ALPERN AT LARGE--Mayor Garcetti, you have it within your power to enact first-rate reforms, or to enact first-rate failures. Or maybe a bit of both. But inasmuch as you've terrorized and betrayed Angelenos with misguided and misinterpreted methods of mayhem to enact some sort of "Vision Zero" policy, you have also brought on a courageous, common-sense, consultant to fix LA's transportation and infrastructure problems.
Mr. Mayor, just as so many of us had thought you were only going to use new-age ideologues like Nat Gale of the LADOT to destroy that once-venerable department and ram "change" down our collective throat (and not smart, innovative change), you also brought on another consultant, an Executive Advisor affiliated with the City Administrative Officer (CAO): Laila Alequresh.
I'll not mince words, Mr. Mayor: many Angelenos, certainly those of us who voted for you and for your transportation and homeless fundraising measures, feel betrayed and the victim of a bait-and-switch. Traffic is worse, and homelessness is on the rise, and everybody sees that, since those measures passed.
And while you certainly have the right to emulate your predecessor (who, when he left the mayoral post, was one of the most hated mayors in recent history because he, too, betrayed his constituents), and you certainly have the right to shove Councilmember Mike Bonin's career into harm's way (perhaps with Bonin's consent, perhaps not), you can't expect to remain popular.
The fight to ensure pedestrian/bicyclist rights and safety is a good one, but misusing Vision Zero in a manner to harm Mar Vista and the Westside with a Venice Blvd. "road diet" (which at best has done nothing with respect to safety but everything to ruin the Westside's, and particularly Mar Vista's, quality of life) is a brutal slap in the face to those who spent years improving that quality of life.
But Ms. Alequresh's assessment, in large part to prepare for the upcoming LA Olympics, was spot-on and as well-received by the Mar Vista Community Council as anything that ever came from your office.
We shouldn't have to have an Olympics to enact common sense in our Transportation/Infrastructure policies, but we should grab and embrace every opportunity we can get, and it does provide political cover to correct some of your less successful ideas, Mr. Mayor:
1) There are too many agencies that don't talk with each other, and each with their own independent and agenda-driven policies, involved with transportation/infrastructure. They need combination, and they need to be connected with computer and not pen/paper policies that prevent the left hand from working with the right.
It can even be concluded that LA street and transportation and infrastructure departments aren't just stuck in the 20th century, but in the 19th century. Add human nature to that mix, and we have as bad a set of circumstances as was our defense/security departments prior to 9/11. No one talks, and nothing gets done in an organized, efficient, and timely manner.
The typical story, and a big complaint ever since neighborhood councils were founded over fifteen years ago to change that story, is a major road repair followed by a dig of that newly-repaired road for sewage, electricity, or other infrastructure repairs.
2) The City meets and implements policy too frequently outside the public sphere, and efforts such as evening meetings would go a long way towards making sure that transparency and accountability by the civil service was an established paradigm for Los Angeles.
3) The City addresses budgetary and policy decisions without public/taxpayer input.
That includes everything from motorist, bus, bicycle, parking, sidewalk, and other infrastructure, as well as transportation impacts by homeless and RV/Camper proliferation on our streets and sidewalks.
4) There are multiple layers of transportation/infrastructure, with the bottom layer being the underground work of the LADWP. Their repairs and upgrades must be expedited BEFORE roads are repaired and resurfaced.
My own two cents is that--while the LADWP has been a source of ratepayer funds to all-too-frequently balance the City budget, that money would best go to an emergency repair of our infrastructure. THAT is what the City budget should be focusing on.
It's hoped that City employees wouldn't have to be fired, but some would almost certainly have to be reassigned. And it's doubtful that a few City employees have "fired themselves" and are in need of finding employment somewhere else.
5) Other major cities throughout the nation have combined their transportation and infrastructure departments, and our very own county Metro has streamlined and combined its operations for greater efficiency ... so why can't LA after all these years of citizen calls and outcry for reform?
There are plenty more suggestions that Ms. Alequresh raised, but for a brief moment it did appear that--by hiring Ms. Alequresh--that Mayor Eric Garcetti hadn't just "taken the money" from the transportation measures passed by the voters and run with it.
Ms. Alequresh provides us the opportunity to reclaim the promise of what Neighborhood Councils are supposed to be about--citizen input. She will provide an example to not only prepare for the Olympics, but to finally bring LA into the 21st Century.
So it falls on Mayor Garcetti to follow the example of Mayor Richard Riordan, who founded the Neighborhood Councils for more citizen input ... or to follow the example of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who gave lip service (at best) to Neighborhood Councils, and who really didn't give a rip about citizen input.
Your call, Mr. Garcetti.
You can help be part of the solution, or part of the obstruction to the solution, to fixing LA's Transportation/Infrastructure woes ... and to restoring the lack of faith of voters/taxpayers because of a leadership style that appears increasingly non-transparent and non-accountable to those who voted you in for another term in office.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)
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