A wonderful quirk about our readers is that two utterly unrelated topics stir them up more than any others: marijuana legalization and trains — light-rail, subway, you name it. The topic last week was cost overruns on the Expo Line to the Westside ("L.A.'s Light-Rail Fiasco," Dec. 3).
Writer Gene Maddaus found that the project is $260 million over budget and as much as two years behind schedule.
Reader Eric wrote, "The project isn't actually $260 million over budget. There were a number of additions to the project after it was initially approved that added to the costs. I think you should take another look at the number you have, because my understanding is the line is more like $100 million over budget."
He is correct. As the story noted, the project grew and changed after the initial bidding was complete. Some of the revisions were foreseeable, some were not. But the fact remains that the cost is $260 million higher than planned and the highly unusual contract used on Expo removed the incentive for the contractor to hold down costs.
Reader Joe Smith wrote that many factors were at work, many of which the Expo Authority, which oversees the rail line, could have taken steps to address but did not. Smith wrote that the project should have been supervised by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which handles rail systems across the region, instead of by a separate authority established for this one project. "Expo Authority is an epic failure," Smith wrote. "Dissolve it. Bring it back to Metro, where it belongs."
Other writers accused residents living along the route of gumming up and delaying the design process and insisting on costly changes.
"I agree that the NIMBY's in Cheviot Hills are really responsible for much of the delays of the project," Eric wrote. "Their organization, Neighbors for Smart Rail, has done everything possible over the years to slow or stop this project from happening."
And no discussion of a Southern California rail project would be complete without hearing from readers who believe light rail is simply a bad idea, regardless of cost, and others who think rail is the future here.
"Rail in L.A. is stupid," Kevin S. wrote. "Simple. It's simply stupid." The money would be better spent to improve bus service, which offers myriad routes, as well as the flexibility to change as Los Angeles changes, and is more helpful to citizens who need transportation most, he said.
RobE wrote, "The L.A. Weekly seems like it is on a jihad against the whole light-rail concept, and this article is definitely slanted to reflect as badly as possible on the rail system."
For the record, the Weekly likes trains. We've even ridden them. What we don't like are huge cost overruns on any government construction project and elected officials who look the other way.
RUDY MARTINEZ V. CITY HALL
Reactions to our story about Flip This House reality-TV star Rudy Martinez and his attempt to unseat incumbent L.A. City Councilman José Huizar ("Rudy Martinez Vs. Los Angeles City Hall" by David Futch, Dec. 3) show that feelings are running high months before the March election.
James McCuen wrote, "Having all of the incumbent seats challenged is a pleasant surprise and a breath of fresh air. In the past, some council members arrogantly claimed that they were doing such a good job that there was no need for a change. Of course, Bill Boyarsky got it right as quoted in this article, 'City Hall is run by land developers and unions.' And the elected officials don't even try to hide that fact. It is also nice to see somebody cover the challengers."
A reader identified as Crates wrote: "Rudy Martinez, a mortgage broker, is literally one of the bankers responsible for California's housing meltdown. Flip This House actively inflated the housing bubble while developers like Rudy cashed out hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, the restaurants he's put in place in Eagle Rock and Highland Park are tacky and grungy yet aspire to his brand of elitism. Valet parking? On York Boulevard?"
Chris offered a different view: "Huizar is another feckless twit who is the poster boy for out-of-touch L.A. politicians, but Rudy Martinez is my knight in shining armor?"
And BH wrote: "Our Historic Boyle Heights has been left out of Huizar's view. Our Brooklyn Avenue needs attention now. ... I will be watching this election very closely. Boyle Heights needs attention. December is family time, but next year will be election time. ..."
PASTA AND TAX CUTS
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The last word this week goes to a reader reacting to restaurant critic Jonathan Gold's first look at Scarpetta, a new restaurant in Beverly Hills, whose signature dish is a $24 plate of spaghetti.
"I felt so guilty opposing tax cuts for the rich," wrote L. Johnson. "I had no idea they had to pay $24 for a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce. GOP, by all means give these guys some relief before they starve to death."
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About spaghetti, Boyle Heights or anything that strikes a nerve. Send a letter or comment on our website, laweekly.com. We are delighted by full names and contact info.