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Posts from the "Election 2012" Category

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“Brown Doggle?” Efforts to Use HSR as Cudgel Against CA Dems. Fizzle

The Browndoggle.”

This image was supposed to signify that California High Speed Rail was going off the tracks. Instead, it's a symbol of how efforts to use High Speed Rail as a cudgel have led to ruin. Image:John and Ken Show

Opponents of Governor Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party have been slamming the California High Speed Rail Authority for years. The political strategy seemed to be working. Four years after voters approved a tax increase to fund a segment of what was promised to be a high speed train connecting Sacramento to San Diego, the project had morphed and grown more expensive. Voters were angry. Or so the polls said.

Earlier this year, the legislature approved a plan to build 130 miles of high speed rail in the central valley despite near-unanimous Republican opposition. One of the questions this election was whether Republicans could capitalize on the opposition to make gains at the ballot box.

Backed by funding from the oil and coal industries, and the non-stop nattering on the popular John and Ken Show, Republicans thought High Speed Rail was a winning issue.

They were wrong.

Despite a handful of Senators moving from the State Senate to Congress, Republicans actually lost ground in the Senate and now the Democrats have a super-majority in both legislative chambers. In other words, if this election was about high speed rail, voters gave Brown and his Democratic allies the ability to do what they want even if every Republican legislator votes against them.

“High Speed Rail had a goodnight, if indirectly,” wrote Robert Cruickshank at the advocacy California High Speed Rail Blog.


This ad didn’t work.

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By Foot, Pedal, or Car, Boyle Heights Voters Arrive At Polls

Polling place on Cesar Chavez Avenue at Los Angeles Wedding Chapel. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

As the second wave of voters rushed to the polls last night at rush hour in Boyle Heights, voters arrived not just by car, also on foot, and some by bicycle.

There was no clear reason that made people come out by any particular mode. Ruby Gonzalez, 26, said that though she only lives three blocks away, she came to the Cesar Chavez Avenue polling place at Los Angeles Wedding Chapel after she left her job.  Leticia Torreblanca, 53, took the bus from her job in Glendale to the polling place at Los Angeles Wedding Chapel.

In the street parking strapped neighborhood, it was common to see people arrive by cars even when they only lived a few blocks away. At Cesar Chavez, cars were limited to metered and nearby residential parking.  At Hollenbeck Park, where parking was limited to the street and an adjacent lot, Alice Del Rio, 60, said that she found parking fairly easy and right in front of the polling place. While a wait to find a parking space didn’t take long, but it took her more than one hour to vote.

“I think it’s the worst that I’ve ever seen,” said Del Rio about her wait to vote.

While there always seemed like open parking stalls in the lot, space was so tight on the street and in the lot that cars would clog pathways in their search.

Even though cars crowded polls at Hollenbeck Middle School, Hollenbeck Park, at Los Angeles Wedding Chapel on Cesar Chavez and Evergreen Recreational Center, pedestrians were making it out.

Amy Anderson, 55, said that a five-minute walk from her home on Second Street to Hollenbeck Park saved her time from looking for parking. Alfonso Escelante, 58, said that he didn’t mind the 10-minute walk from his home to the Hollenbeck Park polling place. Escelante still waited in line a half hour to vote.

And the rare bicycle sighting was extra refreshing because they came in groups. Issys Amaya, 33, rode halfway on her bicycle and walked the rest with her minature dog to Hollenbeck Park. Instead of locking up the bike, Amaya voted with her dog and bike in hand. Read more…

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Measure J’s “Rejection” Was NOT an Anti-Transit Vote

Measure J Needed 2/3 of the vote to win. It didn't get it. Analysis to come. Photo:County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder

Maybe a two-thirds local threshold is just too high a bar to cross, maybe the No on J Campaign did its job too well, maybe voter turnout for the top of the ticket was too low. Whatever the reason, Measure J received “only” 64.7% of the vote last night, a full 1.95% short of the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass. “Only in California is 65% a defeat instead of a landslide victory,” wrote Denny Zane on his Facebook page. “…and that has to change.”

Measure J was a proposed extension of the 2008 Measure R sales tax that dedicated a half cent of L.A. County sales tax to transportation projects. Measure J would have extended the tax from 2039 t0 2069 allowing Metro to bond against the new revenue and “build 30 years of transit projects in 10 years.” The Measure needed the support of two-third of L.A. County voters in yesterday’s vote to pass.

There are many lessons that can be inferred from last night’s results, none of which point to a lack of support for transit expansion by L.A. County voters. We will conduct a better analysis after the election results are broken down geographically.

First, credit needs to be given to the No on J Campaign. On a shoestring budget, the group pulled together a county-wide campaign of opposition and planted stories and opinion pieces in newspapers and media outlets both large and small. The campaign also ran a grass roots effort of door knocking, phone banking and handing out literature on buses. Compare the No on J Campaign to the Bus Riders Union’s muddled “No on the 6″ campaign in 2008 and their improved organization could be one reason for the small tilt in support.

For anyone who believes the Bus Riders Union is a political relic, yesterday’s win marks the second time in two years the group has expanded their coalition and pulled off a victory. Working with the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the No on 710 Coalition, the BRU is showing it knows how to work with groups outside their traditional allies to pick up headlines grabbing victories. The first time would be the stopping Westside homeowners groups from exempting the entire Westside from the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project. Read more…

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SLIDESHOW: Canvassers Get Out the Vote, One Block at a Time

Erick Huerta and Evelyn Leon pause at Soto and Eight Street. Canvassers in Boyle Heights go through congested pathways to get to residencies. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

Updated: 1:34 p.m, 11/06/2012

(Full Disclouse: Evelyn Leon and Erick Huerta are canvassers for Inner City Struggle’s “Yes on 30″ and “No on 32″ campaign for today’s election. L.A. Streetsblog does not endorse either measure. Rather, I joined the canvassers to see what they experience in trying to get out their message, and how the public responds to them. – KF)

Election information and clipboard in hand, Evelyn Leon called out to the house as she tip toed up steps leading to the front door. She is scared of unruly dogs in people’s homes she said, so she tries to make enough noise to draw one out if its there. In the end, no one is home.

Leon and more than 231 volunteers from Inner City Struggle phone banked and canvassed this election cycle to Eastside residents, and specifically youth, immigrants, and new voters. ICS’s ”Yes on 30″ and “No on 32″ campaign has had staggering results: ICS volunteers and staff spoke to 24,000 Eastside residents – East LA, Boyle Heights, and 1 precinct in El Sereno and Lincoln Heights – with 19,000 pledging their support. For door-to-door canvassers, volunteers spoke to 3,900 people and received pledges from 3,060, said Lydia Avila-Hernandez, ICS director of community organizing.

“It’s the first time community organizations are able to reach that scale without labor support,” said Avila-Hernandez. Labor groups have given ICS funds for their campaign, but the Eastside community outreach group has lead the campaigns efforts.

All the volunteers are local and are a mixture of paid volunteers, youth from five partner high schools, and parents and adults from organizations like Familias Unidas, Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative, Union de Vecinos, East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Proyecto Pastoral and Legacy LA.

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Which Mitt Would Shape U.S. Transpo Policy: The Governor or the Candidate?

Tomorrow, Americans will decide who will be President of the United States for the next four years. On Friday, we took a look at the last four years of White House transportation policy under President Barack Obama. Today we review the record and the platform of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Streetsblog does not endorse candidates.

Mitt Romney's well-reasoned views on energy and development morphed into a lovefest for fossil fuels as he set his sights on the White House. Photo courtesy of Romney for President

If Mitt Romney the President reverts back to the positions of Mitt Romney the Governor, transportation policy in America could see significant steps forward. Better-maintained roads. Smarter growth. Cleaner air.

But if Mitt Romney the President follows through on the rhetoric of Mitt Romney the Campaigner, it will be a different story.

Not that candidate Romney has talked much about transportation. But he’s made it clear he’s casting his lot with the fossil fuel industry. He’s brought billionaire oil man Harold Hamm into his inner circle as an energy advisor, pushing for more drilling. Romney has raised $11.4 million directly from the energy sector, and far more than that has been poured into anti-Obama, pro-drilling TV ads by oil companies.

What did the oil industry get for their generosity? For starters, Romney’s energy plan reads like a parody of desperate political pandering to Texas oil barons. Maximum drilling is paramount. Reducing oil consumption is a quaint little notion for liberals and sweater-wearers. To candidate Romney, the idea of reversing climate change and slowing the rise of the oceans is a laugh line – a joke that suddenly doesn’t seem so funny to people living by the New Jersey and New York coastline.

Romney is now the standard-bearer for a Republican Party whose platform accuses President Obama of engaging in “social engineering” in pursuit of “an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.” The GOP platform indulges in Agenda 21 paranoia and doesn’t talk much about renewable energy or fuel efficiency. It brags about the worst parts of the recently-passed transportation bill, revives old calls for the privatization of Amtrak services, and cheers on highway-builders.

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What Has President Obama Done to Improve American Transportation Policy?

With the election just days away, it’s a good time to reflect on what the Obama administration has done with transportation policy – and what a Romney administration might have in store. Streetsblog does not endorse candidates. This is an overview of their respective records and a look back at what we know of these two men. We’ll start with President Obama in this post and move on to Mitt Romney in the next one.

High-speed rail could have been President Obama's signature achievement. Photo courtesy of Obama for America.

Perhaps the best thing President Obama did for transportation policy was to nominate Ray LaHood as U.S. DOT secretary. Sure, LaHood reportedly wanted to be Secretary of Agriculture, not transportation. And yes, Obama’s main motive for nominating the moderate Republican congressman was to make friends across the aisle, a goal that for the most part went woefully unmet. Nonetheless, LaHood has proven to be a genuine reformer.

We knew LaHood was a keeper when he stood on a tabletop and declared that bicycles were on an “equal footing” with cars, announcing “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”

The administration’s creation of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities has created valuable new links between federal transportation, housing, and environmental policies, demonstrating how government can eliminate barriers between agencies. It’s a model that some state transportation agencies have begun to take note of, as they approach local governments to craft land use and transportation decisions that make sense in tandem.

Even the Republican House of Representatives’ ire toward the Partnership can’t destroy the essential piece of it: that agencies are breaking down siloes and communicating more effectively with each other. The smart growth ethic that infuses the Partnership has permeated the three agencies involved – and many more.

Another signature achievement of this administration has been the TIGER program. TIGER has awarded more than $3 billion to more than 200 transportation projects based on their ability to meet strategic objectives, bucking longstanding policies (which continue in the current transportation bill) that fund transportation based on formulas and a singular focus on making sure every state gets their piece of the pie. While TIGER has some geographic criteria and a set-aside for rural areas, it has rewarded cities, regions, and towns that are innovating, and the program has prioritized bike/ped infrastructure, streetcars, freight rail, maintenance of existing roads, and other measures that advance sustainable transportation and smart growth. And by the way, that rural set-aside isn’t a bad thing: It’s helped jump-start transit access in a lot of small towns and tribal areas.

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Make Your Endorsements, the L.A. Streetsblog Caucus

Next week, Downtowners, Angelenos, Californians and Americans will head to the polls for the 2012 General Election. There’s a slew of local ballot initiatives on the ballot in addition to the main event. But why wait until Tuesday to make your voice heard, when you can do so right now in addition to at the ballot box.

We’re polling Streetsblog readers on four votes: the Downtown Streetcar, Prop. 37, Measure J and the presidential race. Tuesday morning, we’ll post the results of the polling and publish the best comments for or against each Measure. Vote early, vote often (and vote again on Tuesday).

We’ve done a lot of work on Measure J in the past week, and we’ll be posting a major piece on Monday looking at the arguments for and against the transit tax extension.

Are You Voting for Measure J

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Brigham Yen makes the case for why Downtowners should vote for a fee that would allow construction of the Downtown L.A. Streetcar. In addition to boostering the project, Yen also does a great job explaining the vote.

Are You Voting/Would You Vote For - The Downtown Streetcar Tax?

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We’ve barely covered Prop. 37. Because we’ve been doing more public health writing, we’re still interested in your thoughts. The proposition would require labeling of foods that contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s.) L.A. Weekly does a good breakdown of what the proposition does, and to find out more about a GMO, click here.

Are You Voting for Prop. 37

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We can’t even do a “reader’s endorsement” for the presidential race, but it wouldn’t be a poll without asking the big question.

Who Are You Voting for for President of the United States on Tuesday?

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This Could Be the Biggest Year Ever for Transit at the Ballot Box

Next month, 19 transit-related measures will come before voters. If the rest of this year is any guide, 16 of them will pass.

The "Transportation Penny" in Richland County, South Carolina will fund some pedestrian improvements, along with roads and transit, if voters approve it November 6. Image: Richland County

Despite a high-profile loss in Atlanta a few months ago, transit referenda have an 86 percent success rate so far this year, according to the Center For Transportation Excellence.

It strikes some as counterintuitive: During an economic downturn, in a virulently anti-tax climate, why are voters deciding time and time again to tax themselves to support transit?

CFTE Director Jason Jordan says the lousy economy is one reason so many of these measures keep popping up — more this year than any other since CTFE started counting in 2000. With states crying poverty and the federal government, for the first time ever, passing a transportation bill that was no bigger than the one that preceded it, local governments have had to take matters into their own hands.

Jordan says the most unique of all of next month’s ballot initiatives is a gas tax measure in Memphis. Almost all the initiatives we see are sales taxes or property taxes, with a handful of bond measures and vehicle fees. Most cities don’t have the authority to raise gas taxes independent of the state — but Memphis does, and it’s trying to increase the tax by one cent to raise $3 million to $6 million for the transit authority. “Here we have an example of communities being pushed to be as creative as possible,” Jordan said.

No other local gas tax measure is on the ballot. Indianapolis has a citywide income tax hike in the works, which will also be novel, but they didn’t make it happen for this year.

Another one to watch is the half-cent sales tax in Orange County, North Carolina, which includes the city of Chapel Hill. If it succeeds, the three counties of the so-called Research Triangle will likely join together to improve their regional transit system. If it fails, the whole thing falls apart.

Read more…

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Ultimate Irony: Newt Gingrich’s Bus Breaks Down in West Hollywood

Photo by @ImChrisHughes via Twitter via KPCC

Sometimes a headline is too good to be true, and too good for just a Today’s Headlines.

Yesterday, KPCC reported that the campaign bus for Newton Leroy Gingrich broke down on it’s way out of a major fundraising event on the streets of West Hollywood. KPCC correctly noted that there are few places on earth where Mr. Gingrich would feel less comfortable than  a city with such a sizeable gay population.  The former Speaker of the House has said many ugly things demonizing gay Americans, my personal favorite is that gay marriage is a “fundamental violation of our civilization.”

But here at Streetsblog, we see things more optimistically than the our friends at KPCC.  It was just earlier this month that Gingrich was bashing transit riders who live in dense developments as “elites” who don’t understand America.  The irony here isn’t that his bus broke down in Gomorrah, it’s that he was riding a bus at all.  The favored paper for ordinary Americans, The Wall Street Journal quotes Gingrich:

“Those who, you know, live in high-rise apartment buildings writing for fancy newspapers in the middle of town after they ride the metro, who don’t understand that for most Americans the ability to buy a home, to have their own property, to have a sense of belonging is one of the greatest achievements of their life, and it makes them feel like they are good solid citizens,”

If nothing else, at least the former front-runner for the Republican nomination for the Presidency had an authentic Los Angeles experience while he was here.  There’s nothing that says “Los Angeles bus rider” more than a flat tire and a late arrival.

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The Mayor’s Office, Measure R and Multiple “Plan B’s”

When the Mayor and his staff in city hall say that nothing is off the table when it comes to accelerating project development and construction for the transit projects funded by the Measure R sales tax, they aren’t just talking.  While the Mayor promised that there was a “Plan B” if his efforts to change federal law to favor communities that tax themselves to build transit don’t go anywhere in D.C.

Borja Leon. Photo: Mayor's Office

Now, on the eve of announcement of a new federal transportation bill from leadership in the House of Representatives, the Mayor’s office is pursuing three different options to leverage the expected $40 billion in sales tax revenue over the 30 years between 2009 and 2039.  Besides the pursuit of federal dollars, there is also the possibility of asking L.A. County voters to tax themselves again and working with equity firms in China to finance the projects.

Last week, Streetsblog talked to Deputy Mayor for Transportation Borja Leon about the different options being pursued and where the city is in the process.

Plan A: America Fast Forward Née 30/10

Streetsblog will feature ads for the Regional Connector Final EIS/EIR throughout the next 30 days.

“Plan A” is still the 30/10 or America Fast Forward plan to change federal law to reward communities that choose to tax themsleves to expand transit.  If enacted, the Mayor’s proposal would create interest free loan programs that would allow projects to get started earlier and would re-prioritize federal grant programs.  When Republican leadership in the House of Representatives and Democratic leadership in the Senate announced proposals last year, both included major increases in the TIFIA loan program which is a major provision of America Fast Forward.

The Mayor’s Office appears confident that this increase will remain.  ”We have been working with the Federal Government and have a great partnership,” explains Leon.  ”A lot of things have been moving in the last week with America Fast Forward.”

We should find out if the confidence, and Mayor’s lobbying efforts, have paid off this week. Read more…