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Getting Serious about LA’s Sidewalk Repairs: A Five-Point ‘Let’s-Get-On-with-It’ Plan

Ken Alpern
FIXING LA-Last Tuesday night's City Council Board of Public Works and Budget Committees met and allowed a lot of good public input to a series of concerned and available Councilmembers and City officials. The attendance and input were both outstanding--I want to thank Councilmember Mike Bonin, in particular, for allowing the outreach and advice to…

Latino Politicians Putting Climate Change Ahead of Constituents

Joel Kotkin
POLITICS-Racial and economic inequality may be key issues facing America today, but the steps often pushed by progressives, including minority politicians, seem more likely to exacerbate these divisions than repair them. In a broad arc of policies affecting everything from housing to employment, the agenda being adopted serves to stunt upward…

Worlds Apart on Kathryn Steinle: When Political Opportunism Reigns Supreme

John Mirisch
MUSING WITH MIRISCH-The small Swedish Jewish Museum in Stockholm is tucked away on a side street. Discreet signage instructs would-be visitors to push a button which activates a camera, so they can be screened before they are granted entry. The museum's permanent exhibition fills one fairly small room. Most of the objects on display are Jewish…

Garcetti Passes, Wesson Fails

Jack Humphreville
LA WATCHDOG-Our Los Angeles Times has issued midterm letter grades for Controller Ron Galperin (B-) and City Attorney Mike Feuer (B+) and will be posting grades for City Council President Herb Wesson this Sunday and Mayor Eric Garcetti the following Sunday. Our City is facing many difficult issues, ranging from a lagging economy, relatively high…

What LA Really Needs: A Part-time City Council and a Part-time Mayor!

Dennis Zine
JUST THE FACTS-There are so many serious and pressing problems facing the City of Los Angeles and few if any real solutions are being proposed or implemented by our elected and appointed leaders at City Hall. I will start with the current city budget. Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a $7.7 billion total budget in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.…

Why Don’t the City’s Women Managers Hire More Women?

Denyse Selesnick
MY TURN-Perusing the web is a little like the soap operas of yesteryear. You get suckered in! One link leads to another link and then one is exposed to a barrage both facts and idiocy. The reason for this discussion was my attending a July Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (VANC) meeting with the Department of Water and Power. General…

Cleaning Up LA City Hall: ‘It’s What’s Legal That’s the Problem’

Bob Gelfand
GELFAND’S WORLD-Everyone understands that developers own our city government. Sure, there are some officials here and there who are upright and independent, but recent history shows that the developers typically get their way in spite of public opposition. Whether it is a zoning change for an office tower or the required permits for a new mall,…

Not So Fast LA! Let’s Consider the Real Costs of Hosting the Olympics before We Jump In

Greg Nelson
SPORTS POLITICS-On Monday, Boston withdrew from its offer to be the nation’s bidder for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. In January, Los Angeles finished second to Boston when the U.S. Olympic Committee made its decision. After Boston was selected to polish up its bid before submitting it to the International Olympic Committee for a final decision,…

Party Crashing for Political Access: Schwarzenegger and My Pantsuit

Charlotte Laws
CALIFORNIA ACCESS POLITICS-Party crashing—or gate-crashing, as it is sometimes called—is an art form that I stumbled upon as a teen. I taught myself how to finagle into any event, anywhere, anytime. It required being part private eye, part actress and part chutzpah machine. I had to think outside of the box, throw myself into the role, and whip my…


Reynolds Rap Video: Joey has hope for the pope in Philly.

Art or Ad? LA’s mural law written in gray ink

Escape the Room-Conan goes for the record … and the laffs

LADWP Rates Overview







LADOT: Celebrating the Culture of Arrogance

RETHINKING LA - It’s late in the afternoon and Gary Leonard  is standing on 1st Street in the #2 lane, photographing a parked car and the light pole behind it, waving his arms and muttering as he takes pictures from different angles.

I recognize Gary, a local professional photojournalist who has been documenting the streets and neighborhoods of Los Angeles for the past thirty years. The last time I saw him he was standing in the middle of the street photographing participants in LA’s CicLAvia so I wasn’t surprised to see him standing in traffic.

Watching Gary work is always an enlightening experience and I stopped to watch the master at work, wondering if I would qualify as a subject for his famous “Take My Picture Gary Leonard” column but I had tough competition that day.

It turns out that Gary had just received a parking ticket, right outside  LA’s Department of Transportation’s headquarters, even though he had his media pass on the dashboard and was parked under a sign that specifically allowed media parking. He was furious.

As Gary snapped and ranted, I learned that parking tickets have become so common that they are now simply part of the cost of doing business in Los Angeles. Gary pointed out that to fight the ticket takes a half day of lost wages. “Who can afford to fight the LADOT?”

Just then I noticed the General Manager of the LADOT, Jaime de la Vega, walking from City Hall to the Thom Mayne designed Caltrans Building which is home to LA’s Department of Transportation. I pointed him out to Gary.

Much to de la Vega’s dismay, Gary was able to catch up with him and to plead his case, pointing out that the ticket in hand was just one of the many LADOT abuses of authority that is either a reflection of incompetence or arrogance, in either case unacceptable.

Gary’s experience on the streets of LA, right outside the LADOT Headquarters, is the type of incident that challenges the optimism found in City Controller Wendy Greuel’s latest audit of the LADOT.

As Greuel waxes poetic about the LADOT’s newfound commitment to innovation and efficiency under newly minted GM de la Vega, she completely misses the brutal reality of a department that has within it a culture of obstinance that is completely resistant to change.

This is the same department that can’t muster enough enthusiasm for Safe Routes to School to even turn in a complete roster of applications, falling far short of simply asking for the “Fair Share” of funding that Los Angeles would surely get if they simply participated in the Federal and State programs that are designed to support the safety of children who walk and ride bikes to school.

This is the same department that continues to install Bike Racks with the enthusiasm of Laurel and Hardy, complete with the incompetence but lacking the laugh track.

This is the same department that is proposing to rebuild a bridge, not because it needs rebuilding, not because it will result in a better bridge, but simply because it qualifies for funding.

This is the same department that brought a media company to town with the promise of Bike Share, just in time for a press conference during CicLAvia, even though the company had never worked with bikes before and they had nothing more than promises.

This is the same department that continues to embrace the philosophy of increasing speed limits on LA’s surface streets,  continuing the mythology of a 50 year-old speed trap law that results in streets that are increasingly hostile to pedestrians and cyclists, even as the Mayor embraces people powered transportation and California’s Complete Streets law goes into effect.

This is the same department that still perpetuates the crosswalk mythology that results in a hesitancy to install crosswalks and even results in the removal of crosswalks, all because of a misinterpretation of 25 year-old transportation study. This error is even codified on the LADOT’s website, giving Councilmembers ammunition to embrace the flaw and perpetuate the mistaken approach to supporting pedestrians.

Wendy Greuel’s latest audit came with a press release that is full of celebration, first from the City Controller, then from City Council Transportation Chair Bill Rosendahl, and finally from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Has the City of LA’s standard for performance dropped so low that we now celebrate the simple idea of improvement? Has the City Controller given up on actually measuring results and settled for celebrating effort?

The City of Los Angeles deserves a Department of Transportation that is firmly integrated with the other Departments that have a piece of the streets, from the LAPD to Public Works to Planning.

Shuffling the LADOT’s flow chart while allowing the Department to operate in its silo will only perpetuate the culture of arrogance that fuels LA’s Department of Transportation.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: You can also find him on Twitter and on Facebook.)

Tags: Stephen Box, Rethinking LA, Transportation, Los Angeles, LADOT, Los Angeles Department of Transportation

Vol 10 Issue 36
Pub: May 4, 2012