2 Sides Meet in RTD Row; Compromise Anticipated
Hope for peace was expressed Wednesday after a City Hall meeting between top aides of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and County Supervisor Pete Schabarum to settle a dispute between transit agencies that could trigger a 50% reduction in bus service beginning Jan. 2.
“I am very hopeful there will be an agreement before day’s end Friday,” said Ray Remy, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, who attended the meeting.
The major players in the session were Bradley’s deputy mayor, Mike Gage, and Schabarum’s top aide, Mike Lewis, representing powerful political leaders who are trying to help settle a lengthy argument between the Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.
The RTD board is expected to vote today on a compromise. Cautiously expressing optimism, RTD board member Jan Hall said, “There are enough people (on the board) who care, that it will happen.” The transportation commission will discuss the dispute Friday.
The RTD operates the area’s bus lines and will run the Metro Rail subway. The transportation commission, in general, is in charge of allocating the millions of tax dollars, from a variety of sources, that pay for public transit in the area.
Demanding more cost controls in RTD labor contracts, the commission has withheld almost $50 million from the RTD until labor contracts are changed. Denying that changes can be made, the RTD has said it will begin making service cuts on Jan. 2 that will affect hundreds of thousands of riders.
Lewis, interviewed after the meeting, said he thinks there is an improved chance of agreement between the two agencies.
His optimistic view of the meeting was good news for the threatened bus riders because of the power of Lewis’ boss.
Schabarum has been the RTD’s strongest opponent, insisting on labor cost cutbacks and the creation of a separate transit district--locally controlled and with lower labor costs--for the San Gabriel Valley, the heart of his supervisorial district.
Schabarum is chairman of the transportation commission and, as one of five supervisors, appoints one RTD board member. Over the years, he has appeared to have more political power in the transit area than his four supervisorial colleagues because of his knowledge of the subject and his willingness to fight hard for his views.
Bradley is a former transportation commissioner, and he has two appointees on the RTD board. As mayor, he has angered RTD union leaders by setting up city-controlled transit lines that run more cheaply than the RTD. And, as mayor, he brings to the bargaining table his prestige as chief executive of the area’s biggest city.
Complicating the Schabarum-Bradley talks are ideological differences between the two. Democrat Bradley is pro-union. Although he has offended the transit unions in the past, he may hesitate to take them on in this fight. Schabarum, a conservative Republican, is hostile to unions.
Remy said that if the local leaders do not reach an agreement by the end of this week, they will “virtually abdicate the local initiative to the state Legislature.”
This week, Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) introduced a bill that would set up a new transit agency to take over the job from the present organizations.
Such a bill was approved by the Legislature last year but vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian, who said it had been weakened by concessions to labor unions and would not improve bus service.
Another RTD board member, Nikolas Patsaouras, said Wednesday that he would back a statewide initiative creating such a transit agency if the local leaders or the Legislature did not end the dispute.
Patsaouras also predicted at least a temporary compromise between the two agencies. “Some plan will come out of a compromise between the commission and the RTD because if we don’t, we will all be chased out of town,” he said.