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Antonio Villaraigosa

Villaraigosa: Subsidies for People Who Can Afford a $100,000 Car Key to Our Green Future

11:06 AM PST on December 2, 2009

12_2_09_light_bulb.jpgThe mayor has always been a fan of electricity.

It seems that every year when the car show rolls into town that there's at least one moment that makes me want to bang my head into a cement wall.  Remember when the Sierra Club and other environmental groups named an SUV the "green car of the year" in 2007?

This year's frustration comes in the form of a press conference held by Mayor Villaraigosa, also attended by Council President and electric car driver Eric Garcetti and other dignitaries, announcing that the city is going to spend tens of millions of dollars to subsidize the upper class' ability to buy cars that cost at least $110,000.  That's right, in a time when our city's bus service is so tapped out fiscally that they're planning cuts that make OCTA's recent round look enlightened; the city is rushing to meet a demand that doesn't exist for electric cars.

Included in the Mayor's Christmas gift to the upper class is a two thousand dollar "subsidy" to people installing automobile charging stations in their house, a promise to allow electric vehicles to park for free at city meters, tax rebates or reduced sales taxes on electric vehicles, preferential parking similar to that afforded the handicapped at public venues, and a reduced cost to charge your vehicle at non-peak hours.  The city will also lead other Southern California cities in creating a network of public charging stations.  Building up our public infrastructure is one thing.  Giving $10 million to some of our most well-to-do citizens after they buy a high-tech car is something else entirely.

Most frustratingly, Villaraigosa made the following comment at the press conference.  From LA Now:

“Every year we read with consternation that we’re either No. 1 intraffic congestion or No. 1 in air pollution,” he said at the LosAngeles Convention Center, as workers inside set up exhibits and boothsfor the L.A. Auto Show, which starts Dec. 4. “We realized that weneeded to find new, cleaner ways to travel.”

And that is what passes for "Green Leadership" in Southern California.  A politician that can both complain about traffic congestion and announce a subsidy for car buyers in the same breath.

Given the choice between roads clogged with gas guzzling cars or electric cars; it is clear that everyone is better off with the electric cars.  But when you factor in the dire straight of our transit system, the unfunded mandate from the "Bike Plan with No Teeth," and a national report that came out weeks ago slamming Greater Los Angeles' investment in safe streets for pedestrians; spending tens of millions of city dollars in a budget crisis for the sliver of well-off Angelenos that can afford to drop six digits on a high-tech car seems a bit out of touch.  Maybe to help our elected leaders get a better understanding of what life is like for the vast majority of the people living in this city, they should start taking a couple of furlough days themselves.

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