U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii has sent a letter to the MTA regarding a pet project of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, “strongly” urging the transportation agency to “be responsive to the concerns and ideas of both residents and businesses located in Little Tokyo.”

Local community activists and business owners are concerned that Little Tokyo may have to endure years of disruption caused by the construction of an MTA connector rail line that may travel through the downtown neighborhood.

MTA gadfly John Walsh reported about the letter in a recent post on his blog, Walsh Confidential.

Inouye's very public interest in the connector line also made news in The Rafu Shimpo, the leading Japanese American newspaper in Los Angeles.

Walsh says the L.A. Times has been “ignoring” the newest development in the project, which Villaraigosa, an MTA board member, has very publicly praised.

A quick search of the L.A. Times Web site appears to show that Walsh is correct. But Inouye's letter, and the political struggle that may unfold, is certainly news.

Inouye is a powerful senator who's the chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, a World War II hero, and a member of the board of governors of the Japanese American National Museum, which may be affected by the connector line.

The Hawaiian senator could cause a few headaches for Villaraigosa and the MTA, which may seek federal money for the project, according to Rafu Shimpo. As chair of the senate appropriations committee, Inouye will have some say about the approval or denial of that funding.

In his letter, Inouye states a “strong interest” in the “environmental (study) process being conducted by Metro,

and its direct relationship to the integrity of the Little Tokyo

community and the operational future of the (Japanese American National) Museum.”

Villaraigosa, meanwhile, takes a standard political stance, saying in a prepared statement that the project “will create thousands of good jobs, and with 13.7 percent

unemployment in the city, my priority is to break ground and get people

to work as soon as possible.”

Inouye may think otherwise if he's not listened to.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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