To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, November 3, 2012

LA's Measure J Will Create Jobs and Clean the Environment


Peter Dreier

 While the nation debates how to put Americans back to work, Los Angeles' business, labor, civic, and political leaders have forged a bold plan to jump-start the area's economy. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County voters will decide the fate of this idea -- Measure J -- which will generate as many as 250,000 new local jobs by investing in public transportation.
Measure J's supporters include an unlikely coalition, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and its regional affiliates; the LA County Federation of Labor, Unite HERE and many other labor unions; the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Lung Association, the League of Conservation Voters, Move LA, the LA County Bicycle Coalition, LA Voice, Pacoima Beautiful, the Southern California Association Non-Profit Housing, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News and other major papers, and a Who's Who of elected officials from the Los Angeles region.

The plan is designed not only to help greater Los Angeles literally dig its way out of its recession but also to help improve the environment by getting more Angelenos out of their cars and into the region's growing subway, light rail, and bus services.

In 2008, at the start of the nation's economic meltdown, LA County residents voted, by a 68 percent margin, to raise their own taxes. They supported Measure R, which increased the county sales tax by half a cent on the dollar to pay for new public transit projects and transportation improvements through 2039. It was a bold move by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the city's business establishment and labor movement, but a vigorous campaign paid off with strong voter support.

Now, four years later, an even broader coalition is coming back to voters, asking them to extend that tax until 2069. With that guaranteed source of future revenue, local officials will accelerate the use of the money to construct major new public transit projects as well as improve local roads and highways. These projects would begin construction within five years and be completed in about ten years, providing Los Angeles County with traffic relief and new transportation choices. Measure J will put 250,000 of the 400,000 jobs created by Measure R on the fast track, putting people to work within a decade.

The best part is that Measure J won't increase anybody's taxes. It would simply extend the tax approved under Measure R (which costs residents an average only $25 per person each year) for another 30 years. It means, as the Los Angeles Daily News observed, that "the projects could be completed in a matter of years rather than decades."

If voters approve Measure J on Tuesday, the victory will be a testament to the creative thinking of local politicians, community, labor and environmental activists, and business leaders. They understand that with an unemployment rate of 11 percent in Los Angeles County, the local economy needs a jump-start. The paychecks for the construction workers who will be building the transit projects will be spent locally, having dramatic ripple effects on the entire regional economy, catalyzing jobs in many other sectors.

After voters approved Measure R in 2008 the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and the L.A.-Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council persuaded L.A. Metro, the regional transit agency, to agree to a "Project Labor Agreement" with the Building Trades Council to use skilled crafts workers on Measure R projects. This guarantees that the transportation construction jobs will be good jobs.

With the help of UCLA researchers, LAANE convinced L.A. Metro to adopt a "Construction Careers Policy" that will open a door for people traditionally shut out of good construction jobs. Thanks to this program, 40 percent of the construction work will be done by people from low-income communities, the very places with the highest poverty and jobless rates. Another 10 percent of the work must be done by "disadvantaged workers," who have a hard time getting work in a good economy and little hope in a bad one.

Measure J funds will speed up construction of several key light rail, subway, and rapid-transit bus lines that will help unclog traffic and connect people from their homes to their jobs. The projects include rail extensions to Los Angeles International Airport, the Eastside, the Westside, and the South Bay, and rapid bus service through the San Fernando Valley. The Green Line - which now ends in Redondo Beach - would be extended into the South Bay by 2020, 15 years earlier than initially promised. The Gold Line eastside extension to San Bernardino County would be completed by 2022 -- 13 years earlier than projected.

Measure J funds will also be used for such traffic relief projects as pothole repairs, signal synchronization, bikeway and pedestrian improvements and projects, local roadway and bridge safety improvements, carpool and rideshare programs, discounted transit fares, and funds to many of the county's 88 cities for local transit services.

LA's transit officials have already demonstrated that they know how to use public funds wisely and efficiently. Since Measure R was passed, L.A. Metro has made progress on the Crenshaw and Exposition rail lines, the Orange Line bus lane extensions, and three highway improvement projects.

Los Angeles vies with Houston as the most polluted urban area in the country as well as one of the most congested, with many motorists sitting in their cars for hours as they inch along during their morning and evening commutes. In addition to Measure J's role as a jobs stimulator, it will also have positive environmental consequences. The subways and light-rail lines built by Measures R and J will be around for more than a century. As future generations become more public transit-friendly, their behavior will help to protect the environment and wean America off foreign oil used to power our cars.

Vote "yes" on Measure J.

Peter Dreier is a professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His new book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, was published by Nation Books in July.

Villaraigosa Will Be In Chicago For Election Night


 L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will campaign on behalf of President Barack Obama in Florida Sunday and Monday before finishing a travel-filled campaign season in Chicago for the president’s Election Night party.

 That means he won’t be at Dodger Stadium, where supporters of L.A. County’s Measure J will be gathering on Election Night. Measure J, which Villaraigosa played a significant role in putting together, would delay the expiration date of a sales tax surcharge in the county by 30 years, to 2069.

If approved, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority could borrow money more up front by issuing bonds, expediting the construction of public transit, highway and other transportation infrastructure projects throughout the county.

“There’s times when borrowing for infrastructure projects makes sense,” said Jessica Digiambattista Peters, a transportation policy analyst for the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. “You can build more infrastructure sooner rather than waiting and having to pay higher interest rates.”

Villaraigosa was a major campaigner in the fall of 2008 for Measure R, which originally put that sales tax surcharge in place. Measure R barely surpassed the two-thirds vote-threshold needed to pass.

Villaraigosa has been much quieter the past few weeks in regards to Measure J. He — and other politicians — have been kept out of campaign commercials. Matching the “J” in jobs to the “J” in Measure J, the commercials and pitches for Measure J have focused on its ability to create jobs. An exit poll by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University found voters primarily supported Measure R because they thought it would improve the environment.

Experts in transportation policy such as James Moore at the University of Southern California have been skeptical about Measure J’s job creation claims.

“It will create some, and it will preclude some,” he said by email recently. “No one knows which effect will dominate, but my money is on the latter.”

The campaign is being run by Ace Smith. He also led Villaraigosa’s mayoral campaigns and is in charge of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 campaign.
In mid-October, Smith said voters were more concerned about the economy and jobs this year than the environment.

“We have to let voters know about the real, tangible benefits,” he said.

At the time, he said 10 percent of voters were undecided about Measure J. If even a third of them supported the measure, it would easily pass.

City News Service reported Friday the travel plans for Villaraigosa, the co-chair of Obama’s campaign nationally. The mayor will briefly return to Los Angeles on Monday night, so he can vote on Tuesday.

Villaraigosa has been mentioned has possible pick for secretary of Transportation should Obama be voted in for a second term. Secretary Ray LaHood has previously said he would step down at the end of Obama’s first term.

Like reporter Paresh Dave on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, circle him on Google+ or send him an e-mail.

Measure J support has a twist

Local officials support transit proposition but don't want the money to fund 710 extension.



No 710 Coalition: No on Measure J 


 by Janet Dodson

 Only in the car capital of the world could a proposal to build the next generation of mass transit include an enormous payout to the highway lobby. Measure J will provide $18 billion for highways. If “pro-transit” politicians, environmental, and livable communities advocates choose to ignore the fact that highways are not the future of Los Angeles, but rather our past, why should we have to pay for their misapprehension?

Today in Northeast LA and the San Gabriel Valley, $760 million, a quarter of a billion dollars from Measure R, the current 2009 ½ cent sales tax, is being dished up right now to a few contractors and developers merely to study the 4.5-mile 710 extension tunnels. It does not matter to the developers whether or not this disastrous polluting dangerous pair of tunnels is ever actually built, they are getting that money now. Measure J will extend that tax money until 2069.

This pair of 4.5 mile double-deck tunnels is being planed to run from El Sereno through Alhambra, South Pasadena, Pasadena to connect to the 210 freeway a few blocks from Huntington Hospital.
Depending on the day, and their audience, MTA has claimed these tunnels will or will not facilitate goods movement from the ports of LA and Long Beach. Goods movement means diesel trucks. MTA knows these tunnels will have to be built with Public (that’s you)/Private Partnerships. That means tolls, around $15 for each ride through the tunnels. The toll revenue will go to the Private part of the arrangement, not you. MTA claims this will reduce the terrible congestion we suffer on the 710 and through the neighborhoods at the end of the 710.

So, you will be willing to pay $15 to drive in a no-exit 4.5 mile tunnel filled with diesel trucks? No you won’t. So how will this reduce congestion? It won’t. The tunnels will bring devastation to El Sereno, Highland Park, South Pasadena, parts of Pasadena and Altadena.

Our communities will have to breathe cancer-causing exhaust venting out of the tunnels. Southeast L.A. and neighboring working class cities already suffer from truck-generated toxic pollution, and it will get worse with the planned expansion of the 710 in the south.

Furthermore when the private companies MTA is courting discover they cannot recover the $10 billion it will cost them to build these tunnels, they will cut their losses and leave Californians to pay. That would be you. Know anyone in Boston? Ask them about the Big Dig.

On days when there has been press about the trucks in the tunnels, MTA claims there will be no trucks in the tunnels. The trucks, they claim, turn east to get on the 5. They don’t. But then truth is not an MTA habit. So why are we spending this much on a tunnel again?

Oh wait, jobs, the refuge of all politics. Say jobs and everyone falls over. The jobs that the Measure J supporters keep talking about are already being handed out to the men in a few large construction, engineering, and real estate corporations: JMB, Century Plaza, Westfield, Parsons Brinkerhoff, AEG. These are campaign donors, and are funding support for Measure J. CH2M Hill is a multi-billion dollar construction and engineering firm existing on taxpayer money, public contracts, and enormous military contracts.

They gave generously to the Measure J campaign, and coincidentally are contracted by MTA for $37 million to perform the already flawed environmental study for the 710 Tunnel. Those are the jobs Measure J will bring to Los Angeles. This is massive corporate welfare funded by a sales tax.
We know from experience that MTA simply cannot be trusted with our tax dollars. Like so many other communities from South LA to East LA, we have confronted repeated disrespect and fiction from the MTA. The agency refuses to acknowledge the 710 tunnels are about contracts, huge trucking fleets, and shipping companies connected to the ports. There are better ways to move cargo from the ports quickly, easily, without diesel, and for a fraction of the cost of the tunnels.

Since 2009, when billions of dollars in Measure R sales taxes began to flow into MTA, bus service, the most practical, cost efficient, flexible way to move people, has been cut by one million hours annually. MTA has implemented an unnecessary 20% fare hike in the middle of the worst economic crisis in decades, driving down overall transit ridership despite a massive increase in demand for mass transit nationally.

As Streetsblog readers know, we cannot have more freeways in Los Angeles. As we have grown, any freeway built, or widened, or expanded in the past ten years has become instantly congested. Freeway expansion exacerbates traffic congestion. Why then should we give MTA $18 billion more for highway projects?

With pollution growing, cancer rates climbing, and the climate changing swiftly, it is time for us to change too. Measure J is a backward- looking investment in freeways. MTA: before we give you another huge pile of our money until 2069, show us how the tax revenue you already have can carry us all together into a Los Angeles future, with modern, clean-burning, swift, affordable, flexible transit everywhere, accessible to everyone.

Vote No on Measure J.

Vote No on Measure J(ackin’) South L.A.

From Damien Goodmon
When you vote on Tuesday, remember May 26, 2011.

Six hundred black leaders of the civil rights, faith, nonprofit, political and residential communities swarmed the MTA Board Room.

It was a show of political unity unseen in a generation. The "black community had finally come together."

With one voice we respectfully requested our tax dollars be added to the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project to:

1) Underground the line on Crenshaw Boulevard for 11 blocks to protect the last black business corridor in Southern California, and

2) Add a station at Leimert Park Village to assist in our revitalization of “Little Africa.”

Under the leadership of MTA Board member/County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, prior to the meeting the money and three of the seven votes needed for passage had been identified. The other four votes were controlled by the chair of the MTA Board, the Mayor of Los Angeles. All eyes were on Antonio Villaraigosa.

Before the meeting, the Mayor very publicly sat down with the L.A. Sentinel. He said to them he wanted to help. Mayor Villaraigosa had lied.

Villaraigosa began his statement that brisk Thursday morning admitting that the only reason any MTA projects in L.A. County were possible – including his pet project, the Wilshire Subway to the Sea – was because South L.A. voters repeatedly had gone to the polls and voted for them.

He and his lieutenants on the MTA board went on to display palpable resentment that the community that had been making deposits into the MTA account for decades would dare attempt to make a withdrawal.

Our signature was no good, the Mayor told us. We were not joint owners of the account. The check, he said, was to be marked “Insufficient Funds.” He voted against funding the 11-block tunnel and station at Leimert Park Village.

Fast Forward to Today:
On Tuesday, ballots throughout L.A. County will feature Measure J – another one of those taxes for MTA. It’s a half-cent sales tax increase until 2069, projected to generate $90 billion.

It was concocted by none other than Antonio Villaraigosa.

The “Yes on J” campaign television ads prominently feature images of black construction workers. Imagery is apparently supposed to be satisfaction for us because, of the $90 billion projected to be generated by the Measure J sales tax increase, not one penny is to return for transportation projects in the South L.A. community.

Not one penny is to add a station at our region’s African-American cultural center, Leimert Park Village.

Not one penny is to underground the Crenshaw/LAX Line in Park Mesa Heights to protect the last black business corridor in Southern California and the lives of our school kids.

Not one penny is for Expo Line safety improvements and community mitigation.

Not one penny is for safety improvements on the deadliest light rail line in America – the Blue Line.

Mayor Villaraigosa has shown us who he is. It is incumbent upon all voters to believe him. He and the MTA board have promised our community nothing. Even if he did at this late date, what intelligent person would believe him?

Broader Implications of No on J

By now it should be clear that MTA and Mayor Villaraigosa are making their decisions based on their perception of South L.A. power.

By voting no on Measure J, South L.A. citizens can personally protect their economic interests, and more broadly, collectively send a message to MTA, Mayor Villaraigosa and the many who are watching that the requests of South L.A. must be respected. By refusing to be bamboozled by empty promises and slick TV ads featuring black construction workers, South L.A. can officially end the days of being cut out.

On Tuesday, by exercising our democratic right (a right gained through the blood of giants in the civil rights movement) to say no to Measure J, we in South L.A. can usher in a new day, and reclaim our rightful place as an equal partner.

Mr. Goodmon , a community organizer/leader in South L.A., may be contacted at damienwg@gmail.com

Measure J: We Can’t Support It


 Posted on

Measure J, the initiative on the Los Angeles County ballot to extend the voter approved half-cent transportation sales tax, has found support among transit advocates and some cycling advocates too. A two-thirds ‘yes’ vote on J would extend the ‘sunset’ of the 2008-era 30-year tax hike for an additional 30 years in order to generate $67 billion total for mobility investment across the county. (About $43 billion from the Measure J extension.) With Metro behind it, it’s tempting to go along because we do need transit options. But this initiative amplifies concerns that accompanied the original Measure R and is one of three tax-hike proposals on the ballot. It may not have sufficiently broad support. Already two key LA County Supervisors, Ridley-Thomas and Antonovich, have declined to endorse it. We join them. With 26 years yet to go on Measure R yet, we feel that leveraging a sales tax increase so far into the future for improvements not clearly specified (much less costed) begs voters take a pass.

We might be a minority voice, and here on the Westside in particular. Measure J has found broad support among boosters of multimodal mobility, including out-front members of the Los Angeles cycling advocacy community; key outlets like Streetsblog LA; and even the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, which came out in support with an editorial:
LACBC works closely with MoveLA, the coalition of labor, business, and environmental organizations backing Measure J. MoveLA shares our vision of a bikeable, walkable, and transit-friendly Los Angeles County and are working with us at Metro to ensure that our regional transportation policy supports these goals.
(It’s worth noting that Move LA is headquartered in an office adjoining the LACBC’s suite on Spring Street.)

The Los Angeles Times also endorsed Measure J, finding it “a win for transit, the economy and the future of L.A. County.” The projects accelerated by Measure J, the editorial said, “would ease congestion, reduce pollution and increase quality of life, without raising taxes.” The editorial also labeled valid arguments against both measures R & J as “tired,” which is a disservice to those who thoughtfully analyzed the pros and cons.

The proponents’ take on Measure J is that bonding against the next 5+ decades of the sales tax bump will prudently accelerate investment across the county when we most need it. It would create 410,000 jobs at a time when our state can barely keep the lights (on much less fund big projects), they say; given Washington intransigence, Angelenos must step up to the plate with another three-decade levy. (Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposal to pack 30 years of transit construction into the next ten years – 30/10 – largely at federal expense didn’t fly in DC.)

Measure J opponents find much they can live without, however. Measure J proposes a raft of projects that still will rely on federal cost-sharing – funding not necessarily forthcoming given today’s fractious politics (not to mention prevailing anti-urban bias among House leadership in Congress.) Yet Metro’s own project sheet notes that the particulars on many projects (including the most broad outlines) have yet to be nailed down. Details are to be decided by the Metro board. (Beverly Hills City Council recently declined to endorse Measure J precisely because it views Metro as wielding too much power.)
Metro Measure J projects mapMoreover, some find it implausible to imagine that Metro will be able to manage so many big projects when the organization has its hands full today with the significant projects that have already broken ground. Critics grimly predict that Metro’s limited project management capacity can only be a recipe for fiscal imprudence. Opponents have also raised a social justice argument in opposition to Measure J, saying that any sales tax is a flat tax on consumption that falls inordinately on the less economically advantaged.
Looking at the substance of the proposed projects, critics question whether Measure J should tap receipts so far in the future to fund transportation projects today when we can’t even anticipate tomorrow’s needs. And should projects serve tomorrow’s users at the expense of those traveling today? The Los Angeles Bus Riders Union, for example, recently took their arguments to city councils to say that rail investment doesn’t well serve the much larger number of bus riders who suffer today under bus service cutbacks. They add that our least-advantaged travelers don’t directly benefit from roadway investment either.

More About Measure J

According to Metro, the economic and transportation benefits of Measure J justify extending the sunset date to 2069 only four years into the original Measure R’s 30-year horizon:
By starting construction on seven rail and rapid transit projects, and up to eight highway projects within the next five years, instead of the twenty years currently planned, this job creation will be accelerated. The measure will also provide an additional thirty years of continued funding for local transportation improvements (ex. pothole repair, signal synchronization, local roadway and bridge safety improvements), countywide bus and rail service operations, Metrolink and Metro Rail capital improvements, and administration.
Contrary to how the initiative is often talked about, it’s not all about mass transit. Metro of course is the lead agency on the $1.3 billion I-405 expansion project, and Measure J would plow significant money into auto infrastructure. If current statewide apportioning ratios hold for Measure J projects too, active transportation facilities might only nibble a few percent of that big pot o’gold (even considering the program’s 15% local return).
Metro Measure J Fact Sheet imageBut active transportation interests (and pro-bike supporters in particular) aren’t the key supporters of Measure J anyway: it is the agencies that would benefit, and labor, its representative unions, and materials suppliers who really stand to gain. (As measurej.org notes, it is a “coalition of Charitable, Business and Labor Organizations.”) Not for nothing is Measure J being sold as a jobs initiative as much as a mobility program. (See the Metro Measure J Fact Sheet at right.)

Measure R in 2008 enjoyed majority support across Los Angeles County, but it barely surpassed the necessary 2/3 threshold of approval at the ballot box. Just as were reasons not to have supported Measure R, there still exist valid objections to extending the half-cent sales tax increase (over an additional thirty years under J) and that may threaten the initiative’s success on November 6th.

Why We Don’t Endorse Measure J

We would like to be able to stand with proponents in support of Measure J (we supported Measure R) but we feel that the “tired arguments” (as the LA Times editorialized) against this initiative are persuasive. Supporters note the wide net that a sales tax casts to spread the cost of mobility options across a wider constituency, but any sales tax is regressive. When conservative supply-siders like Malcom Forbes press the flat tax, and corporations like Amazon routinely sidestep collecting it, we believe that it falls too much on the least economically empowered. We’re also sympathetic to the Bus Riders Union arguments that under-serving the much larger bus constituency undermines Metro’s campaign for a larger checkbook for more ambitious projects.
New People Mover from Visual Environment of Los Angeles (1971)
Envisioning the people-moving future of Los Angeles circa 1971

We’re also concerned that Measure J leverages the future without regard to tomorrow’s unanticipated long-term transportation needs. Should we be borrowing against funding through 2069 for only one or two decades of improvement? On one hand, will it leave anything for needs that we can’t today forecast? On the other, will it saddle us with infrastructure that may not serve us well a half-century hence? Imagine if we had drawn upon today’s transit funding to build the freeways of the 1960s. We’d have much more of what we don’t need, yet have fewer resources to tap for what we do need. Today that’s mass transit and active transportation facilities, but yesterday’s policymakers didn’t have the vision (even if planners did, right). Greenhouse gas reduction wasn’t on the radar then (much less state law).

But mostly our reluctance to endorse Measure J simply boils down to a lack of faith. The prospect of decades of indebtedness chasing too many projects over a compressed timeframe sounds like the makings of a megaproject bubble. We count ourselves among the critics who find it difficult to imagine that Metro will be able to manage so many big projects. Metro has much on its plate today.
Even without Measure J, Expo will crawl to completion and the Purple Line will one day reach the sea. But Measure J will likely nourish perceptions (if not the actuality) of waste, fraud, and abuse in public-sector megaprojects. (Academic planner Bent Flyvbjerg has found that strategic misrepresentation of project cost and overly-optimistic projections regarding performance and timelines not only plague major public projects but are instrumental in securing policymaker approval for them.)

Some may be comforted by the Measure R-mandated annual monitoring and spending review. Yet two factors argue against complacency. First, extending the sales tax bump for double the initial 30-year term will undoubtedly overtax the capacity of any oversight body, namely the independent taxpayer oversight committee charged with the task. With so many more projects getting off the ground, can we even ensure effective oversight?

And second, taxpayers only need look to other big-scale public construction programs in order to question whether we in California (or the United States for that matter) have what it takes to usher publicly-funded megaprojects from conception to realization efficiently and cost-effectively. Consider the Los Angeles Community College District expansion program. It has been wracked with corruption and self-dealing for many years, according to a long-running series in the Los Angeles Times. Efforts at reform under public scrutiny have not been wholly successful at reining it in. Nothing about that $6 billion program (“Do it for the kids!”) inspires confidence.

And then there’s the California High Speed Rail Authority, which was created by ballot initiative statewide and endowed to put California train travel on the literal fast track. That program was also billed as a bold step toward a multimodal future, and also sold as a jobs program. But the Authority has wobbled under public scrutiny. Successive proposals and route plans have called into question the credibility of the appointed body. And now, years later, and under new direction, the program has been scaled down to appease local constituencies. But then it never promised an end-to-end high speed rail right-of-way anyway. Top-end speed projections seem overly optimistic. In sum, it seems to virtually embody Flyvbjerg’s findings about megaprojects.

We don’t want to see the same happen throughout Los Angeles County. We instead favor our existing program of mobility project acceleration under the promised oversight and annual reports. Voters are being asked to allow a return to the well when we’ll not even have learned what new post-election direction Congress and the executive branch will take. So we’ll take a pass this time and prefer to revisit the promises of Measure J the next time around, perhaps.