Hey Southland Voters: Can You Pass This Stoopid Test?

GUEST WORDS-First let me declare that I am a liberal and a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. And I have voted for most tax increases in the past for schools, infrastructure and the like. 

Not this time. 

I’m fed up with our political “leaders” and their patrons – developers and union interests that treat local politics as their piggy bank. We’ve all seen the absurdly lavish salaries, from the DWP to City Hall, and the shockingly generous pensions and lifetime health insurance they bestow upon themselves. Personally, I just received notice of a 29% increase in my health insurance. And yet I am being asked to fork over more taxes? 

I don’t think so. Not until some balance returns to the system. 

The problem is corruption across the whole spectrum of local government that sees the few (the political class and their patrons) benefit off the backs of millions of taxpayers who get no say, and no seat at the table. 

It was reported that Herb Wesson (president of the City Council) abruptly cut off the public commentary phase at a recent hearing. As in: please shut up and go away you annoying peons.  Arrogant? You decide. 

I live on the eastside and read recently that the city has simply given up on EVER repairing the concrete streets we have in this part of town because they are too expensive to fix. Huh? The city to whom I pay thousands each year in property and other taxes can’t do the most basic thing like fix the streets? 

So that is why I am asking you: why continue to be a sucker? 

Why continue to be an enabler? Why not stand up and say: no more tax increases until some balance finds its way back into the equation. 

Ask yourself this: what are the great ideas our local public servants have in mind for the gigantic sums of money they haul in now? (LA City alone has an $8.7 BILLION budget). Fix our streets? Repair sidewalks? As if. 

No, they want to commit billions to bringing the Olympics here and removing concrete from the sides of the LA River -- concrete installed to control flooding, which the LA Times just reported remains a long term threat. 

It’s just plain nuts. LA is like a homeowner whose house has holes in the roof, termites, leaky plumbing – and decides to build a shiny new pool! It would be funny except it isn’t anymore. 

The joke is on us unless we speak up and demand they begin to address OUR basic needs. If not we’ll find ourselves living in a third world city with ruble for streets, failed infrastructure, and banana republic politics. 

Oops. We’re already there. 

So I am voting against most tax increases, and I urge you to do the same until some accountability returns to the system. And it’s not just on philosophical terms. It’s also on the “merits” and fine print of most of these issues. 

Case in point: Measure M. 

I’m all for a wise and sensible plan for a comprehensive public transportation system for LA and surrounding cities, and could support a tax increase to achieve this. But the key phrase is “a wise and sensible plan.” 

Measure M is neither. Forget the fact that we are being asked to increase our sales tax to a full 2% of every dollar spent -- FOREVER. As in no sunset clause. As in: this-tax-will-never-ever-ever-stop. Forever. Taylor Swift should write a song about it. 

But my fundamental problem is not with the tax. It’s with what’s planned for it. 

Basically the idea is to build a few more choo-choo trains. This when Metro admits there has been a 10% drop in transit boardings from 2006 to 2015 despite a 9 BILLION dollar investment. They like to point to a small uptick of ridership on the new Red line, without explaining how the last 9 billion they spent led to a 10% DROP. Despite population grown in the millions? 

We have at least 1200 square miles to serve in the greater LA region. Rail transit works well when areas served are geographically dense, and riders are close enough to walk to stations. But this will never be the case in LA. 

The whole multi-billion dollar scheme is based on a faulty premise and last-century thinking. 

I have a radical proposal: forget choo-choos. We should embrace next-century thinking. Why not think outside the box and invest in a system of automated, driverless units that work like Uber. Call them transport pods.   Get Elon Musk and the best minds from Silicon Valley to design a “driverless, people mover system” that carries 6-8 people each. It could be like a small van with three rows of seats. And they would be electric. 

We could afford tens of thousands of these for less than the price of a few absurdly inefficient trains. They could roam they city 24/7 like Uber drivers do now, and you would hail them with an app. There would be a share component so that open seats would be matched with other riders coming and going. Plus there would be room for transporting groceries etc. And they would take you from point to point. 

Far fetched you say? 

Uber’s driverless cars will be on the road within five years.   This plan could be up and running in ten years or less, DECADES sooner that the choo-choos proposed and we could have an emission free, smart system that would really work. 

Forget last century thinking and wasting billions on a system destined to fail. Vote No on Measure M, and take a hard look at the other tax increases they want you to approve. 

And pass the stoopid test.


(Michael Wilson is a director and producer who has lived in Los Angeles for thirty-five years.)