Political Pep Rally Cheers for Valley Transit Bill
Lawmakers and business leaders held a political pep rally Thursday to pressure Gov. George Deukmejian to sign a controversial bill that would create a $200-million fund to solve San Fernando Valley transit problems.
“People tell us we ought to get together in the Valley. Well, the Valley is together on this issue,” Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) said to the loud applause of a crowd in the Van Nuys office of Democratic State Sen. Alan Robbins.
It was Robbins who engineered passage of a bill in the closing days of the legislative session last month that would require the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission to set aside 15% of its light-rail budget for a transit line in the Valley.
The governor has until Sept. 30 to act on the measure.
“I think the governor will sign it,” Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) said. One business leader after another chimed in his or her support, with accompanying applause.
Since no pep rally would be complete without denunciations of the opposing team, there was plenty of grumbling about the Transportation Commission, which is urging a veto of the bill.
Deukmejian “will be making an awful mistake if he listens to ‘Pete the Terrible’ Schabarum,” said State Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia). Schabarum, a Los Angeles County supervisor, is chairman of the commission.
The commission says the legislation represents an unwarranted intrusion by the state into local affairs. In any event, commission members have said, the measure would not provide nearly enough money for a Valley transit line, the estimated cost of which is between $750 million and $1.3 billion.
Commission member Jacki Bacharach of Rancho Palos Verdes has called Robbins’ bill “nothing but a token.”
Robbins scoffed at the commission’s attempt to portray the fund as meaningless. “Two hundred million here, two hundred million there, pretty soon it starts to add up to real money,” he said. Changing his tone, he contended that “it will provide enough money to make sure something happens in the San Fernando Valley.”
Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge) said Deukmejian will hear from a lot of opponents to the bill.
“I might say our case is weakened because we have no support for a definite route,” she said. “Until we can agree on a route, our position is always going to be weakened.”
She referred to the continuing opposition of homeowner groups to any rail line that would traverse their neighborhoods.
“We’ve been trying to do a rail project in the Valley for the last three years,” said Paul Taylor, acting executive director of the Transportation Commission. Two east-west routes are being reviewed for environmental dangers.
It is ironic that the commission is urging a veto. The Robbins bill resulted from a commission appeal to the state Legislature to lift a $100-million cap on the amount of money that can be borrowed to build the Metro Rail project downtown. Robbins agreed, but in return for support from Valley lawmakers, he said he wanted money set aside for the Valley.
The cap was created nearly a decade ago, Robbins said, by Long Beach-area lawmakers who feared their light-rail project could be shortchanged by the hugely expensive Metro Rail project.