You can tell it's going to be The Silly Season in Los Angeles, from now to November, when Antonio Villaraigosa, whose growth-at-any-cost development beliefs have added tens of thousands of crowded new apartments to this overbuilt city, blames L.A.'s attention-getting traffic on the War in Iraq.
Yep. He actually told Steve Hymon, that highly readable guy over at the L.A. Times, that voters need to approve a big, fat sales tax increase in November to build more mass transit, particularly since the White House isn't investing in infrastructure because "we're a nation at war."
The mayor's dissembling and buck-passing was bizarre for two reasons.
First, federal transit funds have been tight historically. It has not mattered very much if the president is a Clinton or a Bush. Traffic has exploded in direct proportion to Villaraigosa's anything-goes approval of dense apartments that are turning L.A. into a city of highly transient renters, who understandably refuse to use Metro buses that crawl at 11 miles per hour and rail lines to nowhere.
But second, his awkward buck-passing made it clear that Villaraigosa's top aides, like his Hummer-driving transportation chief Jaime de la Vega, failed to prep the heavily scripted mayor about the headlines this week in newspapers nationwide:
The House, yesterday, as expected, approved a record, bipartisan boost in transit funding by a lopsided vote of 322-98. It marks the first time in history that the feds plan to help out on operating costs for local transit agencies. Villaraigosa doesn't know this?
A record increase -- gee, even while we are at war. The funds will pile $1.7 billion more onto an already record $10 billion approved by Congress for local transit last year -- gee, even while we are at war.
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SHOW ME HOW
California is slated to get $266 million of the funds the House voted to add this week, but here's the catch:
L.A.'s wanderlust Mayor Villaraigosa, who has barely been on the job in 2008 as he first campaigned for Hillary, then took a pointless trip to Israel, and now is letting neighborhoods go to hell and trash pile up while he fund-raises for his distant reelection race, has proved to be awful at fighting for money due back to Los Angeles and its taxpayers.
If things go as usual under Villaraigosa, who is also a top leader on the MTA Board, L.A. will do very poorly in grabbing at that $266 million. As is often the case, the Bay Area and smaller counties and cities -- places with smart leaders who stay in town, do their jobs, and aren't out constantly fund-raising for themselves -- will get a much bigger share per capita.
The big question is, who will Villaraigosa blame for gridlock on Wilshire Boulevard after Prez Obama pulls us out of Iraq?