Tag Archives: LAX

Henry Waxman Throws Constituents Under The Wheels Of An Oncoming Jumbo Jet

This weekend, Congresswoman Maxine Waters stood in front of a room full of constituents and activists and did something extraordinary – she declared war on fellow Congress Member Henry Waxman.

Addressing a meeting of the Westchester Democratic club on Saturday, Waters told the packed room that Waxman secretly circulated a letter from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in support of expanding Los Angeles’ International Airport to Congressional colleagues only a day after telling Waters he had not yet made up his mind about the issue. Waters accused Waxman of forming an “unholy alliance” with the Chamber and the construction trades to expand Los Angeles International Airport – a move that some experts believe would create region-wide traffic gridlock.

Waters, who represents the communities directly surrounding LAX supports modernizing, but not expanding, the airport.

I was on hand to record Waters’ remarks. Watch it: http://vimeo.com/62625350

The Chamber is promoting a plan which could expand capacity at LAX by up to 14 million passengers a year, and is advocating moving the North runway several hundred feet, a move some experts say would force the closure of parts of Lincoln and Sepulveda Blvds for at least 2 years, and perhaps even permanently.

Such closures would force thousands of cars onto other surface streets and nearby freeways, creating a near constant “carmageddon” scenario as traffic backed up onto the 405, 105 and 10 freeways, potentially affecting commuters as far away as Orange County, the Valley and Downtown Los Angeles.

The move is also backed by many of Los Angeles’ biggest labor unions, who see expansion as a job-creating engine for the region. Airport opponents say a multi-billion dollar plan to modernize the airport without moving the runway would create just as many jobs.

In a highly unusual move that signaled just how seriously Waters took Waxman’s end-run, Waters very publicly threatened to take the fight to the Congressman’s own district, calling into question Waxman’s motives for being the bag man for an “unholy alliance between organized labor and the Chamber of Commerce”

“Now I can’t say this is why Mr. Waxman is doing what he’s doing,” said Waters.  “But these are the two places they go for money – the Chamber…..and organized labor. And so some of these elected officials don’t feel they can be independent and fight. They say, ‘Hey, you know, this is too difficult, after all, they’ve come together on this issue’.”

Waters then encouraged her constituents  in the room to reach out to their counterparts in Waxman’s district.

“I want you to find all the community activists in his district and ask them to join with us. I want them to call him and tell him to get his nose out of Westchester’s business. He’s thinking, ‘Well, it’s not my district, so I don’t have to worry about my constituents on this issue. I can do what ever I want.'”

“But we have to turn that around. Get busy. I will remind him, every day, that we’re after him.”, Waters said, smiling.

Waters strategy, though unusually pointed and public, might be effective. Last November, Henry Waxman faced the fight of his life when he suddenly found himself representing the beach cities on either side of LAX due to redistricting.  Rather than cruise to victory virtually unopposed, as he had nearly every year since he was first elected to Congress in 1975 to represent constituents in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, the 17-term Congressman narrowly fended off Manhattan Beach resident Bill Bloomfield.

Same Old Parochial Politics Destroying Progress on LA Transit

Jenny Oropeza is a by all accounts a fairly good progressive Senator, but she’s dead wrong on her threat to shut down the proposed ballot measure raising the LA city sales tax by a 1/2 cent to pay for transit projects, because her pet project won’t get funded.

State Sen. Jenny Oropeza put it in no uncertain terms when I spoke to her late this Friday afternoon: she is prepared to kill the bill that would allow a half-cent sales tax increase to go on the November ballot in Los Angeles County to pay for road and transit projects.

“I said in order for the bill to pass the Senate, it is going to have to contain the Green Line extension,” Oropeza, (D-Long Beach), told me. “They” – Los Angeles County transportation officials – “understood that. They are playing a game of chicken and blaming the Legislature. I am praying to God they do the right thing. I don’t want to see this thing go down either.”

I asked her if she was prepared to try to kill the bill – and any chance of a vote in November. Oropeza firmly answered: “Yes I am.”

The most bizarre thing about this is that the Green Line extension is in the proposed ballot language.  But she wants more of a guarantee.  So she’s prepared to undermine the entire set of transit projects – which would improve air quality, lower demand for gas, expand transit, enhance the reputation of transit as successful so that future projects can be built, reduce greenhouse gas emisssions, improve quality of life, etc. – because of silly parochialism.

I don’t want to make it look like this is limited to Oropeza.  Some of our favorite lawmakers – State Sen. Gil Cedillo, Rep. Hilda Solis – have expressed opposition to the project, for largely the same reasons – that not enough of the transit projects in the proposal go specifically to their districts.  But on this one, I have to agree with Mayor Villaraigosa.

“The problem in Sacramento is that there are some who want to engage in the pork barrel politics of asking for even more money than has been distributed for their pet projects,” Villaraigosa added later […] using several maps and visuals, the mayor also said the sales tax revenues would be spent on an equitable basis when factors such as employment density and need are taken into consideration. “On the Westside, there are four times as many jobs than there are homes and people.”

The traffic crisis in Southern California is not going to be solved overnight.  There are specific need areas which are literally impossible to manage by car right now and are completely underserved by transit.  A successful show of support for transit now will only improve prospects for better transit possibilities in the future.  Which projects ought to be included or delayed is an important decision, but I frankly don’t trust legislators with their own agendas to make it.  And almost every one of them is playing this backwards-thinking, anti-progressive, reductionist parochial game where they judge the dollars their district will get against what another district will get and scream bloody murder if they come up a dollar short.  That’s maddening, especially considering that if the sales tax is dropped from the ballot, nobody gets any funding.

Oropeza responded to the Mayor dismissively, taking objection to the characterization of “porkbarrel politics” and leaving the outcome unclear on AB2321, the vote in the legislature that would allow the sales tax hike to go to the November ballot.  The Senate Appropriations Committee vote is scheduled for today, and nobody really knows what the outcome will be.  Labor, which appears to be on board with the increase (at least the building and construction portions of the coalition), will be watching Oropeza and Cedillo’s votes very closely today.

UPDATE: The LA County Board of Supervisors just voted to put the sales tax on the ballot, and ALSO voted to officially oppose the increase.  Don Knabe switched his vote to allow the initiative to be a part of the regular election but maintained his position against the tax.  Meanwhile the vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee has been delayed to Thursday.

LAX living wage law blocked by court

Sounds to me like the city council got too cute and tried to finesse the law in a way that didn’t satisfy legal requirements.

A judge Friday delivered a stinging rebuke to Los Angeles’ labor and political leadership, barring the city from enforcing a ballyhooed new ordinance that would have extended the city’s “living wage” protections to workers at hotels near Los Angeles International Airport.

The eight-page order by Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe went far beyond merely blocking a law that had been considered a point of pride for the city’s powerful labor interests. As a practical matter, Yaffe dealt a political defeat to the City Council, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the union that championed the law.


The City Council initially passed a living wage law.  Hotel interests in the LAX area bitterly opposed paying their workers enough so they could eat, so they collected signatures for a citywide referendum.  Then the City Council pulled the law, and replaced it with a “new” one that resulted from a negotiation with business and labor.  Apparently that law wasn’t new enough:

Instead of scheduling a referendum, the council rescinded the ordinance and, after talks with the business community, replaced it with a new living wage ordinance.

It included incentives for businesses near the airport, as well as some restrictions on extending living wage protection to other parts of the city. But the hotels and some people who had signed the referendum petition went to court to challenge it.

On Friday, the judge ruled that the new ordinance was essentially the same ordinance. In passing the new one, the council had deceitfully dodged the voter referendum and thus violated the constitutional rights of the public, the judge ruled.

“The elected representatives who enacted the new ordinance tried to make it appear different from the old ordinance,” Yaffe wrote, “but their purpose was to avoid the effect of the referendum petition, not to respect it.”

I would think the best strategy at this point would be to put the law before voters; in fact, I thought so at the time.  It’s more impactful for a living wage law to pass that way, and the latest polling shows that it would.  Obviously the hotels will fight like hell and raise lots of money to oppose it, so it would be better if unions didn’t have to break the bank ensuring that their workers are paid decently.  But that’s more of an election reform issue.