REMEMBER when progress was a good thing?
When we looked toward the future and saw better roads, new inventions, scientific advances and a better life?
Today, many look at progress as a dirty word.Perhaps it is the Baby Boomers fault. They went to college, many the first in their families, and experienced freedom of expression, freedom to choose a career path
they wanted, the freedom to say no to mom or dad and say, Im going to do what interests me, not what you want me to be.
Perhaps we are spoiled. So much so that many Boomers unintentionally want to stop progress because they want to keep things the way they are. The same is often said of the World War II cohort, a group Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation. They want things to go back to the good old days.
Thats a theme running through the conversations Ive had this month with candidates running for city councils and school boards. Of course, not all candidates want things to be the same. On the contrary, most are forward thinkers and problem solvers. But many report to me, in what Simon and Garfunkel would label dangling conversations, that constituents often lament todays traffic, higher density dwellings, etc., and wish to keep their city quaint or like it was.
These are valid concerns. In fact, such quality of life issues are close to the hearts of Valley residents. We dont live in the city of Los Angeles, and we dont want our necklace of small cities strung amid the picturesque San Gabriel Valley to become one ginormous megalopolis. Still, I havent figured out how to reverse time.
Many tell me they liked it when we had Liebergs, said Dan Arrighi, Temple City councilman. They want to keep their city quaint.But standing still is not keeping a city quaint. By doing nothing, downtown shopping districts deteriorate. Some are going from quaint to aint. I see homeless people in our downtowns. I see empty lots, graffiti and crime. And I see people going to shopping malls and Big Box stores, leaving small cities downtowns with only liquor stores, nail salons and drug stores.
Unfortunately, small cities cannot keep providing police and fire/paramedic services, working sewers and storm drains, paved streets and active recreation programs without adequate sales tax revenues. Sales tax revenues often come from Big Box stores or car dealers. The cities that realize this first get these retailers first then they fill in with quaint eateries and shops. Two cities that have not sat back on quaint are Monrovia and Alhambra. Theyve revitalized their downtowns and provided a better quality of life for their residents.
Yeah, but what about the traffic, you say? Good question.The way traffic is addressed in this state is archaic.
For example, take the need for freeway widening. The San Bernardino (10) Freeway through Baldwin Park and West Covina is one of the few links without a carpool lane. Also, the juncture of the 10 and the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway is dangerous and causes traffic congestion every single day one that stretches for several miles, not just at the exchange.
The westbound 10 Freeway is sluggish (moving about 10-20 mph) every Saturday afternoon from 2 p.m. into the evening. The Pomona Freeway (60) is very jammed every Saturday afternoon also, not from accidents but simply from too many cars. Lets not even talk about the Foothill (210) Freeway!
To say we have a commuter or rush hour problem woefully underestimates the situation on our freeways. Freeways are busy seven days a week. The time sitting in traffic impacts families, hurts commerce and adds to air pollution.Gasoline taxes for roads are collected and funneled to the state.
The California Transportation Commission recommends what improvement projects make the list. Amazingly, the 10/605 exchange did not.We need progress in fixing our freeways. New Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, gets it. So does West Covina Mayor Mike Touhey and Councilman Steve Herfert, Baldwin Park Mayor Manny Lozano and Duartes John Fasana (also on the MTA board). They recently screamed and yelled about the funding inequity and even held a press conference on the overpass Friday, attracting even more supporters (Assemblyman Bob Huff, Rep. Hilda Solis, Supervisor Gloria Molina).
Hernandez put it best: We have one of the most dangerous, congested interchanges in the state of California, at one of the most critical hubs for commuters and commerce. … We need this project to be funded now.
The California Transportation Commission meets Feb. 28 at Irvine City Hall. Id love it if everyday folks would show up. If traffic prevents you from getting there, fax a letter to Ed Hernandezs office. His fax number is: (626) 960-1310 or drop it off/mail it to 1520 W. Cameron Ave., Suite 165, West Covina, 91790. Address it: Attention Progress.