Thu, Sep

California Has a Choice: The Road to Prosperity … or Road to Ruin


ALPERN AT LARGE--To the best of my knowledge, using a car, pushing for new options for mobility, wanting affordable home prices, advocating for better parks and schools, and questioning the quality of life for Angelenos and other Californians isn't against the law...yet.   

So suggesting that the local and state leaders who are screaming and diverting their collective outrage to protest our new President are no better, is it? Why scream about anti-environmental or other new policies coming from Washington when the local and state leaders are just as awful for our environment? 

Enter rising star Assemblymember Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) who just introduced AB 351 to restore billions of dollars back to California taxpayers through road improvements. 

Revenue generated from Vehicle Weight Fees were diverted to the General Fund due to the Great Recession, and AB 351 reallocates the estimated $1 billion Vehicle Weight Fee annual revenue back to the State Highway Account, which would be spent on the new construction, operations and repairs of highways and local streets. 

Of course, this would require our state to acknowledge a few things: 

1) While local and statewide rail and other mass transit projects are worthy and important to support, roads and highways are still worthy and important to support, too. 

2) Those non-transportation Sacramento special interests used to getting fed with transportation funds will have to be shoved away from their feeding troughs and find their meals elsewhere. 

3) Building roads, water storage facilities, and an enhanced electrical grid to keep up with rising needs are among the priorities that taxpayers want a lot more of--and if we don't do that, the middle class (on its way to extinction in California) will be more hurt than ever. 

Of interest is that the new Trump Administration values infrastructure spending more than just about any Republican presidency in recent history.  Only Eisenhower ranks as someone who valued infrastructure as much as President Trump, and it's safe to say that the "Republican Establishment" in Congress is both: 

1) Not on the same page as the President. 

2) Not on the same page as the taxpaying majority--including the Republican voting base. 

As might be expected, the 50 projects that the Trump Administration wants to tackle first are not as nice to California as it is to the East Coast and to the Midwest, which always get represented better to Congress than California...but of note is that the Huntington Beach water desalination plant has a very prominent role to Trump's infrastructure team

In other words, just because someone has a different point of view than the Democratic Orthodoxy in Sacramento doesn't mean that person (in this case, President Trump) is anti-environment...especially when that person also has a different point of view than the Republican Orthodoxy in Congress. 

And it should be remembered that liberal, Democratic California has no shortage of automobile users that won't be able to use mass transit to get their jobs any time soon. 

Assemblymember Melendez, a Republican, has the idea that we don't always need to pay MORE taxes to get more transportation funding...just spend the taxes the way they were promised to be spent. 

Both Republican and Democratic leaders in Los Angeles County just got behind two huge sales tax hikes for transportation, and we're no longer lagging behind other regions in transportation funding--in fact, we're a national leader. 

But wouldn't it be nice if Sacramento were to be as much of a partner for transportation funding as Washington, D.C. was during the Obama Administration?  Wouldn't it be nice to put Sacramento's political elites' collective feet to the fire as much as we do to politicians from Washington, D.C.?  

Our roads (and budding rail systems) are the cornerstone of our economic prosperity--without them we go nowhere--physically or economically.   

Conservative Orange County has more Metrolink service than L.A. County for a variety of reasons, and the more conservative San Gabriel Valley and San Bernardino/Riverside Counties are pushing for both more freeways AND the Gold Line Extension to Montclair and beyond...even to Ontario Airport! 

Liberal LA and SF both want more rail service and lines, but I don't see commuters and taxpayers complaining too much when the roads get fixed and the updates are done. 

Whether it's a road or a rail line, we're not going ANYWHERE until they get done/fixed first.  All the other stuff we divert this money to will, sooner or later, need to be either reduced in funding or funded in a more efficient (and sustainable!) manner. 

Unless you're a partisan political hack, most of us just don't care where the source of the funding comes from--we just want our transportation options preserved and enhanced. 

Some folks in this state love our new President, and many more probably do not.  However, in the middle of all the hullaballoo, maybe remembering how we're going to fix our doggone transportation, energy, and other infrastructure needs to be revisited, and with a focus on results to benefit our Economy, our Environment, and our Quality of Life.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  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 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 Dr. Alpern.)