Regime Change vs Messy Democracy

On January 22nd, a full week ago, I emailed CD1 Council Member Gil Cedillo’s office to ask after the bike lanes on North Figueroa. These lanes have been approved by the city council, and LADOT, previous council member Ed Reyes, and the community have attended numerous public meetings on the matter—I believe seven all told. In every meeting the consensus was overwhemingly in favor of the bike lanes. Yet the project appears to be hanging fire.

As are a number of other projects that had been approved just before the election that put Cedillo in what he seems to see as the driver’s seat, to use an all-too-apt metaphor. The Flying Pigeon’s Josef Bray-ali enumerated these in his post here last week. As Josef suggested in that screed, I wrote to the council member’s office—sending not a vitriolic rant, but a fairly moderate letter inquiring after the state of things and the rumors floating around. Here it is so you can judge for yourself:

Dear Council Member Cedillo:

Although I don’t live in your district, I am a frequent visitor to Cypress Park and Highland Park, and spend a good bit of money there. I also arrive there almost exclusively by bicycle, despite being sixty years old and having to brave the speeding traffic on Figueroa. (I pedal over from the Miracle Mile.)

Now your office is giving the appearance of stonewalling the approval of the long-planned bike lanes on North Figueroa—lanes supported by the majority of the neighborhood councils, the vast majority of constituents who have attended meeting after meeting, and indeed the full City Council itself.

Since it is well-proven now that bike lanes and the road diets that often accompany them have quantifiable benefits to the public health, public safety, and local economy, and since providing community-friendly transportation options will help area residents find and get to jobs, and since North Figueroa is paralleled by a freeway AND a light rail line, there is no reason to hold back your approval of this project, or to insist that residents attend yet more meetings when they have taken time out of their days already to attend so many.

In case you don’t believe my assertions, here are links to a couple of articles that support them:

From the Wall Street Journal: http://tinyurl.com/awp748t
From the Atlantic Cities: http://tinyurl.com/aqnugtn
From the Alliance for Biking and Walking: http://tinyurl.com/q2zcxrn

I could include dozens more.

So why the delay?

I request an answer, since I often write on transportation issues for, among other publications, the Los Angeles Business Journal, as well as blogs published in your district. It is a question of great interest to thousands of your constituents.

Respectfully,

Richard Risemberg

Well, you guessed it: I have received no answer.

Last night I had the opportunity to ask a colleague of mine who spends much of the day in City Hall, and he confirmed the assertion of Josef’s also-unnamed source that Cedillo appears obsessed with somehow stamping his identity on any projects that had been Ed Reyes’s doing.

This is, sadly, not surprising in human affairs—private-sector managers do the same thing, as do gorillas and lions when they take over a previous alpha male’s harem, killing off his children and screwing everything in sight to establish themselves. However, it is neither effective nor dignified governance. We are not here to serve a politician’s ego; the politician is there to serve the community and carry out its wishes.

In the case of North Figueroa, the community’s wishes are on record: after numerous meetings, surveys, and petitions—wonderful examples of “messy democracy”—the people have spoken: we want bike lanes on North Figueroa. And the City Council has agreed!

Time to stop monkeying around and get to work.

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