Neighbors and Volunteers

Much ballyhoo and bad press has come to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and their attempts to build a comprehensive rail and bus line network for the Los Angeles area, and in North Hollywood in particular. While I agree that the MTA has made many missteps and has poorly communicated with local residents, I want to share one positive aspect of this project.

There is a group of people, citizen volunteers from all backgrounds, who make up the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative in eight different L.A. communities, including North Hollywood and Sun Valley in the San Fernando Valley. LANI was started by Mayor Richard Riordan with assistance from the City Council and MTA, as well as numerous organizations.

It has been, however, the LANI volunteers, participants and staff who have been responsible for planning and implementing numerous transit and pedestrian-related streetscape improvements in their neighborhoods, complementing the MTA projects. From what I have been told, LANI, as a demonstration project, will sunset in the next year and new, community-based organizations will be formed to continue the work. LANI has received praise, from the Clinton administration on down, as being unique to the nation and a model for other cities to follow.

In North Hollywood, for example, under the direction of local businessman Ken Banks, numerous improvements have been made in the last few months alone, ranging from development of an arts park, new bus shelters, new street trees, painting of stoplight and street light poles and more. I wish I had heard of this group sooner so I could have participated.

As an average taxpaying citizen, I see projects such as LANI as having the potential to end the bureaucratic stranglehold of our city and to give local residents control over their neighborhoods' destinies while getting much needed improvement done. These projects are neither conservative nor liberal, as ideology is irrelevant when you pick up a broom to sweep your own street.

I hope you will monitor their progress and report back to readers. Their work may be among the many actions needed to turn our great city around.

MICHAEL HIGBY

North Hollywood

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