Officials meet to discuss moving 30/10 Initiative forward

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA. Photo by Tyrone Washington, Office of Mayor Villaraigosa.

It was only a week ago that the Board of Directors of Metro endorsed the 30/10 Initiative to accelerate the construction of transit and highway projects funded by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008.

And, in fact, Metro officials are already in discussions with members of Congress and federal transportation officials about ways to secure federal loans and other financial help to make 30/10 a reality.

In downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, the activist group Move LA held a conference that largely focused on what still needs to happen to sell both the White House and Congress on the idea of loaning Los Angeles County billions of dollars.

The gist of the 30/10 plan is to borrow money from the feds to build 30 years of Measure R projects in the next decade and then use the sales tax revenues to pay back the federal government over time. It sounds simple enough, but in fact no such program exists for transportation projects. So something new has to be created and funded.

The following are a few of the more interesting comments from four members of the Board of Directors that I heard speak — Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Richard Katz, Duarte Councilman John Fasana and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

*”You can’t turn the economy of this nation around unless you turn around the economy of California,” Yaroslavsky said. “The antidote to the recession is the 30/10 plan — it’s a huge investment in jobs right now…That’s the selling point to the White House and Capitol Hill. If you want to get the economy off its back, we’re ready to do it and we’re ready to pay for it.”

*Richard Katz pointed to the fact that the coalition of business, labor, environmentalists and transportation advocates that was first brought together to support Measure R two years ago has held up and needs to be expanded. And that people in Washington are taking notice.

“We now have the most popular program in Washington that no one can figure out how to fund,” Katz said.

*At one point, John Fasana was asked how best to unify the Congressional delegation from Los Angeles County — something that can be tricky. “If we as a county are unified, Congress will follow.”

*At lunchtime, Mayor Villaraigosa was the featured speaker. He gave an impassioned speech — to put it mildly — about 30/10 in which he made it clear that he believes a lot of work still must be done to rally people across Los Angeles County to push the federal government into trying 30/10.

He also addressed a few other points.

Villaraigosa said that he’s asked why 30/10 wasn’t originally part of Measure R. His answer: it was hard enough to get two-thirds of county voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase and asking voters for anything more to build everything at once would have been politically impossible.

He also said that 30/10 came about because after Measure R passed, he and other officials began to seek ways to speed projects so that the public would not become cynical about waiting up to 30 years for some Measure R projects to be completed.

As for making 30/10 happen, “We’re going to have to put together a campaign, we’re going to have to raise money,” Villaraigosa said. “This is a new idea and the feds don’t like new ideas. There’s a lot we have to do to make the case…We have to build a broader, deeper coalition and make everyone step up. This will be as big as it gets.”

“I’ve never been afraid of a tough fight,” he added. “I’m willing to put every piece of my political capital behind this.”

To learn more, here’s the link to the 30/10 page on the Metro website.

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