November 17, 2016 - From the November, 2016 issue

LA County Voters Approve Measure M: An Evergreen Tax Increase to Improve Traffic

On November 8, Los Angeles voters pledged to fund parks and open space, community college facilities, and housing for the homeless—not to mention an expansive traffic improvement plan for LA County, the most ambitious transportation infrastructure plan in North America. Measure M passed with 70 percent of the vote, providing a mandate to carry out LA Metro’s Traffic Improvement Plan and transform LA’s transportation system. Specific projects written into Measure M include a rail line to LAX, a tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass, and the expedited completion of the Purple Line extension to Westwood. To celebrate, county leaders reflecting the broad coalition of stakeholders who supported Measure M gathered at Union Station, where they emphasized the power of local political action even in the face of an uncertain national future. TPR presents highlights from the event featuring Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin, County Supervisor Hilda Solis, and West Hollywood councilmember Lindsey Horvath.


Eric Garcetti

As a millennial, my generation is getting out of cars and relying more on transit. This measure is an investment, not just for today, but for future generations. -Lindsey Horvath, West Hollywood City Councilmember

Eric Garcetti: It’s official, and we want to say it loud and clear: 70 percent of this county has said, “We are sick and tired of traffic, and we’re going to do something about it.” And last night, they helped us pass Measure M. The Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan is approved.

Here’s what the election tells us: that here in Los Angeles County, we know that we can’t look somewhere else to fix our problems. We have to do it ourselves, here.

We believe in ourselves. We invest in ourselves. This picture of what happens when people come together is powerful testimony, on a day like today, about who we are as Americans.

I spent the beginning of the day at the Los Angeles Fire Department with the latest graduating class. I said there that sometimes, we are so focused on who’s in the White House that we forget who’s in the firehouse; the people who serve us on our rail lines; the people who are our bus drivers; the people who clean our streets; the people who affect our lives every single day, day in and day out. It’s where our democracy begins and ends, in many ways.

They say all politics is local. Here in Los Angeles, the politics were brave, they were strong, they were bold and ambitious, and, as of last night, they were successful.

Here in Los Angeles County, the coalition for Measure M brought together business and labor; senior advocates and transit advocates; people who walk, people who bicycle, people who drive, and people who ride; people who knew that we needed a recession-proof plan for jobs; and people who said, “I want to have some more time to tuck my kids into bed,” or to make that job interview, or to see the Dodgers.

People who live with hope on their minds, and not despair, voted with those hopes and came together. We took on an everyday challenge that people said was insurmountable. Today, we can stand here and say that Los Angeles is leading the nation.

In fact, of the transportation measures that passed—and many did nationwide—Los Angeles’s passage of Measure M accounts for more than 50 percent of all the local transportation dollars. It’s an incredible thing, not just for Los Angeles County, but for this country.

Measure M will make it easier for us to have a better quality of life here in Los Angeles County. It means potholes filled and intersections repaired where we live, and let us get to the lines that we’re building and the freeways that we’re improving.

Measure M means paychecks for 465,000 people to have middle-class jobs making things in America, right here. It means making things better—not just the material things, but also meeting the spiritual needs that we have as human beings, to spend time with one another and not to just be stuck in traffic.

Let me take a moment to highlight the person who’s going to be getting the job done for us now that the voters have passed it. As all of us on the Metro Board looked for a leader who could help us in this city, we found one in Phil Washington.

It was a unanimous vote when we hired him to be our CEO. There was no doubt in our minds that we could look to him to get jobs done because we had seen it happen in Denver, where he helped pass a successful ballot measure, and where he had the first public-private partnership in the nation move people from Downtown Denver to the airport—11 years quicker and at 70 percent of the cost. When Washington, an army veteran, came here to bring those years of experience, we knew that we’ve never had a better leader.

But what made Measure M great is that it started with all of you—the stakeholders. Michael Antonovich, in the midst of his own campaign for reelection to the Board of Supervisors, campaigned tirelessly for Measure M. Long before we even had something called Measure M, he put a process forward for listening, in every city and every region of this county, and for asking, “What are your priorities? What would you fix?” He ensured that there was a formula that was based on population.

To my friends who might have been on the other side of this issue for the last few months, I say to you: We’re going to work with you.

We had great supporters in the southeast cities and the South Bay. But for those who didn’t support us, it doesn’t matter whether you’re with us or against us; we want to fix problems because our people work in those cities, even if they live in ours, and vice versa: Your people may live in your cities and work in ours. It’s time for us to connect the dots, to bring the pieces together, and to get the job done.

I want to congratulate Supervisor Hilda Solis and all the county supervisors on the passage of Measure A, our parks measure. In the city of LA, we also passed Measure HHH. In the community college district, Measure CC went forward. People understand that good education, open space, transportation, jobs, addressing our housing crisis and our homelessness crisis—these things go together.

I always say that transit is the prism through which we refract all of these things: to get to that open space, to be able to have housing close to where we have transportation, and to reduce the environmental impact and clean up our air. The reason we have this coalition is that people got it, and put those pieces together.

But we know there’s a new reality. It didn’t happen last night with the election; the days of Uncle Sam showing up with a checkbook and saying, “Tell us what you need and we’ll fill your empty hat up to the top,” have long been gone. We know that we have to bring something to the table now, and I’m excited to continue to do that, even with a new administration and a new Congress.

We’ve been taking trips back and form to Washington, D.C. We’ve had champions like Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and I know we will in Kamala Harris as well. We have friends like Representative Schuster, who is a Republican who loves Los Angeles and is invested in it, and Senator Inhofe, who I’ve sat down with many times, who says, “I’m the strictest reader of the Constitution, and it does say we’re supposed to do transportation.”

Hillary Clinton had a plan for infrastructure, and Donald Trump said his would be even bigger. We’re going to hold him to that, because we want to see a bipartisan consensus to invest in transportation across this nation, and we’re going to lead the way right here from LA.

The car capital of the world will soon be home to a transit system that is the envy of the world—one that spans the full breadth of this county, from Claremont to Torrance, from LAX to Norwalk, from Artesia to the north San Fernando Valley, and everywhere in between. We’re going to be able to reduce the crush of the time we spend in traffic by 15 percent, add half a million new jobs, and fix and fill those potholes in our neighborhoods.

People say it’s a long way off, but you’re going to start seeing the results immediately. In our city, we’re going to be able to pave 50 percent more streets. We’re going to see intersections approved. We have projects queued up and ready.

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Operation Shovel Ready, led by Phil Washington, means that all over this county, things have already been accelerated. Companies have stepped up by coming to us and saying, “Let’s take some years or even decades off the date that you put on the ballot, because we can get it done faster.” We’ll keep moving in that direction of getting things done, because we believe still in Los Angeles. We have faith in each other, in our ability to build, and in our ability to move.

It is a tough day for many people, and a celebratory day for others. Many people are asking where we can begin to breathe some hope back into our democracy. I would say: right here. Here, where it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or what country you were born in, how or where you worship God, or who you love. Here in Los Angeles, we say, “Let’s just get to work.”

Let’s fix the problems, and let’s do it together. Across the aisle, across the county, across the ages and the years, it is time for us to move Los Angeles forward and to get the job done.

 Hilda Solis: We all went hand-in-hand—mano a mano—to fortify this project moving ahead. That’s why the voters spoke with a resounding yes.

A couple years ago, I wasn’t on the same page with the program. But there’s accountability. There’s transparency. And there was a grassroots, bottom-up approach; it wasn’t top-down. That’s what made the difference.

I commend all the groups who worked hard and came to every single meeting we had. M is for Mighty Power!

Paul Krekorian: At a time when our country has grown weary of the negativity of national political campaigns, the people of Los Angeles made a clear and loud statement about their positive view of our future by passing Measure M.

At a time when our country is at its most divided in our lifetimes, people came together around this measure in overwhelming numbers in Los Angeles. Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, small business communities and environmentalists, elderly and young, all came together around this common vision. And I have to say: it didn’t happen by accident.

There was a time when this very board was known for its divisions. There was a time when some of the stakeholder groups who are here today fought against one another. But, in large measure due to Mayor Garcetti’s leadership, this board has come together in a way that people don’t remember it being in years. The county, the city, and the other cities who are part of this coalition have worked together for this common purpose.

The ancient Greeks said that a society grows great when old people plant trees the shade of which they know they will never rest in. By passing Measure M, the people of Los Angeles sent a message that we’re going to build transit projects that our grandchildren will ride in. By voting yes on Measure M, you all helped our society to grow great.

Mike Bonin: This win was about leadership—collective leadership, but particularly the leadership of Eric Garcetti. He spent time with the South Gate COG; he spent time in the Gateway Cities; he spent time in all far reaches of Los Angeles County. He was out driving the freeways way out past the farthest stretches of the Gold Line.

Mayor Garcetti’s leadership was tremendous, and it’s important to note that this wouldn’t have happened without him. He may be the mayor of Los Angeles, but he’s the leader of Los Angeles County.

The other reason for the win is the different grassroots organizations. We often talk about labor and the Chamber of Commerce. But I want to note Move LA, Climate Resolve, and the grassroots activists who lived in our neighborhoods who were dreaming of mass transit and demanding mass transit before elected officials got on this page. They’re the real visionaries. They’re the ones whose dream came true last night, and we’re making come true today.

After last night’s election results, a friend of mine, like many people, asked what the future holds. I struggled to find something optimistic to say based on the national returns. Then I remembered that, when I moved to Los Angeles 26 years ago, I didn’t mean to stay here. I was passing through. But I fell in love with this city and this region because I could sense very clearly that this was the future of the United States. Demographically, economically, and in terms of energy and imagination, this region was a looking glass into the future.

What we showed last night is that Los Angeles, and therefore the future of this country, is willing to put partisanship aside to get things done. It is willing to invest in solution. It is willing to imagine an optimistic, hopeful, and better future. That’s the thing that gives me hope this morning.

Lindsey Horvath: Bringing a lot of diverse perspectives and priorities together is no easy task. The diverse coalition that came together is why this measure passed.

It’s exciting as a millennial former mayor and current councilmember. Our generation is getting out of cars and relying more on transit, and this measure is an investment, not just for today, but for future generations. On behalf of our generation, I want to thank everyone who will be investing in this infrastructure.

This is a perfect example of good government: Not only are we investing in infrastructure today, but we’re investing in infrastructure that will carry us forward in ways that people can trust.

People ask how we are going to fulfill the promises of Measure R. We are, because of this measure. How are we going to increase ridership? How are we going to make sure that this system, once it’s built, is going to be maintained? We’ve done those studies, and this measure has taken that into account.

This is the way we win people’s trust: We keep politics local, and we do it right.

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© 2017 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.