When I put sent my public transit questionnaire to all of the candidates for West Hollywood City Council, I did not know what if any response I would get.
A couple of candidates stated they would get back to me who never did. One candidate, Matt Gonzaga, who I introduced myself to live and in person told me he'd leave "public transit issues to someone else" wanting to focus solely on the needs of renters in his campaign. (If he doesn't think that "renters" in West Hollywood have needs with public transit than he really doesn't understand the issues of either, does he?) It's the lack of curiousity about this issue I found astonishing (and appalling). Any member of a City Council is going to have to focus on a whole range of issues, from land use, sanitation, libraries, budgeting, social services, not to mention transportation.
However, I certainly understand having a passion for a particular issue and politics needs advocates. I recommend instead of running for City Council, Mr. Gonzaga might better use his interests to form a West Hollywood equivalent to Santa Monica Renters Rights which has tremendous power and influence there.
Of the top candidates, Councilwoman Abbe Land answered my questionnaire with thoughtfulness and with a thorough understanding of the issues involved which you can read here.
As a contrast, in an clueless rant in WeHo News, former City Councilman Steve Martin says the following about the decision not to include the proposed Metrorail subway through West Hollywood as part of the current Westside Subway Extension project:
"Perhaps we should be grateful."
He further states,
"The city should stop hectoring our residents about automobile use..."
In other words, in his rant, Steve Martin has positioned himself as the anti-subway candidate. I guess we cannot expect his support in extending a light-rail subway through West Hollywood as is now being discussed in transit planning circles. Someone should let Mr. Martin know that 86% of West Hollywood voted yes on Measure R in no small hope to bring Metrorail to West Hollywood.
However, Mr. Martin's anti-subway rant is very shortsighted. He seems to believe that West Hollywood can plan transportation and development in a vaccum. Even if West Hollywood adpots a strict, zero-development policy, the surrounding areas of Los Angeles will not, and traffic will only continue to worsen in the years ahead no matter what West Hollywood does within its borders, reducing the ability of people to drive single-occupancy automobiles to and around West Hollywood and, without viable transit alternatives, live/work/play here.
Therefore, we cannot afford to have ANY member of the City Council who does not 100% support bringing Metrorail to West Hollywood. Mr. Martin's proposed "shuttle bus" to Wilshire or Hollywood Blvds. doesn't cut it.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Land still sees the importance of seeking to bring Metrorail to West Hollywood perhaps through another alignment. There is much discussion now of extending the Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line north to Hollywood via West Hollywood, giving WeHo a one-seat ride to/from LAX.
Read Abbe Land's answer to my questionnaire and then read Steve Martin's anti-subway rant in the WeHo News and you'll see the difference between one candidate who gets and understands the needs and opportunities for public transit in West Hollywood and one who clearly doesn't and is even disdainful to our issues.
And just compare their tone when discussing transit issues:
"If it is so important for all of us to live close to where we work or take public transportation than maybe Lindsay Horvath should move to Venice or take the bus to work." (As if it is an insult to take the bus.)
I believe we must find alternative transit options for people, not only because it is one of the best things we can do for our environment, but also that our focus on regional connectivity will enhance the quality of life for all who live, work and play in our region.
And that is why next Tuesday, I will be enthusiastically casting my vote for Abbe Land and not for Steve Martin.
I wish all the candidates good luck and don't forget to vote on March 8th!