On his third day in the office, Interim LADOT General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri appeared in front of the City Council Transportation Committee to discuss the future of the Department.
After an opening statement that included several nods to multi-modalism, Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin cut right to the chase, asking Mukri how he would assuage the concerns of transportation reformers worried that the change in leadership at LADOT would lead to backtracking on the city’s direction the last couple of years.
“What’s gone on in the City of L.A. in the last two and three years is remarkable,” Mukri responded. “I can walk a mile and get on the subway and be in Downtown in 20 minutes. To drive is 40 minutes.”
“If we’re going to get rid of gridlock, we have to get cars off the road.”
After discussing his own transportation choices, he commutes by train from the San Fernando Valley and uses DASH Buses or walks to move through the Downtown, Mukri did give a few specific changes he wants to see during his tenure, no matter how long or short it might be.
Top on his list is seeing a greater investment in what he termed point-of-contact employees, the people on the street who are most likely to interact with residents. This doesn’t just mean more LADOT police and meter readers, but more crossing guards and other safety officers.
To do that, the city needs to allocate more funding to LADOT, a department that has hemorrhaged staff in recent years. Mukri noted that many funds collected by the Department, such as parking meter revenue, goes into the general fund and not to the department. If the Department were allowed to recapture those funds, it could do much more and would do more to improve moral and LADOT’s image.
Not to mention improve mobility and safety around the city.
Perhaps to contrast himself with the previous general manager, Mukri was effusive with praise for LADOT staff, engineers and executives.
“The people of this department are fantastic,” Mukri gushed in his opening statement. The general manager went on to discuss how he wanted leadership in the department to be empowered to make decisions. The Department of “NO” or “NOT” is in the past, LADOT will be a department that is responsive in the future.
“Transportation issues are not just automobiles, there are going to be buses, there are going to be bikes, there are going to be pedestrian issues that we have to deal with everyday.”
Jon Kirk Mukri took over as interim general manager on December 1, taking over for Jaime De La Vega. There is no timeline for a permanent replacement to be announced, but for the time being the department appears to be in good condition. Mukri also serves as head of the Department of Recreation and Parks, where he’s worked “extensively” with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and other transportation reform groups.