Saturday, February 11, 2012

City Hall: All Motions, No Action

CityWatch, Feb 10, 2012
Vol 10 Issue 12

RETHINKING LA - Several years ago, LA’s City Council committed to developing a Citywide Transportation Strategic Plan that would include a vision with goals and an action plan that clearly communicated to the city family the initiatives, priority projects and programs that the City should undertake. This plan would include performance goals for the city departments and strategies for implementation.

An all-day City Council session that focused on Transportation took place, resulting in a flurry of motions that called for reports, lots of them, on ideas such as getting Transportation and Planning to work together and getting our funding strategies in order.

The final list of motions, 25 in all, contained some ambitious references to innovations in transportation engineering as well as acknowledgements that business as usual in LA had to change.

In the months that followed, the General Managers of Transportation and Planning appeared before the City Council to report on their progress, but they have since left the city, one under duress, the other in disgust.

As for the Citywide Transportation Strategic Plan, it has been four years since the City Council dusted its hands of any responsibility for actually embracing a vision, instead commissioning another journey [link] that resulted in a report that states the obvious and avoids a commitment to change.

Against a background of gridlocked traffic, busted streets and broken sidewalks, unhealthy air quality, and streets that are unsafe at any speed, Vision Los Angeles released a report last year that declared “Los Angeles County is one of the world’s most diverse and creative regions. Its transportation system should reflect this. We need a system that supports a vibrant and world-leading regional economy, clean air, minimal greenhouse gas emissions and access to safe, efficient and abundant transportation choices for all.”

This regional report from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation came with 15 recommendations and serves as the substitute for the City of LA’s short-lived commitment to a Transportation Strategic Plan.

The Vision LA report is quite nicely written and it identifies air quality, transportation, land use, employment, and housing as related elements. This is hardly a controversial position but it is also not a vision document for the City of LA.

It is a statement of the obvious and an opportunity to dilute responsibility or any commitment to action.

Three of the current Mayoral candidates were at the all-day City Council session that focused on the development of LA’s Transportation Strategic Plan.

As they currently navigate the potholes on the campaign trail, as they adjust their schedules to avoid traffic congestion and delays, and as they address voters who pay housing and transportation costs that are among the highest in the nation, the question that must be answered is this:

Where is LA’s Transportation Strategic Plan and what have you done to change the way the City of LA secures transportation funding, repairs and maintains its streets, rebuilds its broken sidewalks, supports innovations in traffic controls, improves safety on the streets, and pursues innovations in transportation?

Eric Garcetti was the City Council President, Wendy Greuel was Chair of the Transportation Committee, and Jan Perry was Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee when the City Council committed to a strategic plan that would “enhance air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, facilitate transportation mobility and improve the economic and environmental foundation and future.”

Under Eric Garcetti’s watch, the promised Bike Hubs at two Transit Oriented Developments never materialized, the rooms still sit empty as evidence of undelivered promises. Developers continue to make and break local hire and local delivery service agreements with the community.

Under Wendy Greuel’s watch, communities struggle to make their streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists while the LADOT continues to fumble Safe Routes to School funding. The voters approved Measure R and the LADOT promptly went to work using bad math to inflate administrative costs and moving project funds to cover staffing costs. As the budget crisis continues, the LADOT continues to offer bonuses “because it’s permitted.”

Under Jan Perry’s watch, a funded PediCab proposal died for lack of support, not from the community or from those who volunteered to make it happen, but from the Council office. The opportunity to turn LA’s transportation crisis into an environmental issue slipped by, demonstrating a clear commitment to business as usual.

These are small examples of a larger problem.

The three mayoral candidates have avoided stepping on each other’s toes and they have sidestepped opportunities to rock the boat, calling into question their individual abilities to serve as a change agent capable of moving LA forward.

From addressing air quality on trucking corridors to reducing traffic congestion with regional valet services, the opportunity to change the current third world conditions of LA’s streets and sidewalks requires a commitment to the future.

LA’s Transportation Strategic Plan was that promise but it turned into a busy agenda of motions that did not translate into any actions.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at:

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