Monthly Archives: April 2010
Few would want to be in Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s shoes. The Mayor, a tireless ally of public employee unions through his career is in the uncomfortable position of being forced to choose between his allies and the taxpayers. To his credit, as hard as it is, the Mayor seems inclined to favor the interests of the citizens who the city was established to serve in preference to the interests of those who are employed to serve the people. But the circumstances place the Mayor of having to approach the city’s unions with an inappropriateness that lays bare fundamental flaws in the public sector collective bargaining arrangements that have emerged over the past one-half century.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) has produced a housing and transportation index (the "H&T Index"), something that has been advocated by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The concept is certainly worth support. Affordable housing and mobility are crucial to the well-being of everyone, which translates into a better quality of life, more jobs and economic growth. Surely, much of the internationally comparatively high standard of living enjoyed by so many middle and lower income households in the United States has resulted from inexpensive housing (often on the urban fringe) and the ability to access virtually all of the urban area by quick and affordable personal transportation.
CNT has developed an impressive website, with "tons" of data and maps that are both impressive and attractive. But for all of its superficial impressiveness, the H&T Index is subject to serious misinterpretation and suffers from methodological flaws that neutralize the usefulness of its affordability indices.
Re the article on Portland:
(1) Portland long ago exceeded Los Angeles in sprawl. According to the United States Bureau of the Census, the population density of the Portland urban area (agglomeration or area of continuous development) is one-half that of Los Angeles. Indeed, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are almost as dense (See: http://demographia.com/db-ua2000pop.htm).
(2) The article makes the not usual mistake about mixing up the "city" or municipality and the larger urban area. The municipality, of which Mr. Adams is mayor, represents less than a declining 1/3 share of the urban area population. However, by neither definition is Portland the fastest growing in the west. As a municipality, Portland has trailed Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle, Sacramento, Tucson and others in population growth between 2000 and 2008. The latest data for the Portland metropolitan area (the labor market area, which includes the urban area) indicates that even between 2007 and 2008, Portland trailed a number of western metropolitan areas in Population growth.
Moreover, the article is clearly written from the perspective of Portland’s core (which is much smaller even than the city). In fact, a quick trip to the suburbs in the eastern part of the city, or to the suburbs that surround the city will show an urban landscape little different than in any other American urban area, except that it will generally be less compact than the suburbs of, say, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, etc. The exception, of course, is the hyper dense new developments that are sandwiched into vacant lots and do nothing whatever to change the transportation dynamic of the area. Indeed, for all the "ease" with which transit can serve Portland, it is especially notable that the share of people using transit to get to work is smaller today than it was in 1980, before the area began spending billions in developing its light rail system.
Greece and Los Angeles are up against a financial wall. Los Angeles had its bond rating cut on April 7. Greece managed to hold out until April 9. Greece has endured public employee strikes as it has attempted to reign in bloated public payrolls. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa drew the ire of the city’s unions and city council opposition in proposing two-day a week furloughs for city employees.
A Bankrupt Los Angeles?
Most recently, the context of discussions has been an expected $73 million payment to the city from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). Mayor Villaraigosa raised the possibility of a city bankruptcy if the payment was not received.
Los Angeles officials hope to convince Congress take the unprecedented step of having the US Treasury to front money for building the area’s planned 30 year transit expansions in 10 years instead. The money would be paid back from a one-half cent sales tax (Measure R), passed by the voters in 2008. That referendum required 35% of the new tax money to be spent on building 12 rail and exclusive busway transit lines.
Measure R was not the first instance of Los Angeles officials committing to spend 35% of a new one-half cent sales tax on new transit lines.
Proposition a: the Start of it All
In 1980, County Supervisor and Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC) chairman Kenneth Hahn, whose district included low-income south Los Angeles, made a last-minute proposal (Note 1) to place a half-cent sales tax on the ballot to lower bus fares to $0.50. No funding would have been provided for rail.