By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
The problem with traffic in Los Angeles, as Mark Twain might have remarked, is that everyone talks about it but nobody does anything about it.
More talk is set this Thursday at a daylong conference downtown - but this time there is hope that concrete solutions actually may be developed.
The conference is organized by Denny Zane, a former Santa Monica city official and longtime opponent of Los Angeles International Airport expansion.
And the gathering is expected to draw dozens of elected officials, business leaders, labor groups and residents to examine how to get what everyone knows is the main problem: $50 billion needed to develop a regional transit system.
"In the end, we are going to have to ask voters to tax themselves," Zane said. "And they won't do that unless we can come up with a plan to deal with traffic on a regionwide basis.
"There is no reason for the San Fernando Valley, the Eastside, the San Gabriel Valley or the South Bay to vote for more taxes unless they feel their needs are being addressed."
Zane, a booster of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan for a "Subway to the Sea," said other proposals also need to be developed so problems that tie up traffic on the 101 and 134 Freeways are addressed - as well as congestion on the South Bay curve.
And he said it is important to move quickly if a proposal is to get on the November ballot.
"We are not trying to replace the MTA, but to come up with something we hope they will support and submit to the state Legislature to put on the ballot," Zane said.
"We may decide not to put something on this year's ballot, but at least we'll have something to discuss."
Like a new coach taking over a troubled team, Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer Bill Fujioka is bringing in some top assistant coaches to gain control of the massive government.
And like a new coach, he is feeling pressure to deliver to management on the eighth floor of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
Fujioka hired Ellen Sandt, who had been one of his top budget officials when he served as Los Angeles city administrative officer, to work on the county's operations.
He also has hired Miguel Santana, former chief of staff to Supervisor Gloria Molina, to oversee the Children and Families cluster of services.
Both will be paid $195,000 a year - a raise for Sandt and a decrease in what Santana was making in the private sector.
The county CEO was given broad powers by supervisors last year - but the ability to keep that will rest on whether the board puts it before voters this year to make the changes permanent.
Fujioka already has run into some resistance from supervisors on his plans that have led to growing doubt over whether the board will submit a measure to the public to keep the county executive post, officials say.
In a news conference last week with Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton - trumpeting a reduction in crime to more than 50-year lows - Villaraigosa received a vote of confidence from his No. 1 employee.
"I'm privileged to work with the best mayor I've ever worked with - and that's Antonio Villaraigosa," Bratton said. "I really appreciate his wholehearted support in this effort."
Of course, two years ago, Bratton also was singing the praises of former Mayor James Hahn, who hired him.
Bratton took note of that, but reserved most of his praise for his current boss.