We Ought To Debate Measure R More Often!

Check out the Google Video of the Great Measure R Debate above.

Wow! What an evening!

Thanks to everyone who showed up, especially our two speakers: Hank Fung (Yes on R) from the Southern California Transit Advocates and Randall “BusTard” Fleming (No on R) from The Bus Bench. A special thank you to DJ Chicken Leather for recording the entire event! DJ Chicken Leather and Black Woman Sidekick can be found on Saturdays from 6 to 8 pm on KillRadio.org broadcasting their show “Talk Is Still Cheap”.

The Great Measure R Debate was a resounding success. Two very bright speakers battled it out for our votes on a 1/2 cent sales tax increase for the MTA on this November. After watching these two gentlemen square off on this issue, I have a feeling voters will be able to make more informed decision after watching this 58 minute long debate.

This short debate was certainly more civil than the recent cat fight over Measure R between Supervisor Gloria Molina and Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky, which took place in an MTA board meeting. It was also more personal and informative than the many op-ed pieces penned in numerous local and regional papers in support or opposed to Measure R.

So, What Happened?

Our “Yes on R” and “No on R” speakers arrived, Josef Bray-Ali gave a brief introduction of each, and we began with each speaker’s opening statements. Fresh and delicious Pan Dulce was on hand (from nearby El Pavo Bakery). Two Flying Pigeon bicycles stood guard at the door. Art by two local brothers, Dominic and Jaime Ochoa accented the walls, while a slightly off-center “FLYING PIGEON BICYCLES” sign hung in the background.

After a brief fumble by Bray-Ali for a coin to toss to decide who would speak first (Fung offered a bus token – extra point scored for the “Yes on R” side!), the speakers opened up with a 5 minute pitch to support their positions.

Hank Fung (Yes on R) started off with a brief introduction to Measure R, and walked us through several solid reasons for voting “Yes” on R. His knowledge of transportation funding and planning made Measure R sound incredibly important – a once in a generation opportunity to build the transportation network our region needs. He expounded on this theme using a reasonable, honest, and plain-spoken style.

Fleming (No on R) brought along an incredibly funny bag full of props (Free MTA CEO Roger Snoble halloween masks!) a head full of history, and a scathing view of the MTA’s operating practices. His opening remarks introduced his two major themes: the MTA’s shameful history of mishandling of money and its disregard for users of its buses and trains. In Fleming’s able hands, Measure R sounded like a bitter, and jagged, pill that we had best not swallow come next Tuesday.

After opening remarks, a series of questions (one coming from a kid selling chocolate bars door to door in the area) were asked, with each speaker getting 2 minutes each to offer their response.

Though Fung and Fleming disagreed on Measure R, both made it clear that they thought the MTA’s proposed uses for the money were sound. Fleming, of course, expressed a great deal of doubt as to whether anything the MTA proposed would be appropriately built.

The debate officially ended about an hour after it began, but members of the audience took the opportunity to ask these two transit experts their opinions on a variety of issues. The film “Please Vote For Me” was screened later on in the evening. A few dark jokes were made about the chances of democracy in this world, and the rest of the pan dulce was finished off.

What Sort of Questions Did You Ask?

Here is a list of the questions we asked both Hank Fung (Yes on R), Treasurer, Southern California Transit Advocates and Randall “BusTard” Fleming, Writer, The Bus Bench:

  1. Will the MTA’s planned projects be funded completely with Measure R?
  2. Why is there “no money” for projects funded through Measure R in the San Gabriel Area of Los Angeles?
  3. Bus service, will it get better, stay the same, or get worse with Measure R passes?
  4. In light of the AIG “leaseback” deal falling through, is money from Measure R going to fund the MTA’s planned projects, or will it go to something else?
  5. Who benefits most from Measure R?
  6. Is the money in Measure R for the 710 freeway expansion going to waste?
  7. Are the projects that Measure R funds the right projects?
  8. Why now? Can Measure R wait until next year?

To see their answers, you’ll have to check out the Google Video above! The Q&A period starts at about the 13:00 mark in the video. It is best viewed with a little something to nosh on, a pen and paper to take notes, and some chewy snack food.

Why We Did This

Flying Pigeon LA sells a special Dutch-style bicycle: it is part cruiser, part “comfort bike”, and it has a unique place in cycling history as the most popluar bicycle of all time. Most importantly, it is designed to be used as a civil, safe, means of transportation. We feel that until a more honest and open public debate can occur regarding transportation planning and policies, viable solutions (like bicycling for transportation) will continue to be overlooked in the U.S.

A good bikeway network will do a lot to help this region. It will help improve the livability of our communities. It will lower the costs of hiring employees. It will revitalize local business centers. Heck, it’d be great for our bicycle business too!

In our dream of dreams, there will someday be a large set-aside of dollars from the MTA that will fund the high quality, on-street, interconnected, bikeway network our county desperately needs. Debates like this bring us one step close to moving the voting public towards that end.

Questions or Comments

For more information about the Great Measure R Debate, please contact Josef Bray-Ali via email at info@flyingpigeon-la.com or via email at 310-902-5439.

More Information On Measure R

There have been a long series of op-eds about Measure R. Here is a quick roundup:

No on R:

Yes on R:

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  1. By Streetsblog » Today’s Spooky Headlines on October 31, 2008 at 8:44 am

    [...] Flying Pigeon’s Measure R Debate a Success [...]

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