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Sep 2008
Mayor Offers Blueprint for LA's Future

Mayor Villaraigosa outlined his vision for LA's future ... housing, transit, economy ... recently in a speech at the LA Business Council's Mayoral Housing Summit. Here's what the Mayor had to say. "The LABC's Scorecard underscores precisely what we must do to ensure a more vibrant and more livable future for the City of Los Angeles and for the region as a whole.

"Experts and academics, businesspeople and non-profit leaders, policymakers and people on the street agree what the score is.

"We know that the fundamental generational challenge for Angelenos is to answer the question: how do we build and sustain a vibrant and thriving middle class?

"We see the urgency of this question echoing back at us from cities all over America. We certainly see it here in LA, where we've got the smallest per capita middle class and the largest homeless population of any big city anywhere.

"And Angelenos can tell you as a matter of personal and civic history, that when you lose your middle class, you lose your center of gravity. You lose the critical foundation of support for public institutions. You lose those essential middle rungs on the economic ladder.

"In the process, you risk losing that wide sense of opportunity that has always defined the LA state of mind.

"This scorecard tells us one thing above all else: It tells us that we need to start taking the long view.

"We need to start thinking regionally and globally. We need to act together to take on our biggest problems in concrete ways. And we need to start yesterday.

"This is going to mean planning in a more imaginative way to make Los Angeles a more livable place. It means shaking up the status quo and doing something about the quality of our schools -- restoring our societal belief in the collective benefit of providing a quality public education for every child regardless of social status or nation of origin.

"It means thinking ahead, building to bridge the distance between jobs and housing. And -- you probably guessed this part was coming - it means coming to a regional consensus.

"It means putting our money where our mouths are and saying we are willing to pay just a fraction more on purchases to invest in an expanded system of mass transportation linked to housing that regular families can afford.

"You know, this is no easy -- certainly no ordinary -- time for families across the region.

"Many families see their quality of life in a tightening vise.

"For the middleclass teachers and health care professionals, grocery store clerks, and dock workers who drive our economy, the odds of finding a place they can afford to live and raise their families only begins to feel like a decent bet a county away to the north and the east.

"For too long, we have failed to connect our living spaces to our sources of livelihood. As a result, our workers are getting squeezed from every direction. And they are being squeezed out of Los Angeles.

"As a result, parents are on the road more. They are with their kids less.

"With the prices of gas, food and health care going through the roof, it is becoming harder and harder to put a roof over one's head in the City of Angels.

"Consider the current score for families in Los Angeles:

"Only 11 percent of L.A. County households can afford a median-priced home.

"With wages stagnating and costs skyrocketing, we are witnessing a virtual exodus of young people - skilled workers and college graduates - the lifeblood of any region's economic health and wealth.

"With nearly three quarters of L.A. workers commuting alone in their cars, the number of daily commuter trips in the region has now reached 6 million - and if that's not bad enough today, we know that the frustration is only going to keep boiling.

"This is no ordinary time, and we need an extraordinary commitment to tackle the challenges ahead.

"We can no longer sit on our hands and ignore the facts. We can't shirk our responsibilities and leave residents with nowhere to turn but an unstable housing market and a second-class transit system. We must see this moment and this year as an opportunity and use every tool at our disposal to lay the foundation -- to lay the tracks -- for a brighter future!

"The straight-forward fact is that progress on jobs, housing, and transportation go hand-in-hand.

"In just a couple of weeks, I will announce a comprehensive housing plan seeking to help make Los Angeles a more affordable place to live and work. The details will come soon enough, but the broader objectives have already been set.

"This proposal will seek to bridge the gap between the housing we produce and the housing we need.

"It promises affordable housing where it makes the most sense - along public transit corridors and close to job centers.

"It pledges housing in the right places, ensuring that we protect our neighborhoods and reinforce existing communities instead of undermining them.

"It brings community members, business leaders and federal dollars together in the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative and restores dignity to families drowning in the national wave of foreclosures.

"It marshals our resources toward a single goal: building homes for working people.

"At a moment when foreclosures are on the rise, jobs are on the decline, and 'bank-owned' signs are popping up next to white picket fences everywhere, housing tops the list of our most pressing issues.

"And there is no time to waste. We must act now.

"On November 4, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a greater Los Angeles no longer as dependent on oil, and where we are making farsighted investments to ease traffic congestion and improve our quality of life. And it is an opportunity our residents, businesses and daily commuters cannot afford to ignore.

"Measure R would bring in $40 billion over 30 years -- that's ultra conservative not including matching state and federal funds - while costing the average Angeleno less than the price of half a tank of gas per year.

"It would help us expand our growing subway system into a comprehensive network that really goes places, so that a student at USC or a commuter in the Valley could finally take the train to the Westside or LAX -- and tourists could reach Hollywood Boulevard without having to get into a car.

"It would give regional cities the flexibility and money to repair roads, fill potholes and make intersections and streets safer for pedestrians and bikers.

"It would fortify our network of rapid bus lines and allow for more service in the underserved corners of South L.A., the Valley and East L.A.

"Measure R would fundamentally reshape Los Angeles -- and Southern California. And in the process, it would pump $32.1 billion in construction funding alone into our economy and create more than 210,000 jobs.

"Now we all know that these are tough economic times, and Los Angeles is certainly not immune to the economic chill blowing across America. But the costs of the status quo are unacceptable.

"Traffic congestion costs the region $9.3 billion every year, and we waste 384 million gallons of gas stuck in traffic.

"The average commuter spends three full days each year trapped in gridlock -- 72 hours devoted to traffic, not family -- while the congestion blocking our delivery trucks is driving up shipping costs by up to 250 percent.

"There is simply no comparison between the $25 our measure will cost the average Angeleno each year, and the estimated $2,000 we each spend on wasted gas, car repairs and time lost in traffic.

"You know I am a perpetual optimist. They even call me the 'Energizer Bunny.' But even an 'Energizer Bunny' has to admit this will be an uphill battle. It takes a two-thirds vote. That's a high bar.

"It is going to take support from everyone, Republicans and Democrats, business and labor. And yes, from everyone in this room.

"You know, there will always be cynics and the naysayers who carp from the sidelines arguing -- often in their own self interest - that this is not the moment to change the way we fund transit and that there is no way we can successfully expand access to affordable housing.

"I always remind them that the City of Los Angeles was not built by pessimists.

"The LA region has always been defined by the people willing to look around the bend and see the possibilities ahead.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we all talk about it. This is our chance to do something about traffic. More than that, this is our chance to do something for our children and the region for the long-term.

"So, let's get on the same page with a comprehensive roadmap. Let's build our future together.

"I know that we are all busy people with a lot on our plates. But this is our chance. We need to take it and make it together.

"So whatever you do in the next sixty days, make a commitment. Do something about traffic. And support Measure R with everything you've got!

"Thank you so much for listening."



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