Friday, November 10, 2006

California and the 2006 election

I need to talk a little about the 2006 election.

Many newspaper columnists have said that the only bright spot for the Republicans was Schwarzeneggar's tidy relection in California as Republican governor. That's nonsense.
After Schwarzeneggar's right-wing ballot propopsitions all were defeated in 2005 election,
he reinvented himself as a Democratic centrist, making deals with the Democrats who control both state legislatures and set the legislative agenda.

Because of Schwarzeneggar's deals with the Democrats, California passed a record-breaking bill to reduce noxious gas emissions and also put 5 ballot measures on the 2006 ballot to rebuild the state's crumbling infrastructure of highways and rapid transport as well as to cleanup its polluted waterways--all ballot measures passed. Now Schwarzeneggar is talking about working with the Democrats to extend medical coverage to California's uninsured. Since Schwarzennegar is now supporting centrist Democratic issues--extending medical coverage; improving highways and rapid transportation; and reducing pollution of waterways--I don't think Schwarzeneggar win was any great Republican victory.

The LA Times's Duke Helfand aruged in his November 10, 2006, article "Mayor to reap spoils of election victories" that Los Angeles' mayor Antonio Villaragoia is the big winner of the 2006
election--even though he wans't running. Helfand says that because of the recently passed
state bond measures, Los Angeles will get billions of dollars "in infrastructure money that will allow Villaraigosa to shape his vision of an eco-friendly metropolis with less traffic, more affordable housing, new trees and perhaps a subway to the sea."

At a recent press conference Villaragoisa said that L.A. will received $1 billion from the recently passed transporation bond which will allow him to build the Redline Subway from Western/Wilshire Avenue down to the Pacific Ocean. He also wants to take some of the other bond money to clean up the Los Angeles River and to build afforable housing for the homeless and low-income families. He also wants to take other bond money to make high-tech stoplights that will synchronize all the stoplights to relieve the city's bad traffic. He argues,"My focus is the city of Los Angeles … using my bipartisan relationships at a state and national level to benefit a city that for too long hasn't gotten its fair share."

Villaraigosa is very serious about his public works proposals to attack Los Angeles's problems: horrible traffic; lack of good rapid transportation; lack of affordable housing; lack of parks. For years a small group of environmentalists starting with Friends of the LA River have argued to build more parks/bikeways by the Los Angeles River; Villaraigosa agrees with them and now he has the money to begin this important work. He says,"L.A. will get its fair share," he said. "Make no mistake about it, because I intend to spend a lot of time in Sacramento, in Washington, now that we have a majority that's going to understand the needs of infrastructure in our cities." He was recently in Washington where he contraulated the Rep. Nacy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid.

So Villaraigosa was the big winner because he finally got some money to implement some of
his proposals. Also, environmentalists are big winners because Sierra Club finally entered electoral poltics seriously and helped defeat Repubican Pombo (R-Modesto, CA), one of the most anti-environmental Congressman who has been attacking the Endangered Species Act. Since Pombo was chair of the House of Representatives Resources Committee, many environmentalists thought he was the Congressman who was the most dangerous to the environment. The Sierra Club fielded 300 volunteers in his district to help elect Jerry McNerney, a wind energy conslutant to go to Congress. McNerny won 53% to Pombos' 47%--a resounding victory. McNerney wants to help the country get off fossil fuels.

On a smaller scale I'd like to congratulate Andrew Walzer's election to the Santa Monica College B oard of Trustees. Walzer was a former part-time instruction at Santa Monica College who got a full-time job at Los Angeles City College (LACC). At LACC he worked with a student group that
successfully negotiated with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to get a low-cost bus/subway pass so for about $10 students at both LACC and LA Trade Technical College can ride rapid transit all semester.

The bus/subway pass should be enlarged so all students at all junior colleges in Los Angeles (over 120,000 students) could get one. I think Walzer's & the LACC students work helping junior college students get low-cost transporation is great as it both helps the students as well as help reduce traffic & air pollution. One New Yorker once said he owes his college education to the New York subway system as it allowed him a cheap, low-cost way to get to CCNY to attend his college classes. Thus, helping thousands of students get to their college classes in LA will likewise help these students get an education to get better jobs. Congratulations Walzer!

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