Tue, May

Los Angeles in Crisis: A Candid Assessment of City Failures and Metro's Financial Fiasco


GUEST COMMENTARY - A few observations of the current state of our city before I get into the further adventures of the Squanderettes (Stephanie, Nicole & Sharon) who lead the Bungling Bureaucratic Buffoons (BBB) of Metro (merchandise to follow). I don't want anyone telling me I'm mean--they have earned this designation. It’s time for truth and candidness. 

1. Our Mayor, Karen Bass, has offered to have the City pay for an independent audit of the City's homelessness programs. Kudos to her for opening these programs up to transparency. That's a great suggestion that should also be applied to Metro---one can only wonder what an independent audit would find. 

2. Los Angeles ranks #1 in retail theft in America---the policies of George Garcon (catering to criminals) who is the County's DA--I mean Gascon--are an unequivocal disaster for our city. He received only about 25% of the vote in the primary----in November he needs to lose the election--and as they say in baseball terms--Throw the Bum Out!!! Without merchants and shopping centers, cities become ghost towns. This is a statistic we should all be embarrassed by and needs to fixed as soon as possible. A new DA would be a good start. 

3. California ranked dead last in America in job growth last year---which is definitely sad. On the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) website (for LA), it states that they want to build a world where "everyone can live a life of dignity, free from injustice and capitalist exploitation." How about a life free from being paid and having jobs that pay them. There isn't one Fortune 500 Company that has its corporate headquarters in LA--which says it all. No headquarters--no jobs.  There must be a balance ---- making it easier for companies to do business here--increase our tax base--and provide many of the social programs that people need. If the pendulum is out of balance, this is what happens when it swings too far to one side where it is today---jobs leave, people leave, tax base becomes smaller--which leads to fewer social programs. It's time for a wakeup call and bring sane, common-sense solutions to our city. 

4. The Measure ULA tax has been an unmitigated disaster for the City. Propagated by misinformation from certain politicians (thank you, Nithya), it has cost the city construction projects and thousands of jobs. For those of you who don't know, it applies to all construction projects, both residential and commercial. It puts 5½% transfer tax on all transactions over $10M---which covers all major projects---it doesn't take into consideration cost or basis--so you can lose money on a major project and still be required to pay the tax. Both the Federal and State Government take into consideration basis--so you pay tax on the gain--not on losses. This bit of idiocy was thought up by a professor at Accidental University (oops--I mean Occidental University) -- another example of an academic's lack of common sense and understanding of the real world. 

5. Measure HLA just passed---ok---but before we worry about making the streets safe for Bicycles---how about we make them safe for cars---Los Angeles is pothole central--every day, tens of thousands of dollars are spent on fixing tires, suspension systems, rims etc.  The truth is that we have 3rd world roads--maybe we can make them a tourist attraction!!! It's time to fix and repave every road in Los Angeles--that should be an absolute priority. The funds could come from Metro---but not let any of their executives supervise the project. 

Now let me share with you an analysis of a current project prepared by Metro's crack accountants--or its their accountants on crack--it’s really hard to differentiate. It's one of the innumerable reasons why the information Metro distributes cannot be trusted and is consistently inaccurate. 

The project is the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project--a 9.2-mile street level light rail line that will run from the Orange Line busway on Van Nuys Blvd north to the Sylmar Metrolink station. 

 A. It’s a Measure M Project---original cost estimated was $1.33 billion in 2015--completion of the project was scheduled to be in 2027. 

B. Currently Metro has split the project into 2 segments 

C. The 6.7-mile southern segment will be built first with 11 stations at an estimated cost of $3.64B--almost THREE times the original cost of the entire project (all numbers used here have been supplied by Metro) 

D. Completion for the first segment is now slated for 2031--FOUR YEARS after the original completion date for the whole project. 

E. Metro is still designing the 2.5-mile northern segment--expected to be completed before year's end--no estimated cost or completion date yet---based on same cost per mile an additional $1.3 billion---project will cost approximately $5 billion -- almost FOUR TIMES THE ORIGINAL COST---with a completion date (unannounced) --but 2036-2037 is a realistic estimate--10 years later than originally planned. 

Anyone angry yet? How about common sense, fiscal responsibility, competence, and accountability for all.  

These numbers and figures are accurate--astounding but accurate. People should be upset--how long is this secretive, slothful, and incompetent agency be allowed to continue as its presently constituted. 

To all the members of Metro's current Board--I make the following request--ask Metro to produce for you all the emails that are currently redacted that we asked for. There's nothing in them that are trade secrets or confidential---but there are reasons--one can only imagine--why they don't want any of us to see them. My instincts are they will not give them to you---you are their Board and have an absolute right to demand them. Metro has operated for so long as an unaccountable, inept, secretive organization that they believe they are immune from providing the information. Time is not on their side. I'm sure you have all seen Bob Anderson's response to Metro as they have substantially avoided answering his questions also--just bureaucratic babble. Metro believes it only answers to itself--which is why their performance is pathetic--and Stephanie Wiggins needs to be replaced as CEO. 

One last point--while the Squanderettes claim they don't know the costs for the STC Follies--they actually do know the approximate costs--but Stephanie and her crew would rather keep lying and misinforming the public----in the public markets, the class action attorneys would be having a field day.  One of Metro's project managers admitted to me that by the time the project starts, tunneling will be a minimum of $2 billion a mile---so do the math--12 to 13 miles of tunnel in any of the underground solutions--a minimum of $24 billion to $26 billion--real numbers --of which they currently have approximately $8 billion --and I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt (some articles say $6 billion). So based on their track record of futility, it’s not unreasonable that this project could cost 2 to 3 times current estimates--so $40 billion to $60 billion (no joke) and not be completed until 2050 or later. One must judge them on their track record or lack of one. A realistic (not delusional) comprehensive cost benefit analysis of the Sepulveda Transportation Corridor (done by an independent third party) would most likely lead to the conclusion that all tunnel options are impractical and would be obsolete on completion. 

More to follow---but isn't it time for ACCOUNTABILITY!! 

(Fred Rosen is a retired businessman who resides in Los Angeles.)