Council Puts Off Vote on Metro Rail Financial Package
“I won’t forget this,” Chairman Nate Holden said when fellow City Council committee members ignored him last week and recommended a huge city financial aid package for the Los Angeles Metro Rail subway.
They say of Holden that he never forgets a slight, no matter how slight it is. So Wednesday, he got his revenge.
With Holden leading the opposition on the City Council floor, the lawmakers overruled the Transportation and Traffic Committee and refused to approve the aid package.
$277 Million Sought
Instead, they delayed for a week action on the request to commit up to $277 million in city funds for construction of Metro Rail from the Wilshire-Alvarado station to Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
“It is not catastrophic,” said Councilman Marvin Braude, who was in charge of pushing the aid package through the council. “I think the votes will be there.”
But do not include Braude. He is on vacation next week, as are some other council members. It may be three weeks until he can put together the eight votes needed for approval on the 15-member council.
“Every delay escalates the cost,” Braude said in an interview after the vote.
The story began last week when Legislative Analyst William R. McCarley presented the financing request to the committee.
The request from the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission asked the city to pay $96 million from its share of countywide transportation sales tax revenues. The money from the tax is split among various local governments in the county, and Los Angeles has already allocated a substantial amount of its share of the work of building the first segment of Metro Rail from Union Station downtown to Wilshire Boulevard and Alvarado Street.
In addition to the $96 million, the Transportation Commission asked the city to obligate another $181 million for potential cost overruns.
And the commission said it will later ask for $112 million more in city funds for construction of the subway from Hollywood and Vine to North Hollywood. That request was not formally before the council.
Holden declared that the huge project was costing much more than estimated. He demanded that the committee delay the vote for a week to get more information and to send a message to subway builders that the council is watching costs. The other two committee members, Braude and Councilman Michael Woo, a former chairman, turned down Holden’s request for a delay.
Outvoted, Holden finally joined them in supporting the measure in committee, but when the measure hit the council floor Wednesday, he complained that his wishes as committee chairman had been ignored. Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores said the council owed Holden respect and supported him.
Information Arrives Late
And, the pro-appropriation forces had made a strategic error. A thick packet from McCarley and City Administrative Officer Keith Comrie with all the information about the aid proposal was received by council members just before the debate began, too late for them to study it.
“It is unconscionable for something of this magnitude to be forced to a vote today,” Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky said.
Asked later if he lost because he was unprepared, Braude said: “I was prepared. I did not have staff work. McCarley let me down.”