find a way to bond those funds to pave freeway through the desert or dig a hole under South Pasadena, go right ahead.  Nobody is stopping you.  For me, and for Los Angeles, the transit projects are more important, that’s why they’ve been my priority.  You see, I’m the Mayor of Los Angeles.  This is my job.

But let’s not pretend that your district doesn’t benefit from the transit side of things.  Every person that steps on a Metro bus, train, light rail car, carpoool van or handicapped access vehicle pays less because of Measure R.  That includes people that live in rural and suburban L.A. County.  In addition, you might remember there was a pretty large train crash in Chatsworth.  Measure R is providing the funds to upgrade the safety features to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  And those improvements you want to the Antelope Valley Line?  Where do you think the money for them is coming?

And that’s to say nothing of the Orange Line and Gold Line extensions.  The Orange Line extension will actually open soon, right in your 5th District.

Only 3% of Measure R funds are being spent on Metrolink, but just about all of that is being spent in the 5th District.

Thanks to the local return policy, 15% of every dollar earned in a municipality goes back to the municipality.

Measure R costs the average L.A. County taxpayer $25 a year.  The funds are distributed equally throughout the districts.  If you think that’s too much to pay, well, you’re welcome to your opinion but nearly 2/3 of the people in the 5th District disagreed with you in November of 2008 and according to our poll even more disagree with you now.