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Transactions, Transportation and Translation

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - So really, folks, what IS more fun—reaching for the stars, or cutting through the daily drivel and verbal debris being flung at us?  And who says we can’t do both?

For instance, Mayor Villaraigosa (with City Council approval) is delaying $100 million of city employee obligations such as overtime, sick time and early retirement benefits to “weather the Great Recession.”

TRANSLATION:  Perhaps for the nation and the world as well, but certainly for the City of Los Angeles, this is the Great Depression #2, and our brilliant elected are kicking this can to the next batch of pols to take the fall for what may be a huge and unavoidable bankruptcy for the City of Los Angeles.  Yes, our mess can be fixed … but it won’t be fixed right now!

Here’s another good one:  Bank of America is severing lines of credit to many small business owners who’ve used the bank’s lines of credit for years … unless these small business owners come up with some serious lump-sum payments. (Link)

TRANSLATION:  TARP program or not, B of A and other banks (but especially B of A, which is eating the Countrywide purchase that the federal government pushed on it) are facing another Great Depression and will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to avoid another bank failure like we saw in 2008-09 … and which occurred in the 1930’s.

TRANSLATION #2:  We may not see another repeat of 2008-09, but we ain’t outta the woods yet, and we’ll likely see a few shockers as everyone on Wall Street and Main Street get out from under their debt loads.  Whether it’s the bank around the corner or the neighbor down the street, there were too many folks living high on the hog and there are now too few folks who played by the rules—and who are now being forced to ultimately pay for each bank failure and home/business bankruptcy.

Closer to home, Denny’s (yes, Denny’s!!!) is raising their menu prices to help make up for increased commodity costs (fuel, foodstuffs, etc.).

TRANSLATION:  The world really IS going to hell.  Inflation is hitting everyone and everything (something that’s been around for at least a decade, no matter what figures came out of Washington).  Food and fuel costs have been going up for years, and there’s no way to get around that despite any political or big business gimmicks/spin.

Moving to the world of transportation, the San Fernando Valley-based Daily News is complaining that hot air, not trains, are being moved up and down the tracks of the future Exposition Light Rail Line, which is two years late and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. (Link)

TRANSLATION:  The Expo Line has its problems, but dammitall the Westside is getting a first-rate Light Rail while the Valley is stuck with a second-rate Busway!  Yeah, we call our cute bus line “the Orange Line”, but if we’d fought our own NIMBY’s and actually stood FOR something, we’d have knocked down the Robbins Bill and had a Light Rail, too!  And now that the Crenshaw Line has received approval from the Federal Transit Administration (link), just about everyone’s getting a Light Rail but us!

TRANSLATION #2:  The Expo Line does indeed have a laundry list of “lessons learned”, which will hopefully be learned for both the second phase of the Expo Line to Santa Monica and the future Crenshaw/LAX Line.  However, the Expo Line to Culver City (Venice/Robertson) really WILL open for service this year, and no one will remember these delays or problems any more than they do the delays or problems for the Gold Line.  

Finally, everyone’s favorite punching bag, as of late:  the once and future California High Speed Rail (CAHSR) has suffered yet another body blow.  A state-mandated panel has concluded that the high-speed rail program is “not financially feasible” and recommends delaying funding for the project, although Governor Brown’s office has signaled he won’t likely be swayed by the findings.

TRANSLATION:  It doesn’t matter that the current fiscal model of the CAHSR project is drawing increasing concern and scrutiny (and that’s from its supporters!), Governor Brown and other supporters want some jobs (and this project) right now and there will be no turning away of the money offered by Washington (and they claim the panel’s findings are nothing new).  

TRANSLATION #2:  Forget that private investors and other CAHSR supporters are pushing for prioritizing upgrades and construction at the San Francisco/San Jose and Los Angeles/Orange County regions, and not Central California, and forget that other CAHSR supporters are lowering the speed/commute time bar to reduce the costs and increase the viability of the CAHSR project … we will all learn a great lesson about The Perfect Being The Enemy Of The Good.

To conclude, there’s something transcendental about tying the translation of transportation transactions to the teetering tip of our titanic travesty of an economy … but it’s heartening to know we can take on the big issues and have a little fun as well.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

Tags: transportation, Bank of America, Denny’s, Great Depression, City Council, Mayor Villaraigosa, Daily News, Orange Line, NIMBYs, light rail, high speed rail, Gold Line, Expo

Vol 10 Issue 2
Pub: Jan 6, 2012