Feb 28 2012

Civic Circus – 02/28/12

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Civic Circus Civic Circus with Ankur Patel breaks down local politics, with a weekly report on city, county, and state bureaucracies. This week on Uprising I’ll cover Move LA’s 4th Annual Transportation Conversation.

The title of this year’s conference, held at Union Station, was “LA on the Verge of a Transit Breakthrough.” MOVE LA is the organization that was able to get Measure R approved by 68% of voters — Measure R being the half cent sales tax increase that will provide billions of dollars to fund transportation and is now intertwined with the 30/10 initiative.

Move LA prides itself on being a robust coalition of important political communities in Los Angeles. The program for Friday’s conference at Union Station was packed with consultants, developers, elected officials, and other special interests, all of whom seemed eager to grab a piece of the transportation pie.

While the organization’s attempt to raise funding for new transportation projects in LA are worthy, and relevant, what I found missing was the basic conversation of how poor people can get from A to B most efficiently.

Multiple State Assembly Members, a State Senator’s chief of staff, and a mid-level staffer from Senator Barbara Boxer’s office were just a sprinkling of the politically influential folks recognizing transportation as a potentially nonpartisan issue.

Perhaps in a testament to the special interests, the Move LA conference was a politically sophisticated event as the heads of politically influential organizations like Gary Toebben, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and Maria Elena Durazo from the LA County Federation of Labor were part of a message that included putting direct phone pressure on 6 specific California Republican Congressman that are holding up transportation funding.

Representatives from unions like the IBEW sat on the same panel as an executive from AECOM, which, among other things, builds prisons. Also on the same panel were representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council and other non-profits offering input on the fringes of the conversation.

What really boggles my mind is the fact that these blatantly Blue politicians are talking up regressive taxation to fund these projects, which means poor people would pay a higher percentage of their income than rich people to fund these transportation projects.

I am against raising taxes all together when the largest chunks of tax money goes to funding riot police, the surveillance state, or employing bureaucrats and lawyers.

What is needed, in my opinion, is greater efficiency in spending the money we already have.

The academic and political focus at the Move LA conference ended up skewing the conversation to the point where a question regarding transportation apartheid and the classism that exists in Los Angeles was answered with “we need a better, more connected transportation system so that the rich people are incentivized to use public transit”… thank you for that.

This is in direct contrast with what we see every day, most recently with the proposed cut of MTA route 305, a line that gets poor people of color from South LA to work in Westwood. At the same time Move LA talks about getting billions of dollars in tax revenue through policy, the MTA is cutting 300,000 hours of bus service to save $23,000,000.

Instead of discussing gentrification, the catch-phrase was “transit-oriented development.” Instead of down-to-Earth decision makers, we get suits flying in helicopters telling us where the buses should go.

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Civic Circus – 02/28/12”

  1. JWon 29 Feb 2012 at 11:36 am

    I wonder what would happen how real this transit apartheid would come to fruition had Measure R NOT passed?

    Metro – along with other transit agencies throughout the state – would be hurting a lot more than they are now. In addition the fact the with one fare payment all riders can ride on bus and rail is important in creating true equity for all passengers not the apartheid that is being used here.

  2. Kymberleighon 29 Feb 2012 at 2:09 pm

    You missed the point of this conference, which I also attended.

    This was a discussion on how we get the Measure R projects built faster than the 30 years Measure R provides, and what needs to be built in the next phase.

    Not all transportation conferences are about what you call the “basic conversation” of how people get from point A to point B. But without conferences on funding new transit projects, the answer to your question would end up being “they can’t … at least not efficiently.”

    Broaden your horizons, sir.

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