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

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Healthy environment vital, says white paper (China Daily)


By An Baijie, May 15, 2013

 Environmental protection was an entire chapter for the first time in the central government's white paper on human rights progress.

The government has worked hard to ensure that people can enjoy a good ecological environment, according to the white paper, entitled Progress in China's Human Rights in 2012.

The white paper, released on Tuesday by the Information Office of the State Council, is China's 10th human rights-themed white paper since the first was released in 1991.

The level of fine particles, known as PM2.5 particles, has been monitored in the air quality index since 2012, the white paper says.

A total of 3,340 sewage plants had been built nationwide by the end of 2012, and the rate of processed wastewater in urban areas has been raised from 52 percent in 2005 to 84.9 percent in 2012, according to the white paper.

This is the first time environmental protection was highlighted as an individual chapter in the white paper.

Zhang Wanhong, a law professor at Wuhan University, said this reflects the central government's determination to protect the environment amid economic development.

"The human right of enjoying a healthy environment is one of the basic rights guaranteed by various laws and regulations," he said.

Protests and lawsuits concerning the environment have been more frequent in recent years, and the government should make the decision-making process more transparent when dealing with environmental issues, Zhang said.

Zhang Yonghe, a professor of human rights research at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, said that highlighting environmental protection guarantees the human rights of not only the current generation but also future generations.

In the other five chapters, the white paper focused on human rights progress in the economic, political, cultural, social and international communication sectors.

"Respecting and protecting human rights" was added to the Criminal Procedure Law amended in 2012, which marks great progress in China's human rights protection, the white paper said.

A number of laws, such as the Labor Contract Law and the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Occupational Diseases, have been amended to guarantee workers' rights, the white paper said.

There were 2.67 million trade union organizations nationwide by the end of September, and the number of trade union members reached 280 million.

There are about 360,000 religious staff and 140,000 registered religious venues, which met the basic demands of religious believers from about 5,500 religious organizations, according to the report.

The central government spent 300 billion yuan ($49 billion) last year on poverty reduction programs, and the number of people in poverty decreased to 98.99 million, 23.39 million fewer than in the previous year, the white paper said.

Growth in individual incomes outpaced GDP growth, and rural residents' incomes grew faster than those of their urban counterparts, said the economic chapter.

Zhang Wanhong, the law professor, said that judicial authorities should improve the human rights of suspects and detainees.

The supervision of powerful departments, such as detention centers, should be enhanced to avoid the abnormal death of detainees, he said.

"There are lawyers' offices in some detention houses that provide judicial aid for the detainees in some regions, and such practices should be encouraged," he said.

Speeders to be Targeted by Pasadena Police Department


May 14, 2013



On Friday, May 17, 2013, the Pasadena Police Department will conduct a Speed Enforcement Program. This operation will be conducted between the hours of 9:00 am and 2:00 pm throughout the City of Pasadena.

The program has been shown to be an effective tool in educating the public in regards to safer driving habits. The Pasadena Police Department is committed to reducing the number of traffic collisions and injuries resulting from excessive speed.

Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Photos: Alhambra comes out in support of 710 extension


May 14, 2013

Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido announces Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall the launch of its city’s “Close the Gap” campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro while a group of 710 protestors held signs.



 "Building freeways is so 1950s." says public transit supporter Tom Savio, of Pasadena, after Mayor Steve Placido's announcement Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall of the city's "Close the Gap" campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro.



 Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido announces Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall the launch of its city's "Close the Gap" campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro while a group of 710 protestors held signs.



Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido announces Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall the launch of its city's "Close the Gap" campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro while a group of 710 protestors held signs and spoke with the media.


  From left, Trish Gossett, of Highland Park, Melissa Michelson, of Alhambra, and her friend Mike Alfe, of San Francisco, protest Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido's announcement Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall of the city's "Close the Gap" campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro.




 "Building freeways is so 1950s." says public transit supporter Tom Savio, of Pasadena, after Mayor Steve Placido's announcement Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall of the city's "Close the Gap" campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro. Freddie Hannan, of Pasadena, is left


City of Alhambra Hosts Press Conference on State Route 710 Study--Video

May 14, 2013

The City of Alhambra held a press conference voicing support of the SR- 710 freeway extension from Alhambra to Pasadena. Mayor Placido announces that the City's will host "710 Day" in Alhambra on July 10 to "raise awareness with educational presentations and booths."


Alhambra announces support for 710 extension amid protesters

 City promises two years of events in favor of 710 freeway extension


By Lauren Gold, May 14, 2013

Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido announces Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall the launch of its city's "Close the Gap" campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro while a group of 710 protestors held signs.

From left, Trish Gossett, of Highland Park, Melissa Michelson, of Alhambra, and her friend Mike Alfe, of San Francisco, protest Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido's announcement Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at Alhambra City Hall of the city's "Close the Gap" campaign in support of the 710 freeway extension project currently under review by Metro.

ALHAMBRA-- The city launched a two-year "Close the Gap" campaign Tuesday in support of the Long Beach (710) Freeway extension to Pasadena, amid protests from a handful of freeway fighters. The city also declared July 7 as "710 Day" in Alhambra, aimed at raising awareness about the proposed freeway project.

The move, announced in a press conference at City Hall, comes after months of forums and protests against the 4.5 mile freeway extension by residents and politicians from cities including Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge.

Mayor Steven Placido said he thinks it is important to encourage those who support the long fought-over freeway proposal.

"For 50 years the freeway has not been completed and we in the city want to raise awareness that now is the time it can actually happen," Placido said.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in the midst of a three-year environmental study of five potential options to fill the freeway "gap ": "No build," traffic management solutions, bus, light rail and an underground freeway tunnel. The draft environmental impact report will be released in 2014.

Metro Spokeswoman Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap, who attended the meeting, said all the options are being studied equally and Metro's study team is currently considering different "refinements" to these five options, including a single-bore tunnel instead of the dual-bore tunnel that was originally proposed.

Metro will host public meetings this summer to educate the public about the new options, Ortiz-Gilstrap said, and she applauded Alhambra for encouraging public engagement as well.

"We want to make sure the community has the correct information," she said. "We certainly encourage community engagement. That's key. "

Placido said he thinks the freeway tunnel is the only viable option to solve the congestion problems that now plague Alhambra and other communities between the two freeway "stubs. "

"On Fremont Avenue there are 50,000 cars a day, and 12,000 of those are commuter traffic," he said. "All those cars could be taken off our local streets and away from our schools and parks and put where they belong - on a freeway. ... Doing nothing might be more harmful, have a greater environmental impact, than completing this freeway."

Placido said the City Council has not yet decided what will be involved in the two-year campaign and "710 Day" or how much money the city will spend on it.

About a dozen protesters from Alhambra, Pasadena, Monterey Park and other surrounding cities attended the press conference Tuesday, wearing red shirts and holding "No 710" signs.

Freddie Hannan of Pasadena said she thought the presentation was "one-sided" in favor of building the tunnel.

"The people of Alhambra don't know, they think they won't be affected at all," she said, adding that if the tunnel option is chosen Alhambra residents also would have to deal with construction.

Melissa Michelson of Alhambra said she would rather see taxpayer money spent on other modes of transportation.

"Just because there is a gap in a freeway doesn't mean you have to build it," Michelson said. "Times have changed, attitudes have changed, there are all sorts of other options. "

For more information on the 710 study, visit metro.net/sr-710-conversations. For information on the protesters, visit no710.com.

Alhambra one of the few to reaffirm support for 710 Freeway extension


 By Daniel Siegal, May 14, 2013


710 Freeway tunnel

 Signs opposing the 710 Freeway being built on Ave. 64 were placed at the corner of Church St. and Ave. 64 in Pasadena.

Hoping to register public support for a project blasted at full volume by a well-organized opposition, Alhambra on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for a controversial tunnel that would connect the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways, proclaiming July 10 as “710 Day” in the city.

“We as a city want to raise awareness that now is the time [the 710 freeway] can be completed,” Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido said at a news conference at City Hall Tuesday.

Extending the 710 Freeway from its terminus in Alhambra via a tunnel to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena has long been a controversial proposal, with a collage of politically powerful neighborhoods and elected officials all coming down hard on the idea.

Opponents argue the connection would bring a deluge of big rig traffic and corresponding noise and air pollution.

Officials in Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, La CaƱada Flintridge and Los Angeles have all issued public statements opposing the 710 Freeway extension, as well as state and federal representatives.

Combined with an active coalition of residents opposed to the proposal — the No 710 Action Committee — the public argument in favor of a tunnel has hardly registered.

The Los Angeles Country Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently conducting an environmental study of five options for reducing congestion in the 710 gap, which in addition to the tunnel, include light rail and bus transit. A first draft of the study is expected to be completed in 2014.

Alhambra has long supported extending the 710 Freeway from its terminus, where vehicles currently spill out onto city streets in an effort to follow myriad urban paths to other freeways.

Placido said the city was stepping forward now because the financial commitment was there for a full environmental study of the options through Measure R — the half-cent sales tax for transportation projects approved by county voters in 2008. The review also has the backing of the MTA and the California Department of Transportation.

Placido said plans for “710 Day” were “up in the air,” at this point, but that officials were considering a street fair and other public outreach efforts.

MTA spokeswoman Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap said the agency welcomed input from Alhambra and other communities that will potentially be affected by the project “because it is a regional problem.”

Also attending the announcement on Tuesday were about a dozen tunnel opponents and members of the No 710 Action Committee.

Among them was Alhambra resident Melissa Michelson, who said she was disappointed to see her city focusing on the freeway option and not public transit.

“I still don’t understand why they want to have this freeway…just to close the gap,” she said. “For me that’s not a good enough reason."


710 Freeway Coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210

MTA outreach meeting on '710 gap' proposals draws strong crowd

Cities take different routes on 710 Freeway

NTSB: States Should Have Tougher Drunk Driving Rules


By Angie Schmitt, May 14, 2103

The National Transportation Safety Board announced today it will recommend lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit from .08 to .05 percent, saying the U.S. is too tolerant of drunk driving. The recommendation comes as the NTSB released a new report on drunk driving [PDF], establishing a goal of zero deaths.
Crash risk begins to rise considerably around .05 percent blood alcohol level.

Studies have shown impairment — divided attention — swerving out of the lane — can begin at blood alcohol levels as low as .009 percent. Risk of crash begins to increase at .04. One study found drivers with .05 percent blood alcohol level were 38 percent more likely to crash than sober drivers.

About a third of traffic deaths are alcohol-related, amounting to 9,878 American lives lost in 2011 alone.

“It’s frustrating that with the education and advocacy, with laws and enforcement and with the many processes set up to deal with the problem of drinking and driving, that we are still seeing so many lives lost,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said at the hearing.

The difference between .08 and .05 percent is between one and two drinks or beers over three hours for the average person, Bloomberg News reports:
A 160-pound person can have six bottles of beer in three hours and still be under .08. That person would need to cap his or her drinking at five beers if the legal limit were lowered to .05 percent.
NTSB does not have the power to make laws. However, after the agency recommended lowering the legal blood alcohol limit to .08 percent in 1982, the federal government offered incentives to states to adhere to the guidance, and later used penalties to promote compliance. It wasn’t until 2004 that every state had adopted a .08 percent limit. But those laws have been credited with helping lower the percent of crashes that are alcohol related from 48 percent to 31 percent today, Bloomberg reports. However, alcohol-related traffic deaths have held stead between 30 and 32 percent since 1995, NTSB reports.

MAP-21 requires compliance with the .08 rule in order for states to be eligible for federal transportation grants.

If a .05 percent limit does indeed reduce the crash rate by half compared to the current limit, thousands of lives would be saved if states embrace the recommendation.
In cooperation with carmakers, NTSB has also been promoting the use of technology that would block the ignition trigger for convicted drunk drivers attempting to use a car under the influence. Not surprisingly, the beverage lobby has resisted this change.
U.S. PIRG: The Driving Boom Is Over But the Road-Building Binge Continues


By Tanya Snyder, May 14, 2013

All government forecasts predict far more driving than even the most conservative scenario envisioned by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group.

The driving boom is over.

After decades of steady growth, U.S. driving rates have stagnated and even fallen. Per capita driving is as low as it was in 1996. And yet, federal and state government estimates continue to predict inexorable growth, relentlessly building expensive new highways for drivers who might not materialize.

A groundbreaking new study from U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group shows that any of three likely scenarios for future U.S. driving trends show far lower vehicle miles traveled than any of the principal current government estimates. That creates a disconnect between the kinds of transportation Americans are choosing with their feet and the kinds of transportation the system is designing for them.

Transit ridership is rising steadily – Americans took 10 percent more transit trips in 2011 than in 2005 – yet more than half of U.S. transit systems have been forced by budget constraints to either raise fares or cut service – or both – since the beginning of 2010. Meanwhile, although Americans are showing a flagging interest in automobile travel, states are breaking the bank to build shiny new roads.

Here are the three possible future scenarios for driving behavior that authors Phineas Baxandall of U.S. PIRG and Tony Dutzik of the Frontier Group laid out:

Back to the Future: This scenario assumes that the decline in driving is a temporary “blip,” largely due to the economic recession, and not a lasting trend. It assumes driving rates will soon pick right up where they left off. In this scenario, driving rates by age cohort and sex return to 2004 levels by 2020 and continue marching upward.

Enduring Shift: Under this scenario, the last decade’s shift in driving behaviors is real and lasting, with people continuing to embrace different forms of transportation and more compact communities. Gas prices stay high, the economy bounces back without leading to a huge jump in VMT, and the digitally-connected world continues to reduce the need for travel. This assumes each age and sex cohort keeps driving at lower rates than the same cohort did in previous generations. “For example, if 20 year-old males in 2009 drove 20 percent less than 20 year-old males did in 2001, it is assumed that eleven years later in 2020 they will similarly drive 20 percent less than 31-year-old males did in 2001,” Baxandall and Dutzik write.

Ongoing Decline: Maybe the recent dip in driving rates is just the beginning of a deeper change in transportation patterns. Maybe the technological breakthroughs, high gas prices, environmental concern, and changing preferences that have contributed to lower rates of driving will only intensify, accelerating (rather than merely continuing) the reduction in driving. Baxandall and Dutzik were conservative here, assuming only half the rate of reduction that we’ve seen in the last decade.
All of these scenarios would mean far less driving, far into the future, than the primary U.S. government estimates have forecast.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2010 Conditions and Performance report considered two scenarios, both of which assume much more driving than any of the PIRG estimates. The report forecasts either 1.85 percent annual growth in driving, which follows state predictions, or 1.23 percent annual growth. The scenario with the higher driving rate assumes higher levels of highway spending.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which produces the official U.S. government forecasts for energy use, predicted in 2006 that Americans would drive 3.3 trillion miles per year by 2012. “Instead, Americans drove less than 3 trillion miles — 10 percent fewer than had been predicted just six years earlier,” write Baxandall and Dutzik.

And the 2009 National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission looked at a number of factors contributing to the shortfall in gas tax revenues needed to pay for transportation infrastructure. To hit its revenue target, the commission recommended a gas tax increase of up to 58 cents per gallon – astronomically higher than any politician is willing to consider — but even that conclusion assumed that driving would tick upward at rates that are unlikely to materialize.
This quiet stretch of Wisconsin road is scheduled to be widened to a four-lane, divided highway. Is that kind of expansion justified in light of changing transportation patterns? 

The impact of all this unrealistic forecasting is that states are going into debt to lay asphalt no one wants to drive on. Toll roads, which are increasingly popular with states because they provide a revenue source to pay private investors back, are falling far short of projected use all over the country.

In San Diego, a toll road operator went bankrupt by betting on increased driving. Perpetually rising tolls on a series of roads in Orange County have failed to meet revenue targets, since there simply aren’t enough drivers on the road. The bonds issued by one of the toll road authorities have been downgraded to junk status.

Wisconsin is increasing new highway spending by 10 percent – while decreasing transit funding by the same proportion – although any rational look at Wisconsin’s travel patterns would prompt a reversal of those numbers.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, driving rates flattened out earlier than in the rest of the country, bringing troubles with transportation budgets to a head earlier as well. The response? To float bonds, betting on more driving in the future. Those bets haven’t paid off, leaving transportation officials in a state of panic. Tolling revenue projections aren’t panning out either. What’s a state transportation department to do?

PIRG and Frontier have a few suggestions.

First, embrace the uncertainty we’re living in. Know that we don’t know how things will turn out, and don’t go broke betting on any one of many possible outcomes – especially an outcome that is the least likely to pan out. Meanwhile, acknowledge that the shift away from driving is a positive one that should be encouraged, not ignored. It means a healthier population and a healthier environment. Once transportation departments – and the U.S. Congress – figure out how to pay for transportation in the absence of massive fuel consumption, it’ll mean a healthier financial picture for states and the nation, too.

Highway projects that have been in the planning stages for decades should be reconsidered in light of the dramatic changes in travel patterns. Federal priorities should be refocused on the state of good repair of transportation infrastructure and the provision of more and better transportation options – not just more and more highways.

And finally, transportation officials: Don’t make this mistake again. Do better research. Get better data. Ask the right questions. Perhaps we’ll find that there has indeed been an “enduring shift” in transportation habits that will change the way this country designs transportation infrastructure.

Five ways the LA mayoral candidates are not really alike


By Kevin Roderick, May 13, 2013



 Thumbnail image for garcetti-greuel-facing-zoca.jpg

All of the stories and media coverage pointing out that Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti come from the same wing of Los Angeles City Hall politics don't really help voters very much. So in the interests of assisting the undecided to make a choice, the LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus summarizes some areas where there is daylight between Garcetti and Greuel. Such as on education, development, the DWP and minor issues like that. It also comes down to a difference on general risk aversion, Maddaus writes: "This may be the most fundamental difference between a Garcetti and a Greuel mayoralty."

Garcetti has recently taken to quoting his friend, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who said in a commencement speech last year that "It is better to have your ship sunk at sea than have it rot in the harbor." And indeed, Garcetti has had his share of shipwrecks. He lured an electric car company to L.A. with a $1 million relocation package, only to have it go bankrupt. As council president, he approved the "modernization" of billboards, unaware of the storm of protest that would follow. And have you seen those awful condos at Sunset and Alvarado? Of course, he can point to successes too, or he wouldn't have won his district by 34 points in the primary. Greuel, on the other hand, is more risk averse. As a result, her sins are ones of omission. Her disappearing act during the city's budget crisis is a prime example. As controller, she could have had as large a role as she wanted in shaping the public debate about budget cuts. Instead, she avoided the subject as much as possible.
Check out Maddaus' user's guide to the race at the LA Weekly site.

A User's Guide To The L.A. Mayor's Race: 5 Key Differences Between Garcetti And Greuel


By Gene Maddaus, May 13, 2103

The last televised mayoral debate is tonight on KCAL, which means one more opportunity to point out that the candidates agree with each other on everything. That's been one of the recurring themes of the race: Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are fundamentally the same.

The problem with that is not that it's wrong. Hell, we've written several versions of that ourselves. The problem is that it's useless. Voters who are trying to make up their minds don't need to know how alike the candidates are. They need to know the differences.

Here then is a user-friendly guide to the five key differences between Greuel and Garcetti. Clip it. Save it. Take it with you to the polls on May 21.

Wendy Greuel for Mayor
1. Education

At last Tuesday's education debate, Greuel opened by saying, "There's probably no other subject where my opponent and I differ more than on the issue of education." That's probably true, if only because education is the most polarized issue on the landscape. Across the country, neoliberal reformers are doing battle with teachers' unions for control of school administrations, which forces everyone to pick a side. Back in January, Garcetti sided with the teachers, saying at a debate, "I'm sick of us bullying our teachers. We're so obsessed with firing the bad teachers, we forgot to lift up the good ones." That pushed Greuel into the arms of the reformers. Though she was tentative at first, she has embraced the reformers' cause more fully in recent weeks, bragging of her support from "parent revolutionaries" and criticizing Garcetti for his hesitation to back the "parent trigger" law, which allows parents to petition to take over schools. For the reformers, the only concern is that Greuel seems not as willing as the current mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, to take big risks for the cause. For the teachers' unions who backed Garcetti, the concern is that while he would be better than Greuel, he might not be the most loyal ally. He supports the most popular elements of education reform, like charter schools, and has called for a lessening of the conflict between the two sides. 

2. Water and Power

Just by cutting a few checks to Greuel on the IBEW treasury, labor boss Brian D'Arcy has made himself the most controversial figure in the campaign. He's also made salaries at the Department of Water of Power the campaign's hottest issue. D'Arcy, who represents 90 percent of DWP workers, has invested nearly $4 million in Greuel. But while that has turned attention to his members' inflated salaries and the contract up for negotiation next year, salaries alone are not enough to explain his support for Greuel. After all, Garcetti also voted for IBEW's lavish contracts, and has shown little commitment to trimming DWP salaries if elected.

The deeper issue has to do with the green revolution that awaits the dirtiest utility in the West. The transition away from coal, and toward solar and wind, will happen regardless of who's mayor -- it's state law. But how it gets done is important, especially if you're the union boss who controls the utility. Garcetti is likely to rely more heavily on his environmental backers to guide the transition -- which could well bring him into conflict with D'Arcy. D'Arcy stands a good chance of winning such a battle, because he can threaten to turn off the lights by going on strike. With Greuel there would be no battle. She is much more likely to rely on D'Arcy and his lobbyist, Chris Modrzejewski, who has been an ardent supporter of her career and a frequent visitor to her office.

3. Development

Speaking at Google the other day, Garcetti said, "We do in some ways have to build our way out of problems." He went on to extol the virtues of community input and said that he wouldn't say yes to everything. But his starting point -- building our way out of problems -- has gotten him in hot water over the years with neighborhood groups that object to out-of-scale developments. And though Garcetti has a reputation as a peacemaker at the City Council, on development disputes in his district he has been more willing to move forward in spite of vocal opposition. Critics also note that developers have long been a key part of the Garcetti fundraising coalition, though an L.A. Times analysis showed that real estate money has split about evenly in the mayoral race. Greuel, meanwhile, gets a lot of praise from neighborhood leaders in her old Valley district for listening to their concerns and blocking various projects. The most well-known case is the Home Depot in Sunland-Tujunga that she blocked in reaction to community protest, but there were others as well.

In part, their different approach is a reflection of the difference between their districts. Garcetti is proud of bringing vibrancy to once-down-at-heel neighborhoods like Atwater Village. Greuel's constituents were more concerned with preserving their quality of life in the face of some developer's scheme. But those different experiences inform how they would approach planning across the city. Garcetti sees the possibilities of development, and talks about building up "great streets" citywide. He often talks about doing for the whole city what he has done in Silver Lake and Echo Park. Greuel is much less interested in "building our way out of problems," and more concerned about the problems that too much building can bring.

4. Leadership Style

The contrast here is between "trust" and "independence." Both are virtuous qualities, but in this case they mean roughly opposite things. Greuel talks a lot about being trustworthy. "I have been the trustworthy person who has said what I'm gonna do and do what I was gonna say," she said at one recent debate. Her supporters say that once she makes a decision you can depend on her to stick with it. That's a big reason why Greuel has racked up so many of endorsements from those who deal regularly with City Hall, like labor leaders and Chamber of Commerce officials. Garcetti talks about independence. He usually expresses it in the form of a negative comparison -- "my opponent is the hand-picked candidate of the downtown power-brokers" -- but it can be expressed as a positive thing as well. Garcetti has a reputation for bringing his own ideas to the table, be it something he clipped out of Governing Magazine or an idea that came to him during a Silver Lake stairwalk. Those ideas can be good or bad, but they tend to reflect his techno-progressive ideology. Greuel has an ideology, too, but it is more subdued and it tends not to intrude into her policy-making. She is much more likely to try to gain the trust of an array of stakeholders and broker an agreement among them. The outcome is less important than the process of agreement. Garcetti is more likely to try to push a group of stakeholders toward some more ideological purpose, in the service of an abstracted constituency. From the standpoint of those stakeholders, that makes him less trustworthy. Garcetti also talks about his superior ability to make decisions, while Greuel often struggles to take a position on anything of controversy. That's true enough, but the flip-side is that Garcetti is also more likely to change his mind, or have it changed for him by external pressure.

5. Risk Appetite

This may be the most fundamental difference between a Garcetti and a Greuel mayoralty. Garcetti has recently taken to quoting his friend, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who said in a commencement speech last year that "It is better to have your ship sunk at sea than have it rot in the harbor." And indeed, Garcetti has had his share of shipwrecks. He lured an electric car company to L.A. with a $1 million relocation package, only to have it go bankrupt. As council president, he approved the "modernization" of billboards, unaware of the storm of protest that would follow. And have you seen those awful condos at Sunset and Alvarado? Of course, he can point to successes too, or he wouldn't have won his district by 34 points in the primary. Greuel, on the other hand, is more risk averse. As a result, her sins are ones of omission. Her disappearing act during the city's budget crisis is a prime example. As controller, she could have had as large a role as she wanted in shaping the public debate about budget cuts. Instead, she avoided the subject as much as possible. In part, her aversion to risk seems to be the legacy of her years working for Tom Bradley, who governed in a very cautious style. That style does not mean that nothing gets done, but that it happens slowly and carefully and only after all the risks have been weighed through careful deliberation. What Greuel chooses to focus on, she will probably achieve. Garcetti is more likely to fail, but also more likely to try harder things.

It's a choice. Hopefully now the choice is a little clearer. 

Millennials Lead the Trend to Less Driving, But What Happens As They Get Older?


By Emily Badger, May 14, 2013

 Millennials Lead the Trend to Less Driving, But What Happens As They Get Older?

It is unquestionably true that Americans are driving less today than we did just a few years ago. Sometime around 2004, our addiction to driving – expressed on a graph in the decades-long steep expansion of “vehicle miles traveled” – took a turn in the opposite direction. Per capita, we began to drive fewer miles each year than we had the year before. As the U.S. population has continued to grow, our collective miles traveled by car has begun to stagnate.

"A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future" by Dutzik, Baxandall

It’s not entirely clear, though, exactly why this has happened or whether the downturn will continue, two questions intimately tied to the behavior of Millennials as they age. Twenty-something Americans drive about 20 percent less today than their parents did in their 20s. But is that because of the recession? High gas prices? A lasting shift in consumer demand? What will happen to today’s 20-year-olds as they enter their 30s, raise families, and consider moving to the suburbs?

This question lurks behind every celebrated trend story about the Millennial generation: Will this group really push systemic change (as the baby boomers did) in how Americans live, work and relate to each other (sharing cars, for instance, as opposed to owning them)? Or is this moment – with its associated driving patterns – a hiccup in history?

"We've basically assumed in transportation planning for decades upon decades that the amount of vehicle travel and per capita VMT can go in only direction, and that's up," says Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst for the Frontier Group, a public interest think tank. "And we have been planning our transportation system based on that assumption."

Data from the last few years clearly show that this axiom is no longer true. So what happens next? In an effort to at least sketch out some of the possible scenarios, the Frontier Group and the US PIRG Education Fund today released a report outlining three alternative futures for America's relationship to the car.

One assumes that Millennials will eventually revert to the driving patterns of their parents (the blue "Back to the Future" scenario on the below graph). The second assumes that America is in the midst of an enduring shift toward less driving, brought about in large part by the permanent new preferences of Millennials. And the last scenario assumes that the recent decline we've seen in driving will continue apace.

Notably, all three scenarios project car usage well below the status quo we might expect based on the last 50 years of driving trends (even with a growing population).

"Thus far in the transportation community, the question of declining vehicle miles traveled and declining gas tax revenues has been thought of as a revenue problem. There’s not enough money coming in to deal with the needs that we think we have," Dutzik says. "There's another important part of that question that we really haven’t addressed: What is it we think we're actually going to need for the future?"

What if we don’t need to find funding to for quite so many highway expansions?

"If the Millennial trend continues to play out," Dutzik says, "the amount of highway capacity we’re going to need in the future looks far different than it looked in government projections from just a few years ago."

In fact, here are some of those government projections:

Dutzik and report co-author Phineas Baxandall constructed these scenarios by trying to "layer on the unknowable over the knowable." Namely, we don’t how Millennials will behave in the future. But we do know that their parents, from the baby boom generation, will soon begin aging out of the workforce in massive numbers. And when you no longer have to drive to work, that cuts a sizable chunk out of your car consumption (the 2009 National Household Travel Survey estimated that commuting trips accounted for 27.7 percent of household VMT).

With these underlying demographic trends in mind, the "Back to the Future" scenario makes the assumption that Millennials will drive about as much at age 35 as their parents did at that same age, and so on as they get older.

The other two scenarios are built on something of a mystery. Researchers have not yet been able to disaggregate how much of our current decline in driving has been attributable to gas prices, or the economy, or changing attitudes toward car ownership or urban living. But it’s been driven by something. And in these two futures, Dutzik says, “whatever constellation of things it is that has caused the shift in per capita driving over the last decade – we think that’s a real thing.”

The way we work has also been changing, alongside the demographic shape of the workforce itself. And this trend, which the report did not address, could drive down VMT even further, as more people telecommute or join the freelance economy.

In all of these scenarios, Dutzik assumes that we're unlikely to ever surpass our 2004 peak in per capita driving. Today, we individually drive about 7 percent less than we did in 2004 (or at levels comparable to 1996). It’s plausible we could return to that peak, but many of the factors that drove us there no longer exist: cheap gas, the growing baby boom workforce, women entering the workforce for the first time.

Millennials will inevitably wind up driving more than they do today as they age. This is virtually always true of people in their 20s as they enter their 30s and beyond. Certain stages of life demand more use of a car than others. But the question is: by how much? And by how much compared to their parents?
Is Los Angeles the best US city for commuting?


By Alan Davies, May 14, 2013

Los Angeles routinely ranks as one of the most congested cities in the US. Yet a new study says it offers greater accessibility to employment than any other metropolitan area in the country
U.S. national average accessibility to jobs over time (1990-2010). Note that only a small % of commutes are longer than 60 minutes. Source: Center for Transportation Studies, Uni of Minnesota

Measures of traffic congestion in US cities typically focus on travel delay. Big dense cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles invariably score poorly.

A new study by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies looks instead at accessibility, which measures “the ease of reaching desired destinations”.

Accessibility recognises that how close origins and destinations are to each other is at least as important for journey times as the speed of travel between them.

Lead researcher, Professor David Levinson, says:
There are two ways for cities to improve accessibility—by making transportation faster and more direct or increasing the density of activities, such as locating jobs closer together and closer to workers
Professor Levinson counted the number of jobs that could be reached within a range of driving times by the average worker resident in the 51 largest US metropolitan areas (see first exhibit).

He established an overall ranking of the 51 metro areas based on giving closer jobs a higher weight than more distant jobs. The most accessible metropolitan areas in order are (see second exhibit):
Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Jose, Washington, Boston, Dallas, and Houston.
The average Angeleno can only reach 4.9% of metro jobs within 10 minutes driving time, but that very quick trip nevertheless provides access to a massive 237,203 jobs. This is only bettered by San Jose (237,929) and San Francisco (283,549).

In contrast, the average commuter in New Orleans can reach 32.8% of metropolitan jobs within a 10 minute drive. However that provides access to considerably fewer jobs (146,521).

With a longer 30 minute commute, the average Angeleno can drive to a mind-boggling 2,458,111 jobs. That’s more than five times the number (446,087) that the average New Orleanean can get to within the same driving time.

Although Los Angeles has high levels of traffic congestion (the TTI ranks it second behind Washington DC), workers can get to a large number of jobs within a reasonable time frame because both residential and employment densities are relatively high.

Indeed, Los Angeles has the second highest average population density of any metropolitan area in the US. And it’s also the second densest when measured by weighted density (New York is the densest US metro on both metrics).

While Los Angeles doesn’t have the high peak density of the centres of metros like New York and San Francisco, it doesn’t have as many residents living in very low density suburbs either. Activities are “spread out” at relatively high densities and connected by freeways.

Professor Levinson’s study also found that while the average American living in the top 51 cities could reach fewer jobs in 2011 than in 1990 in the same time, he or she could reach more today than in 2000 (see first exhibit). Average commute speeds were also faster in 2011 than in 2000 and about the same as they were in 1990.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the study is that high levels of accessibility to jobs by car can be achieved in both dense and dispersed urban forms.

Six of the top ten most accessible cities are also among the top ten densest cities in the US. Moreover, seven are in the top ten for traffic congestion, as measured by the TTI’s Urban Mobility Report 2012.
In terms of the policy implications of his work, Prof Levinson concludes:
There are many ways to make transportation faster, some more viable than others. Adding capacity at bottlenecks, managing traffic flow effectively, and implementing peak road-user fees all would tend to increase road speeds. Adding connections in the transportation network would reduce the distances travellers must cover to reach their destinations.

On the land-use side, adding density depends on both market forces and public policy. In some cases market forces are constrained in the density they would provide, either due to zoning restrictions (height restrictions, maximum floor-area ratios, and so on) or minimum parking requirements. Similarly, the market responds to incentives. The tax code, which taxes buildings and land at equal rates, discourages construction
The Center hasn’t published data on other modes, or at least not yet. Since cars account for well over 90% of all motorised commutes in the US that’s not surprising.
Click - Rank of the accessibility to jobs by automobile for 51 U.S. metropolitan areas in 2010. Source: Center for Transportation Studies, Uni of Minnesota

Construction Begins On ‘Bus Only’ Lanes In Koreatown


May 13, 2013



 (credit: CBS)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The first phase of a plan to shorten bus commute times between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica on one of the busiest traffic corridors in Los Angeles County is underway.

Contractors Monday began to remove lane striping along Wilshire Boulevard from MacArthur Park to Western Avenue to create “bus only” lanes for a 1.8-mile stretch in both directions through Koreatown.

Once the new bus lanes take effect on June 5, only transit buses will be permitted to use the lanes during peak traffic hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Any commuters caught driving in the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes could be ticketed during those hours. All vehicles are permitted to use bus lanes during off-peak hours and on weekends.
Some commuters were already predicting the new lanes could slow traffic even more along the busy corridor.

“You gotta be kidding me, man,” one man told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO. “That’s just gonna cause more traffic; it’s gonna be crazy.”

The Wilshire Boulevard BRT project, which is expected to be completed in late 2014, is designed to cut bus commute times by 15 minutes along 12.5 miles of road between downtown LA and Centinela Avenue in Santa Monica.

Governor Brown is putting the brakes on biking in California


By Paul Skilbeck, May 9, 2013




Bike Parking at San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival

 Bike Parking at San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival

It's Bike to Work Day in California and the state's cyclists have every right to feel indignant, because, say senior figures, leadership is letting us down.

David Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, makes no bones about it, saying,"This is a leadership issue, it comes from Governor Brown." While State Sen. Alan Lowenthal said, "Unfortunately this governor has chosen faceless bureaucrats over cyclists' safety."

Mr. Snyder almost spat out his coffee when he saw the latest 'Bike Friendly States' ranking from the League of American Bicyclists, which puts California 19th out of 50 states. "If Pennsylvania is ahead of us we should be ticked off, and Tennessee? How does that happen?"

Yes, how does that happen? The state of California was listed 7th in the 2008 LAB rankings, but by early 2010 it had slipped to 14th and now we're 19th.

This may seem bizarre to some, given the state's progressive reputation with strict clean air regulations, the introduction of sustainable transport technologies, and having many of the country's most talented and experienced cycling advocates working in the state.

Cyclists that feel Governor Brown is deliberately leaving bikes out of California's clean air planning may be stung into action by the state's report card for bike friendliness:
Legislation and enforcement: C
Policies and programs: C
Infrastructure and funding: B
Education and encouragement: C
Evaluation and planning: B
Governor Brown has been less than helpful in at least one major issue. Last year Sen. Lowenthal described as "Inexplicable" the governor's second veto in a 12-month period of a law that would require cars to either allow a three-foot gap when passing a bicycle, or slow to 15 mph.

This could be linked, says Mr. Snyder, to the inaction of Caltrans in progressing with safer cycling facilities: "Some people within Caltrans have the will to build more infrastructure for cyclists, but there is also great resistance. It's such a huge agency and the only way to make progress is for the top leadership to take cycling seriously, which means Governor Brown and (the Brown-appointed Caltrans director) Malcolm Dougherty. I don't think Malcolm Dougherty sees cycling as an important part of the state's transportation network."
Two of the main problems that put California behind 18 other states, says Mr. Snyder, are the relative lack of federal dollars going to bicyclists and pedestrians, and the continued absence of long-awaited remediations to a state-wide bicycle design manual that would give essential guidance on infrastructure and implementation at the local level.

California's traffic laws currently restrict local agencies to using the out-of-date Caltrans designs, which Mr. Snyder says provide sub-standard protection for cyclists.

Along with the City and County of San Francisco, the California Bicycle Coalition is sponsoring Assembly Bill 1193, authored by assembly member Phil Ting.

A CBC statement reads, "AB 1193 is intended to allow more local control over which design standards to consult for bicycles on local streets. It would amend the California Streets and Highways Code that currently mandates that local agencies must abide by Caltrans’ Highway Design Manual for bicycle design on local roads."

With the bill now in front of the state assembly Mr. Snyder says, "We will find out this month if Caltrans is willing to make progress."

With many of California's cyclists starting to see themselves as an endangered species, the successful passage of AB 1193 cannot come soon enough.

Those that wish to make their voice heard on this matter will find background and contact information at http://www.calbike.org/advocacy/better-bikeways/.
Best Advice for MetroRail Planners: Dig Deeper, Reach Higher 


By Ken Alpern, May 14, 2013


 TRANSPORTATION POLITICS - My last CityWatch article on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, and on the two contentious efforts to create community-supported stations at Leimert Park and at Hindry Ave.
in Westchester, ended with three main points on how to actually create a light rail with those two necessary stations:

1) Massive upzoning to encourage densification and construction along this region of Crenshaw Blvd., and justify a $200-400 million subway through Park Mesa Heights (similar to the zoning and density along Wilshire Blvd.).

2) We do NOT know whether the Crenshaw/LAX Line will reach the LAX Central Airline Terminals indirectly (via a LAX People Mover monorail at Century/Aviation) or directly (an underground subway tunnel and station west of Sepulveda Blvd. that would have no station at Century/Aviation).

3) Stop focusing on race and ethnicity for this or any other MetroRail project, and start focusing on proper planning and cost-benefit analysis.

So let's have more light, and less heat, on this issue of Leimert Park and the concept of Crenshaw Blvd. renovation--it's not about race, or historical ethnic ties, or anything like that.  But it is an issue that will define the transportation priorities of the next Mayor of Los Angeles, who will have four votes on the Metro Board of Directors.

● It's about the many unresolved questions as to what we want the Crenshaw/LAX and MetroRail/LAX lines to be, and whether we want to Dig Deeper and Reach Higher (more subway and more expensive rail projects that are able to accommodate many more daily passengers).

● It's about whether we want either:
a) A nice light rail trolley that can transport up to 70,000 to 90,000 passengers a day, or
b) A major conduit of rail travel, such as the Wilshire Subway, that can transport up to 200-300,000 passengers a day.

● It's about whether Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Mid-City constituents who want (as I do) a Leimert Park station--it's got to be more than "this is a historically black and underserved community, and it's owed a station" because that cost is (again) $200-400 million if it's placed in a tunnel.  A ground-level station at Leimert Park, if possible and desired, would be a very small fraction of this price.

(In contrast, the Hindry Ave. station in Westchester is $15-20 million, is ground-level, or "at-grade", and would serve not only "white" Westchester but also adjacent "black" Inglewood and fill in a current gap of over two miles on the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line without a station.)

● It's about whether we really want to focus on the best MetroRail/LAX connection possible, and avoid a series of wyes (junctions forcing people to get off one train and onto another in order to get to their destination) and create a more simplified approach that unites the north-south Crenshaw/LAX and South Bay portion of the Green Line into a singular light rail line.

(The underground approach below LAX is consistent with an underground Park Mesa Heights Tunnel, and creates a single, massive Crenshaw/LAX/Green Line rail project that is more akin to the future Wilshire Subway than it is the recent and expanding Expo Light Rail Line.)

● It's about more County/City of Los Angeles cooperation and a recommendation by Metro for the City of Los Angeles to stop massive Expo Line-adjacent development (such as the Casden/Sepulveda Project) that is better suited for a project adjacent to the future Wilshire Subway, and a recommendation by Metro to instead start massive development and redevelopment along Crenshaw Blvd. to make it a north-south version of Wilshire Blvd.

● It's about viewing the Crenshaw/LAX Line as a project that WILL, someday, connect to the future Wilshire Subway, and perhaps even the Red Line Subway, and connect to LAX in a manner that would necessitate grade separation at Park Mesa Heights to carry hundreds of thousands of riders a day.

● It's about really studying the funding and effort for an underground LAX subway station, which would require either a very small People Mover to carry passengers and workers to the individual Central Airline Terminals--or just a series of escalators and moving walkways--in contrast to a FAA-required rail trench east of LAX that might cost up to $300 million, as well as a MUCH longer People Mover from Crenshaw/Aviation costing up to $1 billion.

● It's about creating a rail project that is more compatible with future rail extensions to the Westside and South Bay than the current Crenshaw/LAX Rail Project, which is helpful to the Mid-City almost to the exclusion of the Westside and South Bay.

● It's about recognizing we don't really know ANYTHING about where the Crenshaw/LAX Project should extend south of the proposed Hindry Station and nearby rail yard, and therefore limiting this project to a rail spur ("Phase 1") that includes a Leimert Park and Hindry Station.  Yes, that means a quick supplemental EIR, but it also means that we might have a better handle on the bidding process for this line...which currently has no resolution.

● It's about combining forces with the City of Los Angeles, Metro, the South Bay and Southeast L.A. County Cities, and the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys into planning a "Son of Measure J" for the voters to extend the Measure R sales tax (no new sales tax, as with Measure J) and expedite a more defined, less nebulous series of rail projects:

1) A north-south rail line that is almost entirely grade-separated and subway-enhanced from the South Bay to LAX to the Crenshaw Corridor and which has a northern terminus at the Wilshire Subway (Purple Line)...with the potential to some day extend north to the Red Line.

2) A north-south Rail Line that is almost entirely grade-separated and subway-enhanced from the San Fernando Valley Metrolink system to the Expo Line in the Westside...with the potential to someday extend south to LAX.

3) A long-overdue approval to fund the extension the Foothill Gold Line to Ontario Airport.

4) An expedited South Bay Green Line extension to Torrance,

5) A light rail line connecting the Southeast L.A. County Cities to MetroRail,

● It's about fulfilling the promise of building a 21st Century MetroRail system to serve the needs of LA City and County residents.

And, ultimately, it's about Digging Deeper and Reaching Higher for what should be a cost-effective, economy-building, mobility-enhancing and environmentally-friendly approach to urban planning and revitalization for all portions of Los Angeles City and County.

Villaraigosa's Policy Writ Large: Screw the Public’s Voice


By Bob Gelfand, May 14, 2013

 VIEW FROM HERE - On Thursday, May 2, 2013, the Villaraigosa administration carried out one final act of vandalism against the idea of public representation. It came in the form of a vote by the Board of Harbor Commissioners to abolish an organization known to locals as the PCAC. More officially, the now-demolished organization was the Port Community Advisory Committee.

Its function was to allow local residents a chance to communicate with the management of the Port of Los Angeles over issues that affect all of us, including dangerous levels of air pollution, truck traffic, and noise.

Why the PCAC was necessary and why something like it is still necessary is a long story, but let's try to condense it down to a few sentences.         

Not many Los Angeles residents understand the role of the Port of Los Angeles in creating air pollution.  It's a huge fraction of the regional total, as studies by the port's own environmental group have shown, and as the local air quality management agencies can attest.

The port also has been guilty of the practice of expanding its boundaries in search of more and more acreage, which has had dramatic effects on the surrounding communities. The maritime industry's conversion to diesel powered ships and the introduction of the use of containers, each the size of a semi-truck's cargo pod, led to a huge increase in diesel pollution, the result of more ship calls and the resulting truck trips.

In addition, there has been a massive increase in truck traffic through the adjacent communities. The truck traffic has been an incessant source of noise and vibration to the people of Wilmington.         

The creation of the PCAC was the keeping of a campaign promise made by mayoral candidate Jim Hahn. Its function was to allow the local communities to deal with port management in order to achieve some mitigation of the port's impacts on them. In fact, the original working name for the proposed group was the Impact Mitigation Advisory Committee.         

When Hahn began his term as mayor, the promise was kept, at least to some extent. The PCAC was formed as a standing committee of the Harbor Commission, which meant -- importantly -- that it was subject to state laws requiring openness and transparency of operation. Each of the local neighborhood councils had the authority to appoint a representative to the PCAC, and all of them did so.

Perhaps unfortunately, the Harbor Commission also invited every other organization that had something to do with the port to join the PCAC, so its ranks were swelled by representatives of shipping companies and freight operators and workers' organizations. In other words, the politically powerful companies that were the active generators of air pollution and truck traffic were also made voting members of the organization.

In later years, many of these groups figured out an alternative strategy -- they simply boycotted meetings, and due to the arcane rules structure imposed by the Harbor Commission, this behavior resulted in PCAC's failure to achieve a quorum at many of its meetings. The fact that this failure was due to mischief and to a toxic rules structure was protested by local activists, but the Commission ignored the protests for year after weary year.         

The sabotage of the PCAC's operations by the port administration was not only a misfortune, it was also an attack on a principle established by the voters when they modified the city's Charter back in 1999. The newly created Charter Section 9 created the neighborhood council system. It gave the neighborhood councils the duty of representing the broad public interest to the elected officials and city government agencies. At the neighborhood councils, our right to appoint representatives to the PCAC was considered a matter of importance. To have this right taken away is a blow to our ability to represent the public.         

You might wonder why the neighborhood councils didn't protest the upcoming dissolution of the PCAC. The answer is stunning in its simplicity. The Port of Los Angeles waited until barely 72 hours before the Harbor Commission meeting to publish its agenda, which included the item to abolish the PCAC.

Was this suddenness appropriate? The new system established by the 1999 Charter amendments was supposed to provide advance notification to neighborhood councils about anything that would significantly affect us. That 72 hour window was certainly not the "advance notification" that the city is supposed to provide.

In this regard, it's noteworthy that the port sends representatives to local neighborhood council meetings, so the port could have communicated the proposed death of PCAC in plenty of time.

At my council's April meeting, the representative from the Port of Los Angeles attended. He told us of many things, but nothing he said spoke of the plan to abolish the PCAC. Perhaps it slipped his mind. Curiously, it seems to have slipped the mind of every port representative who attended any neighborhood council meeting in the past month.         

The Harbor Commission meeting of May 2 was, to borrow the old expression, history repeated as farce. In the old pre-PCAC days, it was common for port activities to become known to the public mainly as rumors, with the understanding that whatever was going to happen was already a "done deal." The fact that this political assassination of the PCAC was a "done deal" became obvious during the Commission meeting. 

Numerous local activists, PCAC members, and neighborhood council representatives asked the Commission for a stay of execution.  A few folks disagreed, but I for one found their arguments rather thin. For example, there seemed to be a script being followed where those who wanted the PCAC abolished mentioned the failure to achieve quorums.

The clear and obvious refutation was provided again and again, but it was presented to deaf ears on the Commission itself and apparently to closed minds among some of the audience.         

Then the Commissioners gave their little speeches, and it was an exercise in circular logic and political handwaving. Let's put it this way. As pundit Michael Kinsley once pointed out, a political gaffe does not occur when a politician is caught lying, but when he accidentally tells the truth. I can testify that no political gaffes were committed by the members of the Board of Harbor Commissioners on that day.

It was particularly disappointing to see and hear Commission Chair Cindy Miscikowski recite a lot of nonsense. Most egregious was her comment to the effect that the original PCAC included all of the interest groups around the harbor, with the implication that this was desirable, and that therefore their failure to attend meetings was a reason to disband the organization.

The fact that the Harbor Commission had supported and abetted the exodus of the billionaire's club from PCAC seemed to be lost on her. It's true that she wasn't around when the PCAC was formed, but she seemed oddly misinformed about the purpose of having such an organization.         

Afterword: Some of my colleagues argue that PCAC had long since outlived its useful life, and was only continuing on life support. This argument is largely based on the fact that the port has been ignoring PCAC for close to half a decade. The PCAC continued to put out memos and resolutions, and the Harbor Commission routinely ignored them.

When the PCAC was young, the port paid the costs for inviting expert advisers on matters such as the effects of air pollution on children, and on the specifics of diesel pollution. This ultimately amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but in my view, it was money well spent.

Under the Villaraigosa administration, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach took the information about air pollution and engaged in a serious effort to reduce it. According to the port, air pollution has been reduced by 50-70 percent, a remarkable achievement if true.

We have to give the Villaraigosa administration credit for this. But we also need to credit the PCAC and neighborhood councils for creating the push that led to the studies on the possible mitigations of the air pollutants, and for creating the political climate that required their adoption.         

The port explained at the Harbor Commission meeting that it has developed new ways of getting public input. It holds public information meetings and does outreach to the community. This is fine as far as it goes, but it lacks one essential element. We the people need to be able to set the agenda ourselves, because we are the ones who live in the area that is most affected by port operations.

We need to be able to define the questions which are going to be asked. Most importantly, we need to pick our own representatives. The new model as defined by the port is in essence to appoint lackeys who will say the right things while business goes on as it once did.         

 The Villaraigosa administration has been a mixed bag in terms of achievements and openness to thepublic. It has not been entirely negative, as the air quality improvements demonstrate. But when it comes to being open to public input, its record with regard to neighborhood councils has been a distinct negative.

It's only been the past year that we have seen some improvements, most notably in appointments to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners and of the General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. That leaves a seven year record that ranges from the spectacularly negative (the appointment of Lisa Sarno as acting GM of DONE) to the more recent record of mostly-benign neglect.         

The next mayor should hold full and frank discussions not only with the port, but with the surrounding communities, so that we can get public representation back. The port can be allowed to save face through a process that recognizes the function of the PCAC, reorganizes the process -- best served by agreeing to engage with a regional organization created and run by the neighborhood councils -- and perhaps gives the new PCAC a different name.