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

Monday, March 11, 2013

The LA Times Blames Us for the Election


By Bob Gelfand, March 12, 2013


  LA POLITICS - The LA Times has turned itself into a Jewish Mother joke. 

Here's an old example of the genre. A Jewish Mother gives her son two ties for his birthday, a green one and a red one. The next morning, he comes down to breakfast wearing the green one. She looks up at him and says, "You didn't like the other one?"

In the more modern version, the Jewish Mother is the Los Angeles Times, as played by star columnist Steve Lopez. To Lopez, we Angelenos were bad children because we didn't vote in Tuesday's election.

Let's consider the particulars. Last Thursday, the LA Times went full frontal (page, that is) with a Steve Lopez column titled "LA's Walking Dead." That's you and me he's talking about. We're too apathetic to get out and vote. That's implicit in his comments. We're too lazy to make the important decisions -- he says that directly.

What he has missed is the failure of the Times to bring the election alive. It's the last remaining major newspaper in this part of the country, and it is as dull as dishwater and as uncontroversial as a television game show.

Why didn't the Times do something to bring this election alive? It could have done that easily enough. The accumulated scandalous acts of the many candidates provided plenty of fodder. We could have witnessed an old fashioned crusading newspaper doing what a crusading newspaper is supposed to do, and we would have become energized as an electorate.

But to do so would have meant that the Times had to invest a small amount of resources and a large amount of journalistic integrity. I think the Times had the resources available. The integrity is another question.

Here's an example of what the Times could and should have been doing all along. This strategy would require only modest staffing and would have resulted in a more interesting election. It would also do a world of good for our suffering city.

Step 1: Just assign 2 reporters to follow the Los Angeles City Council, not as stenographers, but as serious investigative reporters. One of the two would concentrate on reading and learning the campaign contributions made to each of the City Council members. The other would follow the doings of the City Council itself, as it doles out favors to developers, municipal employee unions, Hollywood studios, and itself.

Step 2: Then, once a day, print a front page story detailing how votes in the City Council are connected to all that money. Don't just write the usual vague (but cynical) stuff. Give the details.
Name names. Show how the real estate industry gets what it wants. Connect a vote on a zoning issue with specific campaign contributions. Show why the billboard industry seems to escape taxation in spite of its huge profits (A note to the reader: I keep asking how much the billboard industry pays in taxes, and nobody -- and that includes the Chief Administrative Officer -- has been able to tell me. If they are paying lots of taxes or fees, let me know and I will write it up. But if the industry is not paying its share, then think about the fact that you were all just asked to vote for higher sales taxes.)

And now for the fun part. As each city election approaches, consider each incumbent and one by one, report on whether he or she served the public interest or quietly served the interests of the money donors.

And one last thing, the part that requires one more little bit of integrity. Make it clear who should not be reelected. Don't dither or vacillate or hide in vagueness. Tell it clearly.

Since I seem to like starting paragraphs with the word And, here's one more:
And lastly, hold candidates accountable for the kind of campaigns they run. If they are sending out mud-spewing mailers, call on the voters to defeat them. If they have a history of sending out last minute hit pieces, do the same.

None of this seems all that hard to do. An institution the size of the L.A. Times could do it easily enough. The only things stopping it are institutional inertia and the financial interests of the newspaper's owners.

The inertia part shouldn't be that hard to get past. It just requires that the paper recognize that it is part of a dying breed, and that to avoid extinction it needs to find a paying gig. Running juicy bits about the people who rule us should sell a few papers. One other hint -- don't run your juiciest bits on the internet for at least a month after they appear on doorsteps and newspaper racks.

What about the financial interests of the Times' owners? It's not exactly a secret that newspapers tend to avoid writing negative things about their biggest advertisers. In the past, it was the automotive industry and real estate who enjoyed the most protection.

The problem for the LA Times, in common with most surviving American newspapers, is that advertising revenue has fallen enormously as the internet has grown. Not long ago, I bought a used computer using the internet site craigslist as my information source. I didn't even think about checking the newspaper ads. Newspapers have taken a huge hit in their classified ad revenues due to this kind of internet competition, but they still collect a lot of money from the automotive and real estate sectors.

That's the quandary. The LA Times and other papers could conceivably rebuild according to a business model that involves telling the truth about politicians and businesses. It might work, or it might not. Integrity demands telling the truth, but staying in business might demand the opposite. It all depends on how much dirt you have to dish on automotive interests and on real estate, as compared to how much advertising you lose as they retaliate.

But those are economic issues, not the driving emotional force of wanting to write the truth for the people of Los Angeles.

Getting back to the Steve Lopez column -- however you slice it, the L.A. Times didn't drive voters to the polls last Tuesday. The paper as a whole wrote the usual balanced pablum and gave a so-so endorsement or two, and that was it. So please don't give me guilt over our collective failure as an electorate. If there is collective guilt, then the majority of it lies with you, the news media.

That's pretty much the conclusion of this piece, but if you want to stick with me for a little while longer, I would like to show a little of what reporters might be doing.

As I mentioned above, the first step is to dig up the dirt. Some people would think of it as something
other than dirt. In fact, the current Supreme Court likes to think of campaign contributions as freedom of expression. All I can say is that our local investors must be very expressive people, and here's how we can show it.

It's not that difficult. You just go to the city ethics commission site and look for the pull-down menu
with the names of all the candidates and office holders. Pick one, indicate the office he or she is running for, and then click on the Search Now button. After that, it's read 'em and weep.

What will you find?

Let's do one City Council incumbent who cruised to an easy victory. The candidate (basically an OK guy, as far as I can tell) was essentially running unopposed, but collected well over two hundred thousand dollars just in the past couple of years. Here's a few of the special interests that have been slipping dollars into his reelection fund: Anawalt Lumber, the AFT union, the AFSCME union, Anheuser-Busch,  AP Properties Ltd of Chicago, Illinois, and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.

And that's just the A's. If you scroll down the screen, you run into multiple contributions (what an interesting word it is -- contributions) from Yellow Cab, and there's the LA County Medical Association, and the Parking Association of California.

Notice that last one, the Parking Association of California, because the parking business is one of the more contentious subjects in Los Angeles politics. There are several movie studios and associated executives, and something called The Happy Ending Bar (insert your own joke here).

And then there are the realtors and real estate agencies and developers and their companies, more numerous than the stars in the sky or your fingers can count.

And remember, this is a fairly new member of the City Council, somebody who is not a major power broker.

But all these businesses and public employee unions and real estate interests insist on putting money in his reelection envelope.

If you click back to do another search, pick one of the real power brokers on the City Council or pick one of the mayoral candidates. This is where it gets scary. The money flows and flows. Most candidates who seem to have any kind of a chance get money from the parking interests, the outdoor signage industry, towing companies, public employee unions -- basically anyone and everyone who needs a favor from your elected officials, particularly when that favor involves costing you, the public, money.

But you have to get into the details. We have that old cliche about knowing where the bodies are buried. In the case of Los Angeles and its municipal government, they're buried in plain sight. Funny how the news media doesn't bother to spotlight them.

Afterword: In the middle of the last decade, the one we sometimes refer to as "the oughts," I wrote a weekly column about the mass media for American-Reporter.com, concentrating on the failings and occasional triumphs of the news media. It was a fun time, because the job was (to borrow an awful cliche), shooting fish in a barrel.

It was also a depressing time, as the media were a combination of right wing talk radio, spineless newspapers, worthless television news shows, and an emerging, but still barely formed, internet presence.

I practiced my craft, such as it is, under editor Joe Shea, who still runs the American Reporter [www.american-reporter.com], the world's first internet daily newspaper. Today, we have numerous internet sites that do what I sought to do, but so much better. I have only to mention Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall as the creators of a new and better journalism.

One of the questions we all asked in that earlier decade was whether big city newspapers and medium sized newspapers would survive. The answer is not yet clear. The last remaining local competition, in the form of the Daily Breeze, Daily News, and Press Telegram, have been merged in all but name, and yet don't quite thrive, barely surviving amid rumors that the whole set will quietly devolve into a purely online presence not too long from now.

Perhaps it's time to revive a bit of the old On Media. There's lots to talk about, particularly here in Los Angeles.

L.A. to neighborhood councils: Cancel elections or help pay for them


By Rick Orlov, March 11, 2013

With the failure of Measure A in last week's election, the city's 95 neighborhood councils are being asked to weigh in on a proposal to either cancel their elections next year or pay up to 20 percent of their annual $37,500 budget to cover the costs.

Jay Handal, chairman of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, said Monday the proposal is another example of the city's disrespect toward the neighborhood councils and is prompting a consideration of a lawsuit.

"This is absolutely punishing the neighborhood councils because Measure A failed," Handal said. "We feel worse than abandoned. We feel like the bastard stepchild.

"Every year, they come in and sweep out the money not spent, which means a lot of councils rush out to spend their budget on questionable projects just so they don't have to give it back to the city."

Handal also complained Measure A, which would have raised $200 million a year with a half-percent increase to the sales tax, was rushed through without input from the neighborhood councils.

"If they had come to us and explained it, they might have received more support," Handal said.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the city - facing a budget deficit of anywhere from $100 million to $200 million this coming year - has no choice because of the defeat of Measure A.

"We've been saying everything is on the table and this is one of those things," Santana said.

"We have to look at everything as we prepare the budget."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is scheduled to release his final budget for submission to the City Council in late April.

The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is planning a survey of the neighborhood councils to get their input.

"We have been going along with the city for years, but this is the final straw," Handal said.
"We are looking to sue the city to force them to comply with the City Charter."

Handal said the charter requires the city to provide funding a year in advance, create a special fund for the allocation and not touch it for other needs.

"They have never followed that and we think it's time the city lived up to the charter," Handal said.

But, Santana said the neighborhood councils are being treated like every other city agency.

"I would like to be able to take extra money and carry it over, but we just can't do that in these times," Santana said.

More people taking public transportation, L.A.'s Metro system leading the way


By Christina Villacorte, March 11, 2013

Record numbers of Americans ditched their own cars and took public transportation in 2012, resulting in the nation's second highest annual ridership since 1957.

The American Public Transportation Association said Monday some of the largest increases occurred in Los Angeles, where the popular Expo Line opened last April.

Los Angeles' light rail system saw an 18.5 percent spike in ridership, according to APTA. Most of that was attributed to the Expo Line, which stretches from downtown LA to Culver City.

The heavy rail system, meanwhile, saw a 3.7 percent increase in ridership.

Marc Littman, spokesman for the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said more people are taking public transportation because they can.

"Rail ridership keeps going up exponentially because it's easier, more convenient," he said.

And thanks to a half-percent sales tax for transportation projects that voters approved in 2008, Metro is continuing to expand its rail service.

"In several years, we're going to have five rail lines under construction," Littman said, including the extension of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica and the Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa.

APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said Monday that Americans took 10.5 billion trips on public transportation "" the second highest annual ridership since 1957.

 "Two big reasons for the increased national transit ridership are high, volatile gas prices and, in certain localities, a recovering economy with more people returning to work," he said.

Melaniphy said ridership spiked even though Hurricane Sandy temporarily knocked out public transit systems from Washington D.C. to Boston.

He said people's attitudes toward public transportation are changing, pointing out that 49 out of 62 transit-oriented state and local ballot initiatives passed last year.

"There is a sea change going on in the way that people look at transportation," Melaniphy said. "This is an important time for the public transportation industry as more and more Americans support and want it. "

Littman said a growing number of Angelenos are turning to public transportation to avoid some of the high costs associated with driving one's own car.

Many also use it to avoid traffic.

"We opened up the new express lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways, and public transportation can get on those express lanes for free," Littman pointed out.

Littman said public transportation is also more attractive now, compared to before, because of all the retail development and other projects sprouting up along those corridors.

Moreover, he added, Metro has worked on increasing connectivity with Metrolink and municipal bus lines; created car pool, van pool and bike programs near its stations; and kept its fares among the lowest in the country.

"We work on different fronts and I think that all helps with our ridership program," Littman said.

 5-car pileup snarls traffic on westbound 210 Freeway in Sylmar


March 11, 2013

Traffic on the westbound 210 Freeway near the 5 Freeway in Sylmar was snarled Monday night after five vehicles collided, officials said.

The accident involved a big rig, an SUV and a Prius and caused a heavy backup, according to initial reports by California Highway Patrol officers at the scene. The incident was reported about 7 p.m.

Firefighters responded, but it was not immediately clear how many people may have been injured.

At least two lanes on the busy freeway were closed. It was unclear when they would be reopened.

[Updated 7:59 p.m.: Four patients were taken to hospitals, and traffic was beginning to move, the LAFD said.]

California earthquake packed unusually wide punch, experts say


March 11, 2013

 Geocoded Map

 Monday morning's magnitude 4.7 earthquake in Riverside County was the largest temblor to hit the Los Angeles region in three years and has produced more than 100 aftershocks.

It caused no major damage, but it was felt over what seismologists said was an unusually large area.
The quake was initially recorded as three separate quakes because a foreshock tricked seismographs into recording multiple quakes of multiple sizes, said Susan Hough, a USGS seismologist.

Earthquakes of a 4.7 magnitude are typically only felt about 120 miles away from the epicenter, but Monday morning's quake traveled farther, shaking coffee cups as far as Los Angeles. The USGS said it was felt as far away as Arizona.

That's because the quake occurred in the San Jacinto Mountains, which are composed of hard granite rock that transmits energy more efficiently, Hough said.

The quake occurred along the San Jacinto Fault Zone, which runs through San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties roughly parallel to the San Andreas Fault. It's one of three fault zones that absorb friction from the motion of the North American continent and the Pacific plates rubbing against each other.

“It's capable of generating moderate to large earthquakes,” said USGS seismologist Robert Graves. “Today's activity was not out of the ordinary. Actually, it's pretty typical of the area.”

There is some evidence that the largest quake ever recorded in the fault zone, a magnitude 7, occurred sometime in the early 1800s, Graves said.

The fault zone has generated eight earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger in the last century, Graves said. About five earthquakes of similar size have occurred within 20 kilometers of the area within the last 20 years, he said.

The most recent large earthquake in the fault zone occurred in 1968. The magnitude 6.5 Borrego Mountain earthquake severed power lines in San Diego County, cracked plaster in Los Angeles and rocked boats docked in Long Beach for five minutes, according to Caltech's website.

That quake struck just a few miles to the south of today's.

“It's a good idea to take it to heart and make sure you're prepared,” Graves said. “We live in Southern California, and we have lots of active faults; and every once in a while, it's large enough to cause damage.”

Monday's quake caused some items to fall to the floor at a local market in rural Anza. And it created some anxious moments for people who felt it.

Minnesota transplant Shannon Haber said that even though she's lived here since 1996, she has not gotten used to earthquakes.

“I was just a little frightened,” Haber said. “There was small shaking and it made me nervous because I’m 23 floors up.”

Haber was working in the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters in Westlake when the
earthquake shook at 9:56 a.m. more than 100 miles away in Anza. The shaking was the biggest and longest-lasting she could remember.

“It was a slow, swaying motion,” she said. “It sort of felt like I was on a boat, a sort of wavy feeling that lasted 10 to 20 seconds.... No one else reacted around me. They’re all veterans of earthquakes.”

Holly Lawson was working in a campground kiosk at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, about 60 miles south of the epicenter when the windows in her tiny kiosk began to rattle.

The rolling rumble lasted about six seconds, she said, and she could see a man outside in his truck as it swayed back and forth.

“The truck was actually physically moving,” Lawson said.

A San Diego native, she had already guessed the temblor's magnitude by the time the shaking stopped.

“I'm always concerned about these windows when we feel a quake,” she said. “We're surrounded by them.”

Lawson, who lives in Anza, got a call from her teenage son soon after, reporting that there had been a sudden, loud crack of sound before the shaking began. Their home,  a manufactured house, experienced small cracks after a similar earthquake about a year ago.

Meanwhile, campers in nearby RVs came one by one to ask if there had been an earthquake “or if they were just going crazy,” Lawson said.

Mary Ann McKennon, a volunteer camp host and Idaho native, said she didn't know what was going on at first.

“My first thought was that we've been having some funky winds, and sometimes they blow pretty hard,” she said. Soon she saw the truck outside rocking, too.

“I didn't like it at all,” said McKennon, who has worked on and off at the camp for six years. “Do you ever get used to them?”

California earthquake a reminder of seismic dangers


March 11, 2013

Monday morning's magnitude 4.7 earthquake in Riverside County hit is a seismically active area, and experts said it was a reminder of the potential dangers.

“It's a good idea to take it to heart and make sure you're prepared,” U.S. Geological Survey Seismologist Robert Graves said. “We live in Southern California, and we have lots of active faults; and every once in a while, it's large enough to cause damage.”

Here are four graphics from the USGS that tell the story of Monday's earthquake:

The USGS said the quake was felt as far away as Arizona and the Central Valley. Here's a map showing where people responded to the USGS's "Did You Feel It?" website:
City map
The USGS got more than 9,000 responses from the public. The chart shows when the responses were sent:
Responses vs. Time
This map shows the shaking intensity of the Monday temblor:
Instrumental Intensity Image
The star shows the location of the quake with other historic quakes in the area plotted with orange circles.
Historical Seismicity

The quake was initially recorded as three separate quakes because a foreshock tricked seismographs into recording multiple quakes of multiple sizes, said Susan Hough, a USGS seismologist.

Earthquakes of a 4.7 magnitude are typically only felt about 120 miles from the epicenter, but Monday morning's quake traveled farther.
That's because the quake occurred in the San Jacinto Mountains, which are composed of hard granite that transmits energy more efficiently, Hough said.

The quake occurred along the San Jacinto Fault Zone, which runs through San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties roughly parallel to the San Andreas Fault. It's one of three fault zones that absorb friction from the motion of the North American Continent and the Pacific plates rubbing against each other.

“It's capable of generating moderate to large earthquakes,” said Graves. “Today's activity was not out of the ordinary. Actually, it's pretty typical of the area.”

There is some evidence that the largest quake ever recorded in the fault zone, a magnitude 7, occurred in the early 1800s, Graves said.

No injuries or major damage was reported.


Expo Board Approves Construction Funding for First Part of Greenway Project


By Damien Newton, March 11, 2013

The funding of culverts is just one part of the Expo Greenway project. Image:Expo Greenway

On Thursday March 7th, the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors approved $89,000 for the first step in what would be the “Expo Greenway” (Greenway) project near the Westwood Station of the Expo Line. The Expo Greenway project would transform the area between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue adjacent to the future bikeway and rail project into a sustainable urban greenway that would provide a corridor of native species, a stretch of open space, and a place where rainwater is sustainably moved back to the ground.

The $89,000 will be used for the construction of culverts beneath the Expo light rail tracks that are essential to the Expo Greenway. A culvert is a drain or pipe that allows water to flow under a road, railroad, trail, or similar obstruction. While it is indeed good news that the culverts are funded, without future commitment from either the City of Los Angeles or the Construction Authority for the rest of the Greenway project, it could be a case of constructing something with limited use.

The Greenway is a favorite project of environmentalists and Expo advocates, especially ones on the Westside.  The Expo Greenway website is filled with supportive quotes from Neighborhood Councils, national environmental groups and politicians.

The Greenway concept for this portion of Expo has gained steam in the last couple of years. Last
year, the Greenway was added to the list of the parks in the Mayor’s 50 Parks Initiative. The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation’s Watershed Protection Division wants to build two streams on the Greenway to help clean Ballona Creek and comply with the Clean Water Act. The culverts will connect the two streams. Council Member Paul Koretz’ office continues to push for complete funding to build and operate the Greenway.

The project has been a crusade of Jonathan Weiss, a long-time bicycling advocate and member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Dean Howell wrote a thesis on the project for the UCLA Extension Landscape Architecture Program.

Paul Ryan Trying to Kill High-Speed Rail to Vegas


By Eve Bachrach, March 11, 2013

 The XpressWest project that would build a high-speed rail line from Victorville to Las Vegas has always had its share of skeptics, but now Senator Jeff Sessions and former vice presidential candidate, Representative Paul Ryan, are ready to douse it with a big bucket of cold water. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week, the chairs of the Senate and House Budget Committees urged the administration not to approve a $5.5 billion loan for the project. XpressWest has been waiting for news on that loan since they applied way back in December 2011, and Vegas Inc. seems to think that the Ryan/Sessions letter could be a sign that the government is getting ready to respond. Calling XpressWest "costly, wasteful and high risk," the letter cites a 2012 report from the libertarian Reason foundation that concluded that high-speed rail projects are "plagued by optimistic ridership and revenue forecasts, financial losses and capitol (sic) cost overruns." But Vegas Inc's source claims the letter is merely "a political diversion to slow the administration's efforts on high-speed rail." In the meantime, alcoholic train enthusiasts will be able to ride the regular-speed party train to Vegas starting next January, when the Xtrain starts service.


Peggy Drouet: Everyone who I have talked to thinks that the LA to Las Vegas high-speed train route should be the first one to be built. It would be immensely popular with Los Angeles and Orange Counties residents. Right now, your options to reach Las Vegas is by car--4 to 5 hours, longer if you are traveling on a Friday night there and on Sunday night back and shorter if you are a speeder--or by air, a quick 45- to 60-minute flight but a ride to the airport, a security check, and a wait for your flight and then for your luggage, sometimes making the car trip quicker. 

I think the problem some politicans have with Las Vegas is that they think of it only as a decadent gambling town, not one that has first-class restaurants and shows, great tours to the outlying desert areas and to the Grand Canyon, free entertainment, great walking, hiking and skiing on Mt. Charleston, museums, etc., etc., etc. Many visitors to Las Vegas never gamble at all or set a limit to lose, such as all of $20.

There is nothing high risk about this high-speed route. The party train will attract a different type of Las Vegas visitor than the more usual one.

Gil Cedillo abstains from voting in support of Clean Air Bill
Posted on Facebook, March 11, 2013


  by Elisa Batista


This piece was cross-posted at MomsRising.

About a year and a half ago, I testified before a California senate committee in support of a bill that would stop mandating — not ban! — the use of toxic flame retardants in certain baby products.

Studies have linked these toxic chemicals, also known as
“halogenated flame retardants” or HFRs, with decreased fertility in women and decreased IQ in children.

And there is no data to show they protect us from fires as most victims of fires — as many as 80 percent — die due to smoke inhalation and not the actual flames.

Because California de facto mandates the use of toxic or untested flame retardants in the foam of furniture and baby products such as nursing “boppy” pillows and car seats, and manufacturers are loathe to create different product lines for different states, it is almost a guarantee that every single one of us, including our babies, have been exposed to these toxins. For Latinos, our exposure is even greater. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Mexican-American children in California have seven times higher levels of toxic flame retardants in their blood than do children in Mexico.

So when the issue came up for a vote in 2009 our legislators fought to protect maternal and infant health, right?

Wrong. The bill, SB 772, quietly died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The truth is there is money to be made from these chemicals that are mandated by a small California bureau to be included in many consumer products.

As a Latina mother, who wanted the freedom to buy baby products without these chemicals, I was appalled by the well-oiled and vicious campaign launched by the chemical industry to kill SB 772. It was ugly. There was money thrown around to buy off elected leaders and fly in people to testify. The outright lies — that flame retardants are actually good for us — was downright sickening.

I was especially disappointed in the way some of our Latino legislators voted on the bill. Here is a glimpse of how some Latino Assembly Members voted on SB 772:
Charles Calderon (D) – No

Felipe Fuentes (D) – Abstained
Jose Solorio (D) – Abstained
Edward Hernandez (D)– Abstained
Here is how some of our líderes voted in the Senate:
Ron Calderon (D) – No
Lou Correa (D) – No
Dean Florez (D) – No
Gilbert Cedillo (D) – Abstained
Denise Moreno Ducheny (D) – Abstained

Now, there were many Latino legislators who voted in favor of SB 772, including Assembly Speaker John Pérez of Los Angeles. Also, most Democrats voted for the legislation, even as Republicans at the end unanimously opposed it.

But what struck me most about the voting patterns was that a disproportionate number of Democrats who voted or abstained were…Latinos. These are our legislators who represent urban areas in southern California, where people disproportionately suffer from environmental health problems like asthma and autism, or the central valley where Latino farmworkers and their families get sick from pesticide drift. If we can’t count on our hermanos in the legislature to look out for our interests, then who?

I used to think that voting was enough to make systematic change. Today I am here to tell you it is not. Like the lobbyists, we need to hold the feet of our líderes to the fire — no pun intended. We need to follow the issues and make sure that our representatives vote “yes” to the environment and our health. The good news is there are several ways to do that right now.

SB 147, a bill similar to SB 772, is now up for consideration. The bill has gained momentum in that Wal-Mart, Target and Costco are thinking of phasing out flame retardants — just to show you that us moms are not the only ones worried about their toxicity.

On the legislative front, however, our politicians continue to be bought off by the chemical industry. Recently when the bill appeared before a senate committee, a disproportionate number of Latino Senators voted no on the bill: Lou Correa, Juan Vargas, Edward Hernandez and Gloria Negrete McLeod. All of these senators as well as Assembly Members Gilbert Cedillo, Jose Solorio and Norma Torres have received campaign contributions from the American Chemistry Council, according to the non-profit group Maplight.org.

Hernandez, who represents Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley, is one of the biggest recipients of the chemical lobbyists. Among his donors are Chevron, Exxon, Chemtura and Albemarle, according to Maplight.org.

¡Basta ya! If you see your state legislators on this list — especially Hernandez, Negrete McLeod and Vargas, who could potentially change the fate of this bill — please call them and support SB 147.
Here are their phone numbers as well as those for members of the Assembly. Let the políticos voted by us know that you are aware of the chemical industry’s political contributions to them and that you hope they will side with their constituents.

Want to make more waves on Mothers Day? If you have not done so already, please join me on the Moms Clean Air Force and share your story on our Mothers Day blog carnival. Also, tell the EPA that you support the new mercury and air toxics standards.

You may think your letter or phone call is insignificant, but it is necessary to combat visits by lobbyists. We can take back our government one phone call or e-mail at a time, but we need to take a minute of our day to do it. ¡Si se puede!

 Comment from Joe Cano: This has been El Sereno's major gripe for years. We have been left hanging in the wind by 'our own'.
Caltrans Tenant's Assembly March 14, 2013

A reminder from Joe Cano On Facebook, March 11, 2103

Just a reminder the Caltrans Tenant's Assembly is coming up. Caltrans Tenant's are facing not only unjustified rental increases, they are also being harassed & intimidation if they attempt to exercise their freedom of speech by the Caltrans Rental agent. If you are a homeowner & know any of your neighbors to be renters, extend a hand of friendship & understanding to support their cause, you may be next in line to lose your home if Caltrans & Metro get their way & build tunnel.
Save the Date: Streetsie Awards and Streetsblog’s 5th Anniversary on Saturday, April 27


By Damien Newton, March 11, 2013

Five Years? It seems as though it were just yesterday.
Join us on April 27th at 6:30 p.m. at the Silver Lake home of Deborah Murphy for our 5th birthday party and a celebration of our 2012 Streetsie Award winners.

As our guests, you will enjoy a gourmet “StreetsCuisine” meal prepared by Cuisine in the City at a historic hilltop house designed by J.R. Davidson and R.M. Schindler with views of the Silver Lake, Northeast Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains. Coming on the heels of CicLAvia, the cuisine will be South American themed to salute its influence in the North American Livable Streets Movement.

We’ll also be honoring our 2012 “People of the Year” Streetsie Award Winners:
  • Government Employee of the Year: Jaime De La Vega, General Manager of LADOT
  • Politician of the Year: Ara Najarian, City Councilman from the City of Glendale
  • Advocate of the Year: Valerie Watson, formerly of the Downtown Neighborhood Council
  • “People’s Choice” Journalist of the Year: Chris Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic (Invited)
The suggested donation is $25 for students, $50 for subscribers and $100 general admission. As always, nobody will be turned away, but this is a fundraiser so please donate what you can.

Southern California earthquake largest in greater L.A. since 2010 and Earthquake Advisory


March 11, 2013

City map


The magnitude-4.7 earthquake that rattled Southern California on Monday was the largest centered in the greater Los Angeles area since 2010, officials said.

“It’s been three years since we had anything t
his size this close to Los Angeles,” said Susan Hough, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. She cited a magnitude-5.4 quake that struck the desert area in July 2010.

Since then, Southern California has experienced quakes larger than Monday's but they occurred closer to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Monday's quake was preceded by a small foreshock, which confused the survey’s monitoring system into recording multiple shocks of various sizes. The temblor was centered a few miles northeast of the San Jacinto fault, Hough said. 

The quake struck at a depth of 7 to 8 miles, about 2 miles deeper than a typical quake, Hough said. Deeper quakes cause vibrations to travel farther and are less likely to create aftershocks, she said.

People as far away as Sequoia National Park, about 250 miles away, reported feeling the quake.

There were no reports of damage or injuries in the Southland.

Officials initially reported three moderate temblors -- the largest being a magnitude 5.2. Since then, officials said there was only one quake, measuring 4.7 near Anza in Riverside County.

There have been more than 60 aftershocks since then, all relatively small.

“It was a pretty good shake up here.” said Capt. Daniel Heiser of the Riverside County Fire Department.

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Monday March 11, 2013, 1:39 PM

Pasadena Police Department - CA

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Advisory: Today’s earthquakes important reminders to be prepared for disasters & emergencies.Need help?Go to http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/disaster/
Hi Carla Riggs,
When earthquakes occur community members are encouraged to utilize to tune into local area television and radio or check internet sources rather than call emergency services to inquire about the earthquake, reserving emergency services phones for emergencies or disasters requiring assistance.

The City of Pasadena encourages residents to visit the City's website at http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/disaster/ to learn more about preparing for emergencies or disasters.

In the wake of large-scale disasters throughout the world, the Pasadena Fire Department reminds all residents to be prepared for the type of disasters and emergencies that could affect Southern California.

The County of Los Angeles, Chief Executive Office, Office of Emergency Management, has published a comprehensive Emergency Survival Guide as part of the County’s Emergency Survival Program, www.espfocus.org. This guide is available for your use by clicking on the adjacent PDF document. The guide was produced by the County’s Office of Emergency Management http://lacoa.org in cooperation with the California Emergency Management Agency, FEMA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. There is a link on the webpage to a handy guide to help better prepare yourself, family, loved ones, your pets and neighbors for the next emergency. For full details, view this message on the web.

Take a bus ride from Hollywood to Africa on the newest edition of Metro Motion


By Kim Upton, March 11, 2013


In the newest edition of Metro Motion we hop on the Fairfax Avenue bus for a trip from Hollywood to Little Ethiopia, where there’s a colorful gathering of establishments as bright as the African sun.
We visit Cambodia Town in Long Beach via the Blue Line to sample some of the best noodles this community — the largest outside Southeast Asia — has to offer.

With the L.A. River Bike Ride rolling up June 9, it seems like a great time to show viewers just how much fun the new bike path is. It’s also a great time to try out Metro since major construction at the L.A. Zoo, where the ride begins, will make parking a challenge. But Metro can carry participants — and their bikes — to the start of the ride, no hassle.

In another piece we meet with Metro’s executive director of highway projects, Doug Failing, who explains why the agency is involved in highway planning, what’s in store for our region’s roads and why Metro has the pedal to the metal fixing our traffic snarls.

We also take a look at the hidden costs of parking and find that even free parking can be expensive, both financially and in the negative impact it has on our driving habits. To counter those problems, the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art has enrolled in Metro’s employer pass program and as a result has saved thousands of dollars on parking costs.

Metro Motion runs quarterly on cable stations throughout Los Angeles County.

The End of Federal Transportation Funding as We Know It


By Eric Jaffe, March 11, 2013The End of Federal Transportation Funding as We Know It



This month marks 120 years since the federal government got involved in funding road transportation. (Strange as it sounds, bicycle advocates did the bulk of the lobbying.) The original Office of Road Inquiry — today, the Federal Highway Administration — was a line item with a budget of $10,000. That was only enough money to build about three miles of road, and the office wasn't empowered to build roads anyway, but states fought tooth and nail against giving the feds even this incredibly modest level of transport oversight.

Today the federal transportation program faces perhaps its greatest challenge since that shaky start.
The most urgent problem is funding. The Highway Trust Fund that pays for America's road and rail program is heading straight toward bankruptcy. For two decades politicians have refused to raise the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax that populates the trust, even as it steadily loses purchasing power to inflation and fuel-efficient cars. The public has yet to embrace alternative funding sources — road fares or mileage fees on the user-pay side favored by economists; income taxes on the social welfare end — in part because people (mistakenly) believe they already pay a lot for transportation.

Money is only part of the problem. The other big sticking point is purpose. There's no longer a clear
priority for national transport investment like there was during the heyday (or, rather, hey-half century) of the interstate highway program. Maintaining existing roads lacks the ribbon-cutting appeal of opening new ones. The closest thing to a new national initiative is a high-speed rail program, but while regional lines will no doubt emerge in dense corridors like California and the Northeast, political support for a national bullet train network is, to be generous, rather tepid. Lawmakers can barely muster the energy to pay for the rail system America already has, let alone a brand new one.

At stake is the very nature of America's top-down system of surface transportation funding. Confronted with these obstacles, officials and experts have intensified the debate over what role the federal government will play in funding transportation. Many are wondering, just as they did 120 years ago, whether there should be a federal role at all.
The Case for Devolution

On one hand, there are those who believe the country would be better off if federal governance of transportation were either significantly reduced or entirely eliminated. Last year urban scholar Edward Glaeser of Harvard called for the country to de-federalize transport spending because the central government has played an "outsized role" for decades. Earlier this year, writing for Bloomberg View, former New York City planning guru Rohit Aggarwala echoed the sense that the time has arrived for "cutting Washington's role in surface transportation":
Ending the federal surface-transportation program would be a radical move. But if Congress can’t get in gear, moving its stalled car out of the way of American transportation policy might help us all get where we need to go.
Many experts see a great deal of logic in devolving transportation funding responsibility to states and localities. The vast majority of the country's road network is local, and likewise most travel occurs in a person's home county [PDF], so to some extent it makes sense for this level of government to generate its own funding revenues and establish its own funding priorities. A World Bank report from back in 1994, which examined a number of developed countries, even concluded that as decentralization increases, so does local infrastructure spending.

Proponents of decentralization also point out that, like it or not, the process has already started. This past fall, a number of cities passed referendums to fund local transportation, extending a trend that goes back several years. Legislatures from Oregon to Virginia are handling the depleted power of state gas taxes by testing out new funding mechanisms like V.M.T. fees or sales taxes. In other words, with the federal government struggling to find its own funding footing, states and localities have found ways to fill the gaps themselves.

"I'd expect under a decentralized system we'd see more variation across metropolitan areas," says
planner David King of Columbia University. "We don't necessarily have shared needs, or homogenous needs across the country, when it comes to what we need for transportation."
King and others in the decentralization camp note that the federal government frequently gets transport policy wrong. Financial and housing incentives used during the interstate construction era led, in large part, to the sprawl that's crippling metropolitan areas today. There's widespread feeling that federal involvement in transportation has resulted in more roads and rails than America needs, with the prospect of free federal money encouraging questionable projects — such as the Detroit People Mover years ago, and some streetcar lines more recently — that might not have been built with local funding alone.

On top of all that, there's reason to question whether the federal government actually redistributes
Highway Trust funding fairly. Under the current system, states send their federal gas taxes to Washington, which returns most of the money (at least 95 cents on the dollar in the latest bill) to its place of origin. The feds have the power to redistribute the difference to states with greater needs, but a recent study published in the journal Transportation found that states benefiting from the system have less highway usage and higher income — not to mention better Congressional committee representation.

In other words, conclude study authors Pengyu Zhu of Boise State University and Jeffrey Brown of Florida State University, the extra money goes to places that may not need it at all:
These findings indicate that the user tax revenues are not used in places where they are most needed. Thus they provide little empirical support for any compelling policy argument for continued geographic redistribution of federal highway user tax dollars.
"Decentralization of transport finance is happening, and we shouldn't fear it," says King. "It may or may not be better than what we have, but the current system is not sufficiently wonderful that we should fight to make sure it remains."
The Case for Continued Federal Funding

Last month, for his first hearing as chair of the House transportation committee, Congressman Bill Shuster convened a panel to discuss "The Federal Role in America's Infrastructure." All three witnesses advocated for central involvement to continue, stressing the historical roots of national transportation investment and the need to coordinate interstate infrastructure.

"It's kind of a myth that it will be feasible for the federal government simply to shed responsibility and leave it to the states," says transport scholar Martin Wachs of the RAND Corporation, a California-based think tank. "There's a national interest in every aspect of the transportation system, and it's a political question as to how to organize it. It's a terrible mistake to think that the best thing to do is just to let it go."

A major counterpoint to devolution is that state infrastructure spending isn't always done wisely. Many new state and local funding measures have involved sales tax increases, but research has found that approach can be regressive, disproportionately harming low-income residents compared to wealthier parts of the population [PDF]. Virginia's new funding system has drawn some of this criticism: by scrapping the user-paid gas tax for a series of other taxes, the plan addresses the budget shortage but threatens transportation equity, especially if most of the money goes toward building roads.

Some progressives believe that transportation is a basic social service that must be provided to all people equally, and that many states and regions will simply extend a general dependency on single-occupancy car travel if left to their own devices. A report released last July [PDF] by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign found that many states clearly prioritize road funding, leaving little opportunity to expand transit systems. Yonah Freemark of the Transport Politic blog (and occasional Atlantic Cities contributor) has found that metro areas with high poverty rates spend less money on public transit networks — a problem he feels would be exacerbated in the absence of federal involvement:
We should reevaluate whether it is reasonable for metropolitan areas to take responsibility for funding transit, or whether such funding concerns would be better placed in the hands of national government decision-makers, who might be more likely to prioritize equal spending on transit across regions.
Another question facing strict devolution is whether current federal regulations would remain in place. If the federal government stopped collecting a gas tax, for instance, would it still oblige states to meet responsibilities in the Americans with Disabilities Act, stating that transit systems must offer comparable services to the disabled? Some states might consider such a scenario an unfunded mandate and either ignore the regulations or make drastic cuts to other parts of the transportation system to cover its costs.

Perhaps the biggest fear about decentralization is that certain states will decide to let their segments of the national highway or rail systems slip into disrepair. Speaking at the recent Congressional hearing, Edward Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, worried that without federal oversight, "America’s transportation infrastructure would resemble a patchwork of disconnected roads and rails" [PDF]. As a cohesive unit, the national infrastructure systems keep the cost of commercial transport incredibly low.

"I think that it's probably possible for the federal government and state governments to reduce their responsibility for some roads, for some rail lines, and so on," says Wachs. "I also think, however, in the end we're going to decide that there is a federal role. That we are a more integrated national society today than we've been at any point in our history."
Ideas for Reform

Of course there's a middle ground to this discussion. The federal government can keep some sort of funding involvement in the nation's roads and rails but see its traditional top-down role of governance reformed. Metropolitan policy expert Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution has called for a new model that flips the old one on its head, with states and cities now taking the lead on funding. "The question of devolution in this context is provocative," he wrote last spring, "but it's not an either/or."

Americans interested in a new model of transport governance might want to take a long hard look at their neighbors up north, says David King. Canada's funding system does include a federal gas tax, but that money is returned to provinces with few restrictions, more or less enabling localities to direct spending as they see fit. In fact, only 7 percent of the Canadian federal fuel tax went to roads, according to a 2005 report by transport economist Robin Lindsey [PDF, p. 55].

That's not to say Canada's central government devolves all responsibility. Far from it. Individual projects can receive federal grants, and the federal government recently dedicated a portion of the gas tax to urban transport. But even with provinces and cities taking the lead, Canada has nevertheless produced some excellent public transit. Canada's top cities outrank every American city but New York on important ridership and farebox metrics — though Lindsey is quick to note that much of this difference is the result of Canada having far fewer interstates running through its cities.

"I would say the U.S. model and the Canadian model differ quite a bit, but you can't really say one is clearly superior to another," he says.

David Levinson, transport scholar at the University of Minnesota, has proposed a number of new governance models. One popular plan, drafted with Matthew Kahn and published by Brookings in 2011, outlines a three-step federal model of first fixing existing roads with the gas tax, then expanding them with competitive funding, then rewarding strong projects with subsidies. At his Transportationist blog, Levinson has also suggested limiting the federal role to research and regulation.

The best system, he says, might reduce central authority and reconfigure state departments of transportation as public utilities. In this "enterprising" model, as Levinson called it in a January report [PDF], a new transport utility would work with a local oversight commission to establish fair usage rates and maintain service quality. Australia operates with this type of system, as does the multi-modal TransLink agency in Vancouver, as do water and sewage and electric companies in the United States.

If infrastructure governance were a bit more decentralized, says Levinson, you'd expect innovative concepts like enterprising transport to reach the fore. ("It's the 'laboratories of democracy' idea," he says.) Then again, given the complexity of the situation, not to mention the general intransigence of the federal government in recent times, it seems quite possible that lawmakers will respond to the urgent need for transport funding reform with no reform at all.

"My sense is it's more likely to fade away than it is be reversed in terms of a great new federal role or be eliminated entirely," says Levinson." The status quo policy is to leave the gas tax where it is, and it will slowly diminish over time until it becomes almost an irrelevancy. If I had to predict what I think will happen over the next 20 years, I think that's the most likely outcome."


405 Freeway work continues amidst resident complaints and city worries


By Joe Segura, March 10, 2013

 Seal Beach resident Danielle DeVries holds bottles of the prescriptions she and her family needs to help them go to sleep because of the noise and vibrations from the San Diego (405) Freeway construction project.

 SEAL BEACH - As work continues on the San Diego (405) Freeway widening project, Caltrans is wrapping up a study on potential traffic impacts with two additional toll lanes now on the drawing board.

The toll lane portion of the project has involved two skirmishes: six West Orange County cities along the route of the widening of the San Diego (405) Freeway are worried about traffic and use of the lanes, and a family near the site has complained of noise during construction.

In the first dispute, Seal Beach officials worry about aggravated gridlock on the freeway, predicting drivers will not use the toll lanes.

Also, the toll lanes will not continue into the Long Beach/Los Angeles County area, creating a bottleneck, and it will require pushing back a soundwall in Seal Beach's College Park East neighborhood, causing a negative impact on home values, according to former Councilwoman Patty Campbell.

"There's going to be a horrendous mess there," she added Friday.

Officials throughout those areas are keeping a close tab on the project, and awaiting the study's release in late May or June.

There will be a 45-day comment period following the study's release, then the Caltrans officials will decide whether to move ahead with plans for two toll lanes, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Cindy Azima.

Last year, on May 18, the Orange County Transportation Authority released an environmental impact report to widen the 405 with four alternatives - one suggesting the addition of toll lanes between the San Gabriel (605) and Costa Mesa (73) freeways.

Six cities - Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Westminster, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach - joined into the Corridor Cities Coalition to fight the toll lanes plan and helped convince the OCTA directors to reject the plan.

Seal Beach's share in the advocacy effort - and coalition membership fee - cost $60,000. It will receive consultant services, including technical written comments, to respond to Caltrans' re-released environmental study, according to a staff report by Assistant City Manager Sean Crumby.
Meanwhile, one Seal Beach household is complaining that noise from the project is disrupting their peace

"We just want the noise to stop so we can sleep," said Danielle DeVries, adding that noise and vibrations penetrate the home on College Park Drive.

The DeVries - Danielle and her husband, Dave - also complained that the project is violating the city's noise ordinance.

However, Caltrans is not bound by that local ordinance, according to Azima.

Caltrans, she explained, is working on state right-of-way property within contract provisions for nighttime work.

Caltrans construction has gone beyond contract provisions by taking measures to reduce the noise during construction, including upgrading back-up alarms on trucks so sound is lowered more quickly; placing sleeves on mufflers; padding trash bins with dirt to reduce impact of large objects dumped into the bins; modifying work schedules and activities as feasible; directing workers that there should be no loud or inappropriate language at night; and running equipment as far away from residents as possible, according to Azima.

Caltrans is also working with the DeVries to address their concerns and offering hotel accommodations to the affected residents.

Only the DeVries household has complained of the noise, Azima said, adding that restricting work only to daytime hours would create project delays and increase costs, compromise safety of motorists and crews, and impact response times for emergency responders

Audit details Metrolink's 'screwed-up' finances


By Doug Irving, March 8, 2013


Article Tab: Just before dawn, a westbound Metrolink train  passes under the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks in downtown Placentia.

Just before dawn, a westbound Metrolink train passes under the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks in downtown Placentia.

LOS ANGELES – Metrolink's financial management has been so slipshod that auditors recently concluded the $194 million-a-year regional rail agency might not even be able to detect fraud in its accounts.

Their draft audit report is only the latest alarm about accounting problems and financial mismanagement in one of the nation's biggest commuter-rail systems. An internal review completed last month found that Metrolink could not account for millions of dollars in unpaid bills, much less collect on them.

Orange County is one of five counties that split the costs to keep the trains running; its contribution this fiscal year comes to nearly $20 million. The Orange County Transportation Authority is scheduled to hear Monday from Metrolink's chief executive on how the agency plans to get its finances in order.

"No money is missing. ... This is not a case of anyone stealing," Metrolink board member Richard Katz said during a meeting Friday to review the draft audit results. "We are in the process of fixing what had been a seriously screwed-up financial system."

The auditors who went through Metrolink's books found that some accounts had not been properly reconciled, a basic accounting step familiar to anyone who has balanced a checkbook.

That oversight, they wrote, "may cause significant errors in the financial records ... as well as allow for possible irregularities, including fraud, to exist and continue without being noticed."

The audit also tallied up $38 million owed to Metrolink in June 2012, most of which was still going uncollected in January. It warned – as did the internal review a month ago – that failing to collect bills like that would make it hard to maintain an adequate cash flow.

Metrolink typically fronts the money for big construction projects, and then bills the counties for reimbursement. But the internal review concluded that "it is not clear that Metrolink staff even has a clear idea about what funds member agencies owe."

That has started to change, acting Chief Financial Officer Patricia Kataura told the board on Friday.
In the past few weeks, she said, Metrolink has sent out around $33 million in those back bills.

The agency has also restructured its finance department and is upgrading its accounting systems; auditors found that some financial information had been stored before in basic Excel spreadsheets. Metrolink's former chief financial officer turned in her resignation after the results of the internal review were given to board members last month.

But some of those board members questioned whether Metrolink has a complete picture of its finances even now.

"These are just what we have our hands around," said Carolyn Cavecche – a former mayor of Orange, an alternate Metrolink board member and one of the principal authors of the internal review – during a presentation of financial information on Friday. "These aren't accurate numbers."

In a letter sent to Orange County and other member agencies, Chief Executive Michael De Pallo promised an immediate plan of action "to get the organization on sounder financial footing within 90 days."