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The Shameful Park Mesa Heights Betrayal

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URBAN VOICES - At last Thursday’s MTA Board meeting, the Board approved the Metro staff’s recommendation to award the over $1 billion contract for the construction of the Crenshaw-LAX Corridor Line to Walsh-Shea Corridor Contractors.  This was done with no formal presentation by the Metro staff and no questions asked about the contractor’s qualifications. I know, I was there with nearly 300 members of the South Los Angeles community to witness and protest the awarding of the contract.  

Why were we protesting?  Because many of us feel the MTA staff did not allow contractors to bid the line as the community wanted. 

Why didn’t the Board want to see the presentation by the staff? Is this usual?  

Two years ago in May 2011, over 600 community members stood together in that same Board room, along with elected officials and over 5,000 letters, to back Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion to add a Leimert Park Village Station AND put the line underground in my Park Mesa Heights community. The Park Mesa Heights tunnel corrects a flawed policy that would build the line “at grade,” i.e., at street level from 48th through the Slauson intersection. 

That motion failed when only three board members (Ridley-Thomas, Gloria Molina and Antonovich) voted Yes. The motion would have passed had Mayor Villaraigosa and his three appointees given their support. Later that year, I attended a presentation by Mark Ridley-Thomas to the New Frontier Democratic Club organization where he publicly admitted he was undermined in his effort. 

Two years have passed. Each month the community asked the Board to amend the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) so an underground option could be considered. It was not amended.  

Despite the Board’s intransigence, contractors came to community meetings and listened. At least one contractor offered an Alternative Technical Concept (ATC) in which the undergrounding could be done within the overall budget. In fact, the staff report states that three out of the four contractors submitted ATCs to bid the tunnel. However, MTA staff did not approve the ATCs.  

Over 100 people voiced their concerns last Thursday to the Board in our time for public comment, requesting the Board let the contractors bid with the Park Mesa Heights tunnel.  Many of the Board and staff stepped away for coffee breaks or discussed other business, not listening to the public. 

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas virtually sat alone for 100 minutes to take that testimony. But when the time came to ask questions about the ATCs the entire Board-including Ridley-Thomas-was silent. 

The Board was clearly willing to question the staff about the contract in other areas. Supervisor Don Knabe seriously questioned staff’s request for the Board to increase the dollar amount of change orders that staff could approve without requiring Board approval from MTA’s standard $500,000 to $10 MILLION. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and the Board Chair Mike Antonovich thanked Knabe for pointing it out and the Board denied that staff request. But the questions that 300 members of his community wanted asked went unanswered because Ridley-Thomas stood silent. There was no presentation and no questions. 

Why didn’t Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas ask questions that so affect the community he represents? Does he expect his silence to erase evidence of his failure on the tunnel 2 years ago? Why does MTA Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas refuse publicly to ask the questions of MTA staff that his constituents are asking? 

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, you don’t need votes to voice your opinion or ask questions. You did your constituents and the taxpayers of the county an injustice. Were you so scared that the Board wouldn’t allow the construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line to go forward if the staff’s recommendation was questioned?  When, if not in a public meeting, are you, the Board and staff accountable for their service to the people? 

 

(Dale Ann Stieber is a resident of the Park Mesa Heights/Crenshaw Community.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 53

Pub: July 2, 2013

 

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