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Hertzberg, Hahn Trade Jabs on Traffic

Times Staff Writer

Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn sparred Wednesday over who should be blamed for the city’s traffic problems, which consistently rank as the worst in the nation.

Hertzberg, who is running for mayor, used a morning drive-time radio talk show to announce a 10-point transportation plan dubbed the “Commuters’ Bill of Rights.” He also said that Hahn was “asleep at the switch” for missing numerous Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meetings.

Hahn’s campaign spokeswoman, Julie Wong, quickly fired back in an e-mail to Hertzberg’s campaign headquarters. “We are sending you a Los Angeles Commuters’ Bill for $850,000,000 of taxpayer money that has been and is being diverted from our transportation needs to pay for the budget mess you left in Sacramento,” it read.

Hertzberg, who represented the San Fernando Valley for six years, left office at the end of 2002 because of term limits.

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The Hertzberg campaign sent the bill for $850 million in lost transportation funds back to Hahn. “It’s pathetic hypocrisy,” Szabo said.

Hahn campaign consultant Kam Kuwata replied: “It’s the typical Sacramento flimflam.”

On KABC-AM (790), Hertz- berg told listeners he wanted to end road construction during rush hours. “What brain-dead idiot does anything like this?” he asked. He also said he wanted to cut the number of trucks on the road during commute times.

The Sherman Oaks attorney, who has his own driver, said he is fed up with traffic. Asked by a caller if he favored opening carpool lanes to single-passenger vehicles, he said, “If there’s a problem

Among the other ideas in Hertzberg’s plan is installing more synchronized lights and left-turn signals.

Traffic congestion in Los Angeles ranks as the worst in the nation, according to an annual study by the Texas Transportation Institute. The study found that motorists commuting during peak periods in the Los Angeles region spent 93 hours stuck in traffic in 2002, slightly less than the previous year.

Hertzberg spokesman Matt Szabo said the mayor, like Hertzberg, had supported Proposition 42, a March 2002 ballot measure, overwhelmingly approved by voters, that required transportation taxes to be used for road or transit projects. But the proposition also contained a loophole that allows the money to be used for other purposes if the governor declares a financial emergency. Kuwata said there isn’t money available for badly needed road improvements, “thanks to the Bob Hertzberg loophole.”

Kuwata also countered that Hahn has many meetings to attend besides the MTA board’s.

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The volley over transportation comes as the candidates step up their attacks, seeking attention before the March 8 election. The repartee is expected to continue when Hahn faces his four major challengers tonight at the second of two debates sponsored by Jewish community organizations.

Traffic was one of the key issues Tuesday in Tarzana when the challengers -- Hertzberg, state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley) and City Councilmen Bernard C. Parks and Antonio Villaraigosa -- participated in the first debate. Parks, who was caught in traffic and arrived half an hour late, wants to expand freeways and add more express buses to MTA’s fleet. He said that public transit needs to be clean, safe and on time if motorists are going to be coaxed from their cars.

Villaraigosa, who has served on the MTA board, said the city needs to provide incentives to encourage employers to promote carpools, public transit use and telecommuting.

The Eastside councilman also called for more light-rail lines and extending the Metro Rail subway down Wilshire Boulevard.

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Alarcon said he agreed with the ideas of his fellow challengers and vowed to fight for a fair share of federal funds for Los Angeles. “The mayor has failed us in that regard,” he said.


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