LA's City Council has taken the bold step of creating the Office of Dusty and Ignored Motions (DIM) that specifically tracks all Council motions and monitors City Departments, reporting back on the "snubbing" that those motions receive as they collect dust and a few laughs before they are completely ignored and are finally forgotten.
Rumors that Councilman Jack Weiss will be appointed as the City's Chief DIM Officer were unconfirmed as was the "suggestion" that this post would carry with it a $200K per year salary and would also be supported by a staff of 24, all to be selected and hired by the Chief DIM Officer.
A Council spokesperson explained the need for the Office of DIM by pointing out that the unique structure of the City of LA's government leaves the City Council with the illusion of authority but that in fact, it's all a charade. While this "political threatre" is good for groups of school children who tour the Council Chambers on any given workday, it's bad for the people who live and work and conduct business in LA and who depend on strong leadership in order to enjoy the quality of life they expect from the largest City in the most populated State in the most powerful Nation in the world.
A brief glance at some recent motions from last year that caused the people of LA to rush to the Council mic exclaiming "You like us, right now, you like us!" revealed that the Departmental "Lands of NO!" include the LAPD, the Department of Transportation and the Planning Department.
These Departments along with many others, have gotten so good at ignoring the City Council that they actually sit in Council Chambers, dressed up for the occasion, and look directly at the Council as they nod their heads up and down, all the while saying very clearly "Yes, we can't!" They then quickly turn the discussion into a complaint of their staffing woes and their budgets constraints. The actual motion in question fades from the discussion and begins the journey into ignomy while the City Department staff wear out their Capezios dancing around the City Council instructions.
Councilman Ed Reyes of Council District 1 introduced a motion that simply called on the Department of Planning to create a pilot project in his district consisting of a public workshop so that residents, bicyclists, businesses and others could weigh in on bicycle projects such as Bicycle Boulevards, Road Diets and Bike Stations. The input from his district which includes northeast Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium, Chinatown and MacArthur Park, would then be incorporated into the City's Bicycle Plan.
This motion had his one of his constituents blogging "I am going to thank the Councilman tomorrow, on my way to work. The man is a genius." Meanwhile, the Department of "No!" stifled their snickering long enough to nod their heads and they then promptly ignored the motion and went on their way.
Council President Eric Garcetti introduced a motion a year ago this coming June 27 that directed the Department of Transportation to develop a "Shared Lane Pavement Markings" (Sharrows) pilot program on Vermont Avenue between Hollywood Boulevard and 4th Street and Fountain Avenue between the 101 Freeway and Hoover Street. Sharrows are a lane marking (Chevron and cyclist) that is used to indicate the correct lane position for cyclists so that they are not in the door zone and so that motorists are clear on the correct lane positioning. Sharrows consist of paint. Right there in the lane 15 feet off the curb line. They're pretty simple until you bring the LADOT to the table.
This motion had cyclists throughout the City hopeful that Los Angeles was going to finally explore the full toolbox of engineering innovations that cities around the world use to support effective and safe cycling on urban streets. Of course, the Department of "No!" had other ideas and the creative excuses for a lack of progress have included concerns over the use of paint on the streets of LA because it's slippery, explanations that the work is taking a looooong time because the contractor is very busy, and the very simple "These streets are filled with cars. There's simply no more room for cyclists!"
Councilwoman Janice Hahn recently responded to tensions between the cycling community and the LAPD with a motion directing the Los Angeles Police Department to report on recent bicycle incidents and conflicts between bicyclists and motorists, as well as efforts to increase police officer training related to bicycling activities and applicable regulations and laws.
The LAPD showed up, flanked by the LADOT, and gave a powerful demonstration of non-responsive blame-shifting, referring the cyclists of LA as "these people" and then passing the baton so that the LADOT's representative could chime in on the training of cyclists on safety and responsibility. In both cases they demonstrated an inability to read OR incredible skills at simply dodging the directions and avoiding the responsibility.
As a wise Councilwoman once said, "I used to believe in conspiracy until I met gross incompetence."
Either way, the City Council of Los Angeles has done some great work, or so it would seem if one were to simply survey the landscape of dog-eared motions, all ambitious in their wording but ultimately impotent in their impact.
Now is the time for the people of Los Angeles to rally behind the Office of DIM and to encourage the City Council to pay attention, to insist on results and to follow through on these momentary sparks of innovation that need to go from motion to reality.