Sat, Apr

Lies, Disrespect Will Derail Transportation Funding


TRANSPORTATION POLITICS--This is neither the first nor last time I will emphasize that American voters, taxpayers, consumers, or just about anyone reasonable will have a problem either paying more to get more, or being flexible and adaptable for unexpected delays or cost overruns when it comes to transportation, health care, education, the homeless, or anything else...but NO ONE tolerates being lied to or disrespected when it comes to our hard-earned and precious money, safety and time. 

As both a physician (dermatologist) and a transportation/community advocate, I believe that acting with credibility and honor is the best way to ensure that our fellow human beings are treated with respect, and that we can most likely get something in return when it's needed (like better health care and transportation spending). 

If we need more spending, then do it!  But how often is it simply a manner of spending WELL and with an operating policy of being sensitive versus tone-deaf to those doing the spending? 

After all, if the argument can be made that we need to spend more on a given priority or project, then most people will do it if they at all possibly can.  But diverting any reasonable argument or complaint with a "wordstuffing" or a suggestion that the person complaining is making an argument completely different, and completely unreasonable, than the actual argument being made just is WRONG.  And it'll backfire. 

CASE IN POINT #1:  As per my last CityWatch article, the concern and fury behind me and my family being LIED TO by United Airlines for up to three days after repeated requests, and complaining about lousy and inadequate operational management in its Midwest/Southern operations got me both: 

1) A slew of private responses stating that--yes--United really IS lousy with respect to operations and ATTITUDE towards their customers (and probably their workers, too), compared to other domestic U.S. airlines. Furthermore, American and Southwest have made advances in the domestic air commuter market because they're more efficient, and really are trying to achieve better customer service with a more professional and kind approach to their paying customers. 

2) A gaggle of trolls (probably paid and/or butthurt airline workers) who all said the same thing--that weather is something we can't avoid, and to "get used to it or don't fly".  As if I, a physician, would ever promote unsafe travel!  As if a reasonable delay of luggage arrival isn't understandably going to happen at times! 

But if United's Houston hub will be shut down by a two-hour rain storm, and the other airlines won't be, then maybe United Airlines needs to have a smackdown in the marketplace with other, BETTER airlines that actually do give a damn about their customers, and who won't lie and lie and LIE about when planes will leave and arrive, and when luggage will truly arrive and leave an airport, in a manner that distinguishes them from other competing airlines.   

Honesty is the best policy, after all...and the private sector won't tolerate inhumane treatment when there are other choices to make. 

CASE IN POINT #2:  The public sector, while it is more often than not a monopoly (and an onerous one, at that), must also treat their "paying clientele" (you know, the TAXPAYERS) with regards to honesty and transparency and respect. 

It is neither honest, nor transparent, nor respectful, to knowingly LIE through one's teeth about how the California High-Speed Rail's "competitiveness" with an air flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Those suckering the rest of us with respect to speed, cost-effectiveness, convenience, and viability of a LA/SF high-speed rail never did apologize to the taxpayers... 

...and the public relations of that entire project threatens the entire future of intercity/commuter rail, which is an endeavor that our state really MUST pursue (LINK: ).  When Governor Brown leaves office, expect a slowdown--or even shut down--of funding for the High-Speed Rail project by less rigid governors who realize that other transportation projects need funding first. 

Yet we DO need a high-speed rail, or at least higher-and-more-frequent intercity rail network in our state! 

But NOT for the LA-SF connection.  As I learned when I had to give a lecture in Bakersfield, there is NO nonstop flight to/from Bakersfield and LAX, Ontario, Orange County, Burbank or any other local possibility.  Fresno is also an obnoxious commute and problem.  My commute yesterday between my Temecula clinic and Bakersfield was by car--very inefficient, and very exhausting. 

And for THIS we should blame the CA High-Speed Rail ninnies who should have always shut their pieholes about a speed and operational impossibility between LA and SF, and who should have emphasized the inability for Central Californians to access either northern and southern California with efficiency and ease. 

If or when we get a High-Speed Rail, we will NOT have most of the commuters going from Northern to Southern CA, or vice versa--most of those commuters will be going from SF or Sacramento to Fresno or Merced, or from the LA Basin to Bakersfield. 

Already we see high ridership on the Amtrak service between LA, Anaheim and San Diego--and with more and faster trains, we'd see more.  Because it just makes sense--check out the proposed CA High-Speed Rail route

And on THIS issue, the governor is to blame--the airlines will not fly more if it's not cost-effective to go to/from Central CA...but they WOULD help with the costs if a pitch could be made to emphasize the smaller commutes that airlines can't profitably do, instead of compete with (and probably antagonize) airlines who do a pretty decent job of getting to/from Northern and Southern CA. 

CASE IN POINT #3:  No, I do NOT have a hard heart for the homeless--and I really don't know just about ANYBODY with a heart and/or brain who does.  I treat the homeless, and fight for the homeless when I can.   

So I'll keep this brief.  But if the City and County of LA wants to grab state emergency funds, and spend all kinds of money, good after bad, to address the homeless emergency before our utilities and sidewalks and basic services are funded--at the expense of the same taxpayers who are screaming for their taxes to pay for our critically-necessary infrastructure...they will fail. 

Taxpayers will revolt, and maybe not spend more on needed transportation initiatives, because they do NOT like to be disrespected.  No one likes to be disrespected.  Or lied to.  Or "wordstuffed" into saying they don't care about the homeless, or that they don't care about the infrastructure mess our government leaders got us into. 

No one knows if November will be a success or failure for the transportation initiatives our society needs to pass to deal with a half-century of underinvestment in our infrastructure (so vital for our economy, environment, and quality of life!). 

But if November IS a failure, then our government leaders will suffer the same fate as United Airlines inevitably will if it dehumanizes and disrespects and lies and diverts the taxpaying, voting public. 

I've worked with enough honest, sincere and moral leaders (LA Councilmember Mike Bonin and Former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane come to mind) to know that we CAN get the right message to the voters.  But sadly enough, they're in the minority of our so-called leadership. 

And we'll all suffer as a result--because whether it's the private or public sector, it's always, always, ALWAYS management who creates a successful or failed operational business or government endeavor.


(Ken Alpern is 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 is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. 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 Mr. Alpern.)


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