- Written by Ken Alpern
04 Nov 2011
ALPERN AT LARGE - From Greece to Washington to the Golden State, everyone has their own ideas and plans to restore the economy, but what won’t be tolerated anymore—and this is probably the one good thing about our ongoing economic nightmare—is the lack of credibility that any political party or lobby group must suffer if their ideas don’t have a sound fiscal balance sheet.
The nation of Greece is a small but frighteningly accurate example of what happens when too many promises are exacted without an ability to truly pay for them. Whether the Greeks opt to pull out of the euro or pay back the other nations of Europe who have been dragged towards a rescue plan to rescue them from their entitlement economy, it is the mindset—and the accompanying credibility—of the Greeks that is ultimately at play.
Similarly, our own nation, state, county and city all have painful but necessary questions to ask as we choose to address the desires of seniors versus the needs of children, and as we choose to support those playing by the rules versus those who for whatever rationalized excuse choose not to play by the rules, and as we choose to support sustainable fiscal policy versus unsustainable fiscal policy.
For example, what we can’t do is pursue any economic, environmental or quality-of-life policy without a balance sheet that drives us into the red—that means jobs before benefits, and a net outflow of money that can pay for all the nice things we want in life. The question of oil independence versus the pursuit of cost-effective alternate energy sources, and the question of how fast we should switch to alternate fuels, drives us all to ask which interest groups make sense, and which are just greedy, and which are just clueless, and which are just plain misanthropes.
Furthermore, the question of pensions and benefits will dog both Mayor Villaraigosa and Governor Brown, and their successors, because the mindset of those who believe they’re “entitled” to retire in their fifties (despite excellent health) must be weighed against those who’ve got legitimate medical needs to work less, and weighed against those who’ve become legitimately disabled by heart conditions, cancer or neurological diseases.
As a physician, I am well aware of the ample literature and experience that documents both the unfair genetic and random influences that fell some individuals in their forties and fifties, versus the benefits of a good lifestyle and blessed genetic background that allows strong health into one’s seventies and eighties. I am also aware that those who do not exercise their bodies and minds will suffer for that, so the economic need to encourage part-time or even full-time employment as late into life as possible has some significant health benefits (and credibility) as well.
And whether it’s Halloween or tourism, it’s clear that enjoying a decent quality of life makes sense both for the mental health and economic health of our county, state and nation. So we need not fight back to prosperity with a frown on our face.
Moving to transportation (my own personal interest), the question is whether the new $98 billion price tag for a long-sought California High Speed Rail to be completed in 2033 still has the credibility as when it was passed by the voters for $30-40 billion with a completion date of 2020. (Link)
So here’s a cute question to pose, coming from a High Speed Rail supporter like myself: would voters choose to instead devote the voter-approved $10 billion in bonds for High Speed Rail for grade separations and upgrades to Caltrain and Metrolink along their most heavily-ridden routes, and opt for an indefinite delay on High Speed Rail?
Here’s another question: how expensive was/is the very successful Acela rail in the Northeast, versus our proposed California High Speed Rail?
And yet another question: with our prison costs ballooning out of control as well, would it be prudent to have nonviolent offenders earn time off and simultaneously reduce our labor costs by having them work on these infrastructure projects?
Moving closer to home, we’ve got a Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line that currently favors hundreds of millions of dollars for a Mid-City tunnel (for which every Metro and transportation expert I’ve heard reject as cost-ineffective) over a Westchester station that would help complete the “mission” of this line—which is to tie the South Bay, the LAX, the Westside and the Mid-City communities together from both a mobility and economic standpoint.
So if the Westchester community (and adjacent city of Inglewood) is willing to lose its long-sought elevated Manchester/Aviation station because of the $80 million price tag, shouldn’t it be allowed the credibility of pursuing a $15-20 million at-grade (ground level) station at Hindry/Florence to be potentially built by bidding contractors for the Crenshaw/LAX line?
On a related note, we’ve got a rather low-budgeted Green Line to LAX ($200 million, which is probably insufficient) that had language in Measure R (placed by the late Senator Jenny Oropeza) to get the Green Line to Lot C and thereby create a small Westside stub of the Green Line that could be extended into the north-south equivalent of the Expo or Wilshire rail lines. Will we have the credibility to create a project that serves LAX, the Century Blvd. Corridor AND Westchester (with a Sepulveda/Lincoln station)?
And finally, LA World Airports is really getting a lot of pressure from this Green Line to LAX Project to follow through with its decades-old promise to build a LAX People Mover from Century/Aviation to the Central Terminal Area.
For the sake of the collective credibility of LA World Airports, Metro, the LADOT and taxpayers throughout the Southland, I certainly hope so.
Tags: Greece, Governor Brown, Mayor Villaraigosa, pensions, High Speed Rail, LAX
Vol 9 Issue 88
Pub: Nov 4, 2011