CityWatch, October 2008
NCs and the DOT
By Stephen Box
Proponents of an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the LA Department of Transportation and the Neighborhood Councils need only look to the City Council for inspiration and reassurance that a document codifying an agreement to work together is not only wise, but necessary. Two years ago, at about the same time that earlier incarnation of a Neighborhood Council MOU with the LADOT sat unsigned and collecting dust, the City Council noted that during the Metro's Call for Projects process, "inadequate outreach was done, which did not allow the Council sufficient time to analyze and thoroughly review the City's proposed project submission list. In the future, it is critical that internal coordination occur to ensure that there is consensus on all projects that are submitted for funding and that Metro's submission deadline is met."
The City Council then acted to "ensure adequate Council input and review," a standard that seems reasonable and responsible.
A few months later, as the LADOT presented the proposed projects to the Transportation Committee, 15 members of the cycling community showed up and protested, pointing out that the entire process had taken place without the community being involved. The proposed projects, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, had been assembled with no public support and were being submitted for approval without little time for public review.
The LADOT countered by explaining that the Metro Call for Projects had come up so suddenly that they had to scramble to assemble the projects for submittal. The 2007 Call was the first since 2001 and the DOT simply had no time to prepare.
It was at this point that the simple question was asked; "Doesn't the LADOT have a comprehensive plan or a vision for LA's Transportation?"
The General Manager of the LADOT acknowledged that the preparation of the transportation projects was based on funding opportunities, not on a Strategic Transportation Plan. This explained why the public was excluded from the process. There was no process. It all came to light when the community insisted on getting involved.
We've come a long way since then. The Department of Transportation has a new General Manager. The City Council has held a single-topic session to focus on creating a Strategic Transportation Plan.
However, as for the community, the NC's continue to watch from the sidelines. Sometimes, if the NC's are quick, they can ask questions and perhaps even offer advice!
Ultimately, if the situation is to improve, it is up to the NC's to make the same demands that the City Council made, a process to ensure adequate Neighborhood Council input and review and a working group to oversee the relationship. A demand that the LADOT obey the City Charter and provide notification to NCs in sufficient time for them to consider the issues and provide the advice they are mandated to give.
History indicates: An NC MOU with the DOT is a must. If it's good enough for the City Council, it's good enough for the Neighborhood Councils.