How should Los Angeles say “thanks” to long-serving politicians who have done the people's business through good times and bad? When a fruit basket just isn't enough, the honorarium of choice for L.A. County supervisors and other local elected officials has been to have their names inscribed on buildings or parks.
On Thursday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Board of Directors will consider expanding that tradition when it takes up a proposal to rename two Metro stations after Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina, who will soon be termed out. If the board agrees, staff will develop plans for the North Hollywood/Zev Yaroslavsky station on the Red Line and the East Los Angeles Civic Center/Gloria Molina station on the Gold Line.
No offense to Yaroslavsky and Molina, who have had long, distinguished careers in public service, but this is a bad idea.
First of all, it's unseemly. Is it really necessary to name stations after sitting board members? That has the appearance of legacy-building on the public dime. And for Molina, who is running for City Council, it's free advertising as well. And what's next? Will every county supervisor or Metro board member get his or her own transit stop upon leaving office? If so, Metro had better keep building rail lines, because there are 13 politicians on its Board of Directors.
It's hardly unprecedented to name public facilities after politicians. In fact, there's already the Zev Yaroslavsky Main Gate at the Hollywood Bowl and the Gloria Molina Community Empowerment Center in Walnut Park and the Michael D. Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse, and the Michael D. Antonovich Regional Park at Joughin Ranch and the Michael D. Antonovich Trail near San Dimas. To name just a few.
But Metro, to its credit, is one of the few public agencies in Los Angeles that has a policy governing the naming of properties. And that policy says, among other things, that properties or facilities frequented by the public may not be renamed for individuals. In rare instances, it says, a site may be “dedicated” to a deceased individual.
Yaroslavsky and Molina may be termed-out, but they are still very much alive. The board would need to alter its rules to dedicate or name the stations after them.
Why do so? What's wrong with the existing rule? It seems reasonable to honor the dead — but less so to reward the living, over and over again, and especially while they are still in office or running for another seat. Yaroslavsky and Molina deserve our thanks and our respect for their years of service. But enough with the names.