NIMBYs, Design Flaws, History, and Rail Transit

Where Do We Go From Here?
| Public domain source

Even as the Los Angeles Times -- and plenty of transit riders -- celebrated the opening of the first leg of the Expo Line toward Santa Monica, unknowns lingered for rail transit in L.A.

L.A.'s Plastic and Paper Bag Ban is Built on Past Mistakes

The wind blows a plastic bag around the beach near the Manhattan Beach Pier | Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Update, 1/1/14: L.A.'s plastic bag ban starts to take effect today. Read more here.

The area is naturally susceptible to flooding. Its low-lying geography, which lies beside the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers, is suitable for its agriculture sector but inconvenient during monsoon season. Natural flooding and heavy rain are a characteristic of Bangladesh, but the 1998 floods were particularly devastating.

Due to unusually high monsoon rains and melted water from the Himalaya Mountains, the converging rivers spilt over: more than 1,000 lives were lost, 300,000 homes gone, and 30 million Bengali people homeless. After the water subsided, it was discovered that humans helped cause the flood that covered more than 75 percent of the country. From deforestation to poor flood protection methods, it was obvious that the flood didn't have to be as destructive as it was. However, there was one man-made culprit that caused so much outrage that it was banned four years later.

The plastic bag.

Was Occupy Los Angeles Worth the Money?

Hundreds of LAPD officers wait to walk into the Occupy Los Angeles protest encampment following the November 30, 2011 raid. | Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Unfortunately the following statement is hardly a newsflash: the city of Los Angeles is strapped for cash. It faces a budget shortfall of about $200 million and a little pocket change will not help dig the city out from its current budget deficit.

Currently city officials are discussing whether, when, and how many city employees to layoff. Even police and fire employees are at risk.

It may be euphemistic to call the city's current fiscal situation precarious. Perhaps "precarious at best" is more apt. The point is that Los Angeles is in a financially bad state (both literally and figuratively).

Better Ports, Better Communities, Good Jobs

This Container Is Green
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The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are enormous - the largest port facility in the nation, movers of much of the world's goods, and the reason for thousands of jobs. The ports' impact on the environment is enormous, too. Particulates and nitrogen oxides emitted by diesel-powered ships are part of the problem.

To encourage shippers to dock their cleanest and "greenest" ships here, officials of both the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have begun programs that will reward vessel owners for improvements that reduce emissions beyond the regulatory standards set by the International Maritime Organization.

Another Obamajam? The President Heads to the Valley

US President Barack Obama's motorcade encounters Los Angeles traffic on its way to the NBC Studios in Burbank on October 25, 2011. | Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Last night, I had the following conversation with my best friend:

"Can you leave work early tomorrow?"

"I'm not sure," replied my best friend, who, for her own privacy, we'll name Jane.

"Did you tell your parents?" I asked.

"Yes, I told them not to leave the house tomorrow night."

L.A. Rankings: Tell Me Not In Mournful Numbers*

Multiple Choice
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The readers of Travel + Leisure magazine (who seem to be a picky lot) have ranked LAX as the second worst airport (out of 22) in the United States. LAX was 20th for location, 21st for ease of check-in and security screening, and 22nd for the impression readers had of the airport's safety standards. LAX also ranked 20th for baggage handling and 21st for the maintenance of passenger waiting areas.

The good news? The worst airport was New York's La Guardia.

How Was Taxpayer Money Spent? L.A. Politician Makes Infographic

Before Jeremy Oberstein was a communications guy for L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, he was a reporter (disclosure: he volunteered for me at my last publication). It looks like he's keeping up on trends in new media reporting these days. Today his office released an infographic about how his boss is spending a portion of the budget for its San Fernando Valley district.

The information hasn't been verified by KCET, but it was interesting to see a local L.A. politician use this type of visual design to communicate with constituents. It's not a first for City Hall -- the departments of transportation and planning have combined forces with GOOD magazine for some infographics -- but this trend seems to be picking up steam. So I asked Oberstein to talk about the project.

"We make regular use of a wide arrange of tools to explain how Councilmember Paul Krekorian is providing a high level of constituent service. Upon taking office, you may recall, we created a new website from scratch and included a section of Google maps with data we culled from various city departments. The earliest map was a list of streets that had been repaved in FY2009-10 and explained to residents -- in clear, visual terms (read: not a .pdf)0 -- exactly what service their council office provided. This graph is a continuation of that trend.

"This follows a long running ethos of the Councilman to create an easily accessible, easy to understand chart of how these funds were spent, distilled into distinct sections. This chart is a narrative of the work city crews have done over a period of time and how tax dollars are spent to improve our neighborhoods."

He said the office came up with the idea a couple of days ago using Piktochart and that it cost no money, save for the time staff time. It can be seen in full below:

Congressman Brad Sherman Could be a Savvy Financial Advisor

Congressman Brad Sherman | Photo: Edward Headington/Flickr/Creative Commons License

If Congressman Brad Sherman fails to gain another term in the U.S. House of Representatives he may want to consider another career as a full-time financial analyst.

In 2010, voters approved a ballot measure that took the power to draw congressional lines out of the hands of incumbents and gave that task to an independent redistricting commission. The commission was charged with drawing district lines that, among other things, did not take into account where incumbents resided. That means the commission's purpose was to draw lines that fairly represented communities of interest, rather than lines that gave incumbents a chance at winning.

Cities, Water Disrticts, Courts: The System Springs a Leak

Sitting Ducks
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As Sam Allen of the Los Angeles Times recently reported, The Water Replenishment District of Southern California and the Central Basin Municipal Water District -- two of the special districts that manage water for millions of Los Angeles County residents -- are locked in a costly and prolonged conflict over who will oversee - and benefit from -- the storage of water in the underground aquifers beneath the Los Angeles Basin.

Will Redevelopment Be Resurrected?

Ron Kaye, writing in the Burbank Leader, highlights more head-spinning chaos in the state's dissolution of local redevelopment agencies.

(You'll remember that the end of redevelopment was the "nuclear option" the state used as a lever to pry some property tax revenue out of cities so that those "new" dollars could be backed out of the state's county and school funding commitments. Foolish cities sued to prevent the state from taking anything and as the result of a state Supreme Court decision, lost everything.)