Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Love Transportation? Tell Congress

Mayor Eric Garcetti at a campaign rally
Hello Everyone:

Technical issues banished, Blogger escaped the pre-Passover madness to bring you the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  The subject for today is funding cuts to transportation.

Laura Bliss tells us, in her CityLab article "Hey Transit Fans: Worry About Congress, Not Trump," that despite newly re-elected Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's (D) transportation ambitions, Congress may derail his plans.  Los Angeles is a growing metropolitan region and reliable, safe, affordable transportation is crucial to the region's growth.  Ms. Bliss writes, "The Democrat will continue to shepherd  the city through Measure M, a $121 billion transit initiative that passed overwhelmingly at November's ballots."  Measure M ( would bring "Hundreds of miles of new rail connections, bus-rapid transit lines, and robust bike infrastructure improvements...over the next 40 years."  Sounds like a bright future for Los Angeles, right?  Well, not exactly.  Read on.

Mayor Garcetti speaking with VICE Media reporter
    Most of the funds to pay for this grand transportation scheme will come local taxpayers, the projects are dependent on a massive federal  funding infusion.  Only one problem, Los Angeles remains an attraction for immigrants and "nearly one in ten people living the country is believed to be undocumented.  VICE News reported in a video posted on,

...which could make things awkward... 

President Donald Trump has threatened to defund any city that refuses to cooperated with federal immigration enforcement.  To date, Mayor Garcetti has refused to identify L.A. as a sanctuary city although he has promised to

...all Angelenos feel, safe, secure and welcome in our community...

He has also been critical of the President's travel bans and immigration policies.  The VICE video suggests, "To accomplish his 'signature initiative,'...the mayor will need to negotiate a delicate relationship with the White House."

POTUS promising to end sanctuary cities on the campaign trail
Eric Garcetti is not the only Democratic big-city mayor facing this dilemma.  However, President Trump's threats are not the biggest problem for American cities with ambition mass transportation plans-the real worry is the Republican-controlled Congress that should concern commuters.  The Republican members of Congress are more in touch than POTUS to local political debates over infrastructure  investments.  Laura Bliss points to the "unfolding showdown over a $647 million federal grant to a regional commuter train in the Bay Area."

San Francisco pro-sanctuary city protest 

Laura Bliss suggests, "Furthermore, rather than anticipating retribution for clashing with Trumpian ideology, cities should just prepare for serious transit funding cuts in general."  A prudent suggestion.  Another possible challenge, "Unless longstanding federal formulas are changed, the threadbare Highway Trust Fund will still pass onto states a handful of dollars to be used for public transportation."  The metaphoric Sword of Damocles hanging over the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development could hang over the Department of Transportation as well; "...signature grant programs that have supported transit-such as TIGER and TIFIA-may get cut."  Not shocking considering that the official Republican Party platform called for the complete elimination of federally subsidized public transportation.  Joni gone, the head of communications at LA Metro, told VICE, But ti's not just L.A. that might struggle to deliver-it's all cities.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has stressed the role of private investment will have in paying for President Trump's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plans.  Confidence in how public-private partnerships will successfully fund transportation is mixed, at best.  The Chief Executive of L.A. Metro, Phil Washington is a avid supporter; "...some Measure M projects may stand a chance of speeding with creative financing that depend on industry."  Los Angeles could be the example of how Trump-era cities can put together DIY infrastructure.  For now, worried mass transportation aficionados might want to pay more attention to what their senators and representatives are saying, rather than what statements are coming out of the White House.  Let him or her know on their social media pages, via email or telephone.

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