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, May 4, 2013

L.A. full of roads to ruin for cars 

 The city gives its road network an average grade of C. But a Times analysis finds wide disparities, and they're not driven by wealth or political power.


By Ben Poston, May 4, 2013



 Gregory Leskin

 Gregory Leskin at Angus Street and Moreno Drive, near his Silver Lake home; he put in a request for repairs to the buckled and cracked pavement nearly three years ago, and is still waiting.

A drive along Angus Street in hilly Silver Lake requires navigating a gantlet of buckled concrete slabs and dirt-filled cracks.

But on South Seabluff Drive in Playa Vista the ride is smooth, the pavement is black and you can smell the fresh asphalt.

Despite the city's best efforts to keep up with the constant flood of road repairs, Los Angeles is a city divided — by its potholes, cracks and ruts.

Interactive map: See your street's grade

A Times analysis of street inspection data found wide disparities in road quality among the city's 114 neighborhoods.

The streets in the newer development of Playa Vista, which the city's database gives the highest ranking with an average grade of B, scored 80% higher than those in Silver Lake, which ranks among the worst with a D-minus average.

The differences are not driven by wealth or political power. In fact, some of the poorest parts of the city have some of the best roads.

The heart of the problem is aging streets, heavy traffic, undulating terrain and the sheer size of the network. The streets in the poorest shape tend to be in hillside neighborhoods, such as the Hollywood Hills, Mount Washington, Los Feliz and Bel-Air.

But layered on top of those problems is a street repair strategy that bypasses the worst streets in favor of preserving salvageable ones. Street officials have also made a political decision to bring the overall grade of roads in each City Council district to the same level.

For Angelenos waiting for their street to be rebuilt, abandon all hope: There is a 60-year backlog of failed streets — meaning residents might not see them fixed in their lifetimes.

"If you ask people 'How many of you have been a victim of crime today?' nobody will raise their hand," said Rusty Millar, a Silver Lake Neighborhood Council representative. "If you ask 'How many of you have been a victim of bad streets and traffic?,' everybody will raise their hand."

With its stately homes and manicured lawns, Hancock Park is one of the wealthiest areas in L.A. and considered one of the city's historical gems. But that hasn't helped get its mostly ancient concrete streets repaired: The neighborhood has an overall D-minus grade.

Hancock Park residents Michael and Ruth Steinberger live on Rimpau Boulevard, which was graded F when last inspected. They have complained to the city that their street has a severe rut at the intersection with 3rd Street that has scraped the undercarriage of their Mercedes countless times.

"It ruins every car," Ruth Steinberger said. "And God forbid you don't know about it and you are coming in at normal speeds — you can get hurt."

After decades of neglect, Los Angeles is trying to play catch-up in places like Hancock Park.

It's a Herculean task, given the size of L.A.'s street network — the largest municipal system in the country with 6,500 miles of paved roadway. Factor the number of lanes into the equation and there are enough miles of road in the city to build a 10-lane freeway from here to New York City.

The average grade of the city's roads is a C. The network scores lower than all 10 of the most populous counties in the state, according to city and state data.

But the average grade tells only part of the story. More than one-third of the streets in the city have a score of D or worse, meaning they must be resurfaced or totally reconstructed.

"I not only sympathize with those residents, I also empathize," said Nazario Sauceda, director of the city Bureau of Street Services. "I can tell you with a straight face that we are doing the best we can with the money we have."

In some neighborhoods, such as Silver Lake and Hancock Park, more than half the streets are graded F, the Times analysis found. Those streets have foot-deep potholes and giant cracks that can flatten tires and ruin suspensions.

At the other end of the spectrum, nearly half of Winnetka's streets and more than half of Playa Vista's are graded A.

The city's goal is to raise its entire street network to a B average, but that can't be done without more than $2.6 billion in new money, according to the city.

This year, the aim is to work on roughly 800 miles of road. Most of that — about 70% — involves applying crack and slurry seal to preserve roads. The rest is the much more expensive work of resurfacing streets.

Even 20 years ago, the city employed what was called the "windshield method" to find problems — driving around the city and fixing whatever looked bad. At the time, the city adopted a "worst-first" strategy — fixing the broken streets before all others.

But that doesn't work in the long run because of limited resources. Rebuilding a street is five to 10 times more expensive than patching one. If work crews just replaced the worst streets, hundreds of miles of passable streets would fall into disrepair sooner, city officials said.

In 1998, the city began using a computerized pavement management system to help plan street maintenance and repaving with a constrained budget. Using a state-of-the-art van equipped with cameras and lasers, workers created a database for the roughly 68,000 street segments. The vehicle is outfitted like an undercover FBI surveillance unit; employees inside gather photos and measurements to document pavement distress.

The first time city officials crunched street inspection data was in 2005, and they found big discrepancies in the average street quality ratings among the 15 council districts, ranging from B to D grades. Since then, the bureau has worked hard to narrow those gaps, Sauceda said.

"We don't have enough money to improve the condition of the network," he said. "My job is to distribute misery equally."

The Times analysis found that disparities between council districts persist. Streets in Councilman Tom LaBonge's Hollywood district have an overall grade of D-plus. By comparison, Councilwoman Jan Perry's South L.A. district ranks highest with a C-plus grade and an average street quality score that is 26% higher than LaBonge's.

LaBonge said he isn't surprised by the Times' findings because of the age and geography of roads in his district. It includes some of the lowest-scoring hilly neighborhoods. Many of the those areas have hard concrete streets that were built more than 50 years ago and are well beyond their life expectancy, city officials said.

"If you go through Beverly Hills, there isn't a pothole there," LaBonge said. "Why? Because every tax dollar stays in Beverly Hills. But in Los Angeles it's shared from San Pedro to Chatsworth. People in my district want to see improvement, but it's also a shared city."

That's little consolation to homeowner Gregory Leskin, who lives on that treacherous stretch of Angus Street in Silver Lake.

Nearly three years ago, he got fed up with the severe cracking on his block, went online and submitted a request with the street services bureau to fix it. He's still waiting.

"It's dilapidated and in desperate need of repair," said Leskin, a clinical psychologist at UCLA.

Earlier this year, Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Mitchell Englander proposed a $3-billion bond issue to fix streets graded D or F but put it on hold after other council members complained there was not enough public outreach. Since then, Buscaino, chairman of the Public Works Committee, has held meetings across the city to get public input on a similar measure that could go on the November 2014 ballot.

There is growing concern at City Hall that the pool of money available for roadwork will shrink dramatically. President Obama's federal stimulus package ran out last summer; and funding from Proposition 1B, a statewide measure that passed in 2006, expires in June after providing $87 million for roadwork in Los Angeles.

That money allowed the city to increase its street repair and maintenance spending to an all-time high of $105 million this fiscal year. At the same time, however, the city's general fund has been contributing far less, down to $1.1 million this year from $32.2 million in 2007, budget officials said.

Additional funding is the only solution to saving the street system in the long run, said John Harvey, director of the University of California Pavement Research Center.

"If you continually under-fund it, there is no magic in pavement management," Harvey said. "You can't do it. You are going to continue to deteriorate."

How we reported this story

The city's database of streets maintained by the Bureau of Street Services includes location, rating, street type and last inspection and repair.

The city scores each street segment on a 100-point scale called the pavement condition index. The Times mapped the data to neighborhood and council district boundaries.

Streets located along the borders of neighborhoods or districts were counted for all adjacent areas. The Times analysis took into account the street surface area, work history and pavement deterioration over time.

The pavement database is a snapshot in time from late April and may not reflect recent roadwork or inspections, according to the Street Services bureau.

How the city of L.A. grades streets

A streets: no cracking, no oxidation and no structural failure. No maintenance required.

B streets: minimal cracking, no oxidation and no structural failure. Slurry seal required.

C streets: minimal cracking, zero to 5% of structural failure. Blanketing (repaving) required.

D streets: some cracking, 6% to 35% of structural failure. Resurfacing required.

F streets: major or unsafe cracking, 36% to more than 50% of structural failure. Resurfacing or reconstruction required.

Source: Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services

Shippers Struggle With Overcapacity, Sinking Rates 


By Costas Paris, May 2, 2-13


COPENHAGEN—The owners of the world's containerships are the people responsible for making globalization a reality. Their fleets transport 90% of world trade in manufactured goods.

Yet, all but seven of the biggest 30 shippers lost money in 2012, according to shipping analysts Alphaliner. Industry players and analysts say cumulative losses over the past four years run to about $7 billion.


 Unloading of freight containers at Mombasa port in Kenya last month.

Excess tonnage has haunted the container-shipping industry since 2007, when a record 3.1 million additional containers were added ahead of the plunge in global trade triggered by the 2008 financial crisis.

The crisis prompted a temporary lull in new shipbuilding as new vessels ordered in the boom times entered service.

Stubbornly high fuel prices that have gone up 16% on average every year since 2005 have encouraged ship owners to invest in new, more fuel-efficient vessels even though the industry is groaning with excess capacity estimated at about 10% above current demand. Demand is also showing little or no growth on key routes such as that between Europe and Asia. Containership orders in the first quarter were up sixfold from last year, according to analysis by London-based Braemar Seascope Ltd.

The result is collapsing freight rates that make it tough for companies to cover the industry's high fixed costs and operating expenses.

Freight rates on the benchmark Asia-Europe route were down 6.5% last week alone, according to the latest Shanghai Containerized Freight Index. The price for a 20-foot equivalent container shipped from China to Northern Europe was fixed at $818, compared with more than $1,200 at the start of the year.
Significant consolidation among shipping companies and greater pricing discipline look like distant prospects despite the problem of overcapacity and the dire financial straits many owners find themselves in.

Most major players are immune to short-term losses in a secretive industry dominated by family-owned conglomerates whose owners have emotional ties to their vessels and by Asian state-backed enterprises or investment funds with long investment horizons.

Returns even for companies like market leader AP Moller-Maersk A/S MAERSK-B.KO +2.96% of Denmark are likely to prove modest at best. With a price tag of a new vessel at more than $100 million, a normal return on investment should be at least 10%. But average returns currently hover around 3%, according to industry estimates, not much better than 30-year U.S. Treasurys currently yielding 2.8%.

"Container shipping made globalization a reality, but we have reaped very limited benefits as an industry," said Jakob Stausholm, chief strategist at Maersk Line, the Danish conglomerate's shipping arm. AP Moller-Maersk also operates shipping terminals and has an oil-and-gas exploration and production business.

"We have to learn how to run an effective [shipping] business and make money out of it," Mr. Stausholm says, admitting that Maersk Line's return on investment is "too low."

Lars Jensen, chief executive officer of Danish research firm SeaIntel Maritime Analysis, said the decline in freight rates in the past six months was three times as fast as in 2011, when the previous price war broke out. "It is clearly the result of structural overcapacity."

Maersk Line CEO Soren Skou warned in April that the industry is on the verge of another price war unless excess vessels are taken out of service, especially on the Europe-Asia route, which accounts for about 40% of total container trade for the shipper.

"It is a really stupid, stupid strategy to deploy more capacity," Mr. Skou told a shipping conference last month. This isn't just Maersk talk. The shipping group reduced its own capacity by 14% last year.
A Maersk Line containership exits the Suez Canal in Egypt into the Red Sea.

However, Maersk Line is planning to stay ahead of its rivals amid the glut in the sector by investing in huge new ships to ensure it has the biggest, most efficient fleet at sea.
Maersk Line has kicked off a new "arms race," ordering mega-containerships in a $3.8 billion order for 20 so-called triple-E vessels. The ships can carry 18,000 20-foot containers, 2,000 more than the world's current biggest containership, the Marco Polo, owned by France's family-owned CMA CGM.
Maersk Line says the ships will consume approximately 35% less fuel per container than the standard 13,100-capacity container vessels being delivered to other shipping lines in the next few years.

Unfortunately for near-term returns at Maersk and its rivals, other shippers are following suit.

China Shipping Container Lines Co. 601866.SH +1.40% Ltd., the unprofitable Hong Kong-listed unit of Chinese state-owned enterprise China Shipping (Group) Co., has said it is in the market for five triple-E containerships. It is currently taking bids from South Korean shipyards.

"In three to four years major shippers will operate Europe-Asia with ships of 14,000 and above," said SeaIntel's Mr. Jensen. "Those who don't have these ships won't be able to compete."

But "leaving the line" is easier said than done for many ship owners.

"Rich Greek and German families are a good example," Mr. Jensen said. "They've been in the industry for decades with emotional attachments to their ships."

Shrinking a shipping business, often funded with bank debt is difficult when there is a limited market for secondhand vessels, unlike the commercial-aircraft sector.

"The only option for getting out is scrapping," says a Greek ship owner, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If I scrap, I'll be ruined as I can't pay the bank back and the bank will be saddled with nonperforming loans it can ill afford. So I limp along putting money into the ships from other parts of my business and hope for better days ahead."
Autism Linked to Environmental Factors

 New Studies of Air Pollution, Pesticides and Iron Bolster Evidence Tying Developmental Disorder to Influences in Womb


By Shirley S. Wang, May 3, 2013

SAN SEBASTIƁN, Spain—Researchers at an international conference on autism Friday presented three new studies lending strength to the notion that environmental influences before birth play a role in the risk for the condition.

In one study, pregnant women who were exposed to certain levels of air pollution were at increased risk of having a child with autism. Another presentation suggested that iron supplements before and early in pregnancy may lower the risk, and a third suggested some association between use of various household insecticides and a higher risk of autism.
 The causes of autism, a developmental disorder that involves social-skill problems, among other symptoms, aren't well understood but are thought to be multifaceted. Genetics likely account for about 35% to 60% of the risk, many researchers say. But some experts and parents believe that nutrition and other environmental factors may also play a role, especially as the rate of autism in the U.S. appears to have climbed sharply over the past decade.

The new studies showed only associations and couldn't prove causality, and each factor itself likely accounts for a small portion of the risk for autism, researchers say. But the results, taken together with previous work—showing an association with factors like the flu and the use of certain medicines in pregnant women, for instance—provide more evidence that environmental factors affecting the womb, including what we eat and where we live, are meaningful in terms of autism risk.

"The exciting thing about looking at environment, or environment and genes in conjunction with each other, is this provides the possibility of intervention," said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of California, Davis, who presented the study on insecticides.
 Speaking in a packed auditorium at the International Society for Autism Research annual conference here, Marc Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health presented results from a large national study, known as the Nurses' Health Study II. The research suggested that a mother's exposure to high levels of certain types of air pollutants, such as metals and diesel particles, increased the risk of autism by an average of 30% to 50%, compared with women who were exposed to the lowest levels.

Dr. Weisskopf and his colleagues examined levels of some particles and pollutants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has measured and studied across the country in the locations where the approximately 330 women from the study who reported having a child with autism lived. They compared the levels with 22,000 women who didn't have a child with autism, focusing on 14 pollutants that had been previously reported in the literature as possibly linked to autism.

The results mimicked those of previously published work on traffic pollution and autism risk in California. The consistency of findings across studies "certainly makes me start to feel much more certain that we're on a path to finding something environmental that's playing a role here," said Dr. Weisskopf, a professor of environmental health and epidemiology. "At this stage it does seem there's something related to air pollution."
 Data from another large study, known as the Charge study, also presented Friday, found for the first time that mothers who reported that they had taken iron supplements just before or early on in pregnancy had a 40% decrease in associated risk of having a child with autism, an effect similar in magnitude to that of folic-acid supplementation and its reduction of certain birth defects, said Rebecca Schmidt, a professor of public-health sciences UC Davis.

Her team compared the mothers of 510 kids with an autism-spectrum disorder to mothers of 341 kids without autism. Mothers completed a phone survey that included questions on many types of environmental exposures, including supplements like prenatal vitamins, multivitamins and nutrient-specific vitamins, cereal and protein bars, which are often fortified with iron and other nutrients. They weren't asked about other dietary sources of iron, such as red meat and leafy green vegetables.

Dr. Schmidt cautioned that women shouldn't boost iron intake without getting their levels checked by a doctor, because too much iron can lead to toxicity. "It's much easier to change your diet or supplemental intake than it is to change your exposure to many other toxins," said Dr. Schmidt.

In a separate analysis of the Charge data, UC Davis researchers also found a relationship between exposure to some insecticides in the household, such as bug foggers, and features of autism, but more research is needed to understand why there is a potential link, said Dr. Hertz-Picciotto.

Update on SR710 EIR/EIS Study

From Sylvia Plummer: 

A week ago I attended the SR710 Technical Advisory Committee meeting.  I reported that a Tolled Single Bore Tunnel had been added to the SR710 EIR/EIS Study and that diagrams were presented at the meeting.  The handout is now available!
Here is the link to the handout which includes diagrams:

Freeway Tunnel information starts at page 60, reference to Single Bore Tunnel on page 62 with diagram on page 63.  There are a lot of interesting diagrams of the interchanges, portals and removal of excavated material.  Be sure to look at pages 16, 17 & 18 .

As a reminder:  METRO staff stated that dual tunnels may provide too much capacity.  With one tunnel they would be able to control capacity by tolling.  If demand is high for the single tunnel, a second can be built. 

METRO staff stated that it's not necessary to inform the public or the METRO Board of this new addition to the study since it's a freeway variation of the dual bore tunnels.  

 Alhambra Mayor Steven Placido says that the 710 Tunnel will "improve air quality more than any other transportation project in the five Southern California counties."
The article:

Will 710-Freeway project finally get acceptable plan?


By Mayor Steven Placido, D.D.S., Mayor of Alhambra, California

710 Freeway facts

These are exciting times for the
710 Freeway. Metro has been working
on a four-year Environmental Impact
Report (EIR) for the past two years.
In looking at all the possible ways to
complete the freeway, Metro started
with 42 alternatives. Many of the
alternatives have been eliminated.

Presently, there are five under consideration.
Soon, the study will focus on even fewer alternatives. Of the five,
there is the No Build option. This
option will evaluate what future traffic
conditions can be expected. Since
the 710 Freeway construction ceased
almost 50 years ago, Alhambra and
the entire San Gabriel Valley have
suffered the consequences of a No
Build approach. Traffic congestion,
air quality, and travel times may look
a whole lot worse if the 710 Freeway
is never completed. The No Build
option is always a required solution in
any transportation EIR.

The second option is the Transportation
System Management/Transportation
Demand Management
(TSM/TDM) alternative. In non-technical
terms, it is a No Build type of
approach with local street improvements
including synchronizing street
lights, street widening, expanded bus
services, ride-sharing, and promotion
of telecommuting. Years ago, freeway
opponents coined a primitive form
of this alternative as “The Connector

The third option is a Bus Rapid
Transit design with refinements (BRT-
6X). Basically, this is a No Build
design with an expanded bus system
to improve public transit time.

Option four, Light Rail Transit
with refinements (LRT-4X), would
include an elevated and tunnel light
rail. This public light rail alternative
would go underground in the northern
portion and have an aerial approach in
the southern portion connecting an
East Los Angeles Gold Line station to
a Pasadena Gold Line station.

Finally, option five is a Freeway Tunnel
(F-7X). The tunnel option would
take 25% of commuter traffic off our
local streets. It would reduce congestion
at our intersections by more than
20%, improve air quality more than
any other transportation project in the
five Southern California counties, and
finally take five decades of commuter
traffic off our local streets.

So what is Mayor Placido telling us? CH2M Hill has already stated the the 710 tunnel will increase air pollution, though just a little tiny bit according to them. So how can the 710 tunnel improve air quality while it is actually decreasing it? Looks like "improve air quality more than any other transportation project in the five Southern California counties" is simply the new talking point for the 710 tunnel advocates but one that simply doesn't hold up. You would think with all the big guys who are supporting the tunnel that they could come up with better talking points than this one. But, perhaps, these guys really don't have the brain power to come up with anything better.

Very interesting, and also revealing, that Mayor Placido did not evaluate the other options in the 710 Study and how they could either positively or negatively affect his city and the residents of Alhambra who he is supposed to represent: the TSM/TDM, Bus Rapid Transit, and Light Rail Transit options. Is it already a done deal that these options are not really on the table and are just window dressing for an already made decision on the tunnel being chosen as the best option?
 What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have,  the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.

Neighborhoods for Sustainable Planning Open Facebook Page

Anyone with a Facebook account can join this very informative group:  


Description: "We formed Neighborhoods for Sustainable Planning to act as a resource and a catalyst for individuals and groups learn about sustainability from an unbiased perspective, assess options, develop visions for the future, express concerns, and advocate for their communities."

 Sustainability Busts Out of Its Cubicle, Permeates DOT, HUD, and EPA 

By Tanya Snyder, May 3, 2013

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities has had a rough couple of years. The program got zeroed out of the 2012 budget, and the 2013 budget is just a carbon copy of 2012. But they’re looking to make a comeback.
The Partnership's Regional Planning Grants -- before Congress de-funded them -- supported sustainability efforts like Chicago's "GO TO 2040" regional plan. Image: CMAP

The three-agency partnership celebrates its fourth anniversary in June. In those four years, the collaborative effort among U.S. DOT, HUD, and EPA has entrenched and strengthened the Obama administration’s multi-disciplinary approach to smart growth, weaving together transportation, housing, and environmental policy. The partnership’s grants and technical assistance have helped transform communities and make them more economically and environmentally resilient.

In that vein, HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities — the mothership of the whole program — is becoming the Office of Economic Resilience, embedded within an existing HUD program called Community Planning and Development. That could help preserve the sustainability work, since it’ll now be part of a program that Congress hasn’t targeted for cuts.

Politics aside, Shelley Poticha, the director of the program, said the move is designed to comply with two requests from Congress: 1) a name that more accurately reflects what the grants are for, and 2) to embed their approach throughout the agency to leverage other formula funding.

And that may be the true significance of the move. The office is increasingly setting the tone for the way the entire agency does business, and how it spends its entire $47.6 billion budget. (That’s what it’s requested for 2014, anyway – it’s $10 billion more than the agency will spend this year.)

As we reported last year, the three agencies were already bringing sustainability into the heart of their work. The six principles of livability they’ve agreed on don’t just govern the grants given by the Office of Housing and Sustainable Communities; they’ve become the guiding philosophy behind much of the agencies’ work  – and other agencies, like NOAA and USDA, are tagging along for the ride, too.

So there are lots of good reasons to better enmesh the sustainability office in the agency. Besides, Poticha said, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan had always planned for the sustainability office to “find the most appropriate home within the agency among the core program offices.” She also said the larger staff network will allow them greater flexibility and additional capacity than the small office they have now.

The Regional Planning and Community Challenge grant programs, administered by HUD with the collaboration of the other two agencies, are being rolled into one budget item, a $75 million grant program now called Integrated Planning and Investment Grants. HUD officials are still unclear whether they’ll continue to separate that into two programs or leave it as one.

However, it’s worth noting that the whole reorganization will only happen if Congress actually passes a budget – and that’s a big “if” these days.

The basic shape of DOT’s livability work stays largely the same in its 2014 budget request: It’s asking for $40 billion for a fix-it-first infrastructure program, $10 billion for competitive grant programs including TIGER ($4 billion), transportation leadership awards ($2 billion), rail service improvements ($3 billion), and next gen in aviation ($1 billion). DOT’s budget also includes $40 billion for the rail reauthorization, though the department hasn’t yet released a bill draft or even an outline of how that money would be spent. They’re also still pushing an infrastructure bank and bonds.
EPA, for its part, plans to “scale up the technical assistance that we do, trying to meet the demand from communities for assistance in how [to grow] in a smarter and most sustainable way… most of which we do in concert with our partners at HUD and DOT,” said John Frece, director of EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities.
Frece said they’re also improving location efficiency within the federal government, collaborating with the General Service Administration (the “landlord of the federal government”) to find sites for future federal facilities that are walkable and accessible to transit.
The sustainability ethic isn’t just permeating all of the agencies’ programs, but even their internal culture. Just yesterday, U.S. DOT presented an internal sustainability award to the Federal Bike To Work Challenge, jointly started by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the EPA. The event last May included 20 agencies with 522 riders. “The roster of 96 teams for this year’s challenge — 20 of them from DOT alone — promises to shatter that achievement,” according to Secretary LaHood.


NHTSA: Traffic Deaths Shot Up 5.3 Percent to 34,080 in 2012


By Tanya Snyder, May 3, 2013

Deaths from motor vehicle crashes rose 5.3 percent in 2012, according to new numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [PDF]. It’s the first time since 2005 that fatalities have gone up. Vehicle miles traveled only rose 0.3 percent last year.
Marina Keegan and an estimated 34,079 other people died on America's roads in 2012 -- a 5.3 percent increase over 2011. 

The winter was especially nasty, with 12.6 percent more deaths than the previous winter. But every quarter last year showed more traffic deaths than the same quarter in 2011. All in all, the tragic death toll of 34,080 is a shocking reversal of a six-year steady decline.

In February, the National Safety Council put its 2012 fatality estimate at 36,200.
Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities weren’t noted on the release from NHTSA, which is only an “early estimate” of the 2012 toll. We’ll have to wait until the agency releases the final numbers to see the stats for people biking and walking, which have been going up in recent years as overall deaths have been going down.

Fatalities rose the most in the northeast (>15 percent), the south (10 percent) and in the region comprising California, Arizona and Hawaii (9 percent).

Last year, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland credited the historic drop in fatalities — to a still-staggering 32,367 lives lost – to improved driving behavior, vehicle safety, and educational campaigns against drunk driving and for seat belt use. We’ll see how the agency explains the alarming increase in deaths last year.

NSC officials pointed to distracted driving and an increase in the number of heavy trucks on the roads as possible explanations for the increased bloodshed.
Sierra Madre Now Has A Candidate for the Open At-Large PUSD Board of Education Seat


May 4, 2013
 Our candidate

 Sierra Madre did not have a vote last March when the PUSD held its Board of Education election. Apparently we did not quite fit into the plans of those who concocted what had become an ethnically gerrymandered redistricting scheme, one that inevitably failed to achieve any of its goals at the polls. Something that should have been the source of some terrible embarrassment for the mostly Pasadena-based Social Equity Mafia, but apparently they are incapable of suffering those kinds of emotions. And that is one of the big problems with the more politically extreme sorts of folks. They are utterly lacking in any capacity for cathartic shame.

The one result that is the most significant for us being that we now have no representative on the Board of Education. I'm not sure how such a situation was expected to improve things for the PUSD when the educational solons of the Redistricting Task Force unleashed so troubling a process upside our heads, but that is where we find ourselves today. Paying taxes to a government agency without any representation whatsoever. It hardly seems American.

However, there is one seat that still needs to be filled, and that will be done by the Board of Education itself through appointment. Apparently this time the excuse for not allowing us to have a BOE vote is that it would be too expensive. Of course, they could have put this seat up for election last March, but why would we want to quibble?

There is good news to share with you today, and that is despite everything that has been thrown at us over the last year, Sierra Madre does have a candidate. Her name is Gretchen Vance, and she has now officially applied for the gig.

If you have spent any time at Little League events over the last few years you might know Gretchen as the hard working volunteer that managed the diner for much of what goes on at Heasely Field. What you might not be aware of is that she has also done incredibly valuable work as part of the Measure TT Citizens Bond Oversight Committee (click here), a group of independent taxpayers tasked with the unenviable and difficult task of keeping an eye on the Pasadena Unified School District's bond money spending. The PUSD, like most dysfunctional government agencies, prefers to spend your money without your involvement. And we are talking about $350,000,000, or at least whatever portion of that mighty sum is left.

Gretchen Vance deserves the support of our entire community. Since the seat she is running for is by Board appointment, we won't be able to vote for her. After all, this is Sierra Madre and you know the problems those running the PUSD have with us voting. But she is standing up for our community and the kids who attend public schools here.

One of the misfortunes of local government is that the truly good people don't always stand up and run for jobs like this. That is most definitely not the case here. Please support Gretchen Vance.

The Pasadena Weekly ran a piece this week about the at-large PUSD seat up for appointment in June. It is largely the same old stuff, but it is nice to be able to read all about the electoral failures of the old white guys on the Redistricting Task Force one more time. Here is what the PW has to say (click here):

With the passage of Measure A around this time last year, the Pasadena Unified School District went from an at-large to a district-only voting system, all with the hopes of making election to public office easier for historically disenfranchised stakeholders, namely Latinos, to attain. 

With Latinos representing more than 61 percent of the school district’s more than 16,000 student population, a task force determined that district-only elections would help address political underrepresentation and help stave off possible lawsuits that might be filed under the state Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racially polarized elections.

However, after the March 5 school board election, and later a runoff election, the board had one more African-American member and one less Latino member than at the start of the redistricting process. After the winners are sworn into office later this month, the board’s lone Latino member, Ramon Miramontes, who chose not to seek re-election, will exit office, leaving the board with no Latino representation.

Now, with one remaining at-large open seat left on the board, it appears no Latino candidates are vying for the two years remaining in that position. Pasadena Unified School District spokesperson Adam Wolfson said four residents of Pasadena and one from Sierra Madre have applied for the post. They are: Dianne Moore, a clerk at Blair International Baccalaureate School; probate referee Geoffrey Commons; electrical design engineer Kiran Upadhyay; Caltech subcontracts manager Edward Jasnow; and Sierra Madre resident Gretchen Vance, a buyer for Forest Lawn. Moore, Commons, Vance and Jasnow are white. Upadhyay is of Indian descent.

“I believe the school board should be representative of the constituency served by the school district,” said School Board President Renatta Cooper. “With that in mind, given our demographics, clearly we need Latino representation at the school board level, at least one person.”

The board is scheduled to interview and select the replacement board member in early June.

The deadline to submit an application is May 10. The replacement board member will serve until 2015, at which point the last at-large seat will be phased out.

Nice to see Renatta Cooper giving voice to the Latino representation problem. And the good news is there is a possible solution. Perhaps Renatta might wish to resign her seat as President of the Board of Education and allow a Latino to take her place? Among other things it would certainly help to underline the true depths of her feelings on the matter.

Personally I can think of no better candidate for the job than Ramon Miramontes. It would be quite an upgrade.