Stop Giving Them a PassOP-ED: Large developments such as a pro football stadium and subway line require CEQA’s strict oversight. Monday, October 31, 2011
More public transportation is generally a good thing, but the process is even more important. There has to be more than the transit advocates’ burning conviction that they know best and we should simply trust them. It’s not only important to do the right thing, but to do it right.
While CEQA is all about environmental protections, it reminds us of the importance of putting in place effective processes to ensure that good decisions and good policies are made when it comes to these massive public works projects. Often, there’s only the political process, and, all too often, it defies common sense.
In the case of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, this is the process that led to the Green Line stopping short of LAX and which now has Metro building a “UCLA/Westwood” station almost a mile away from the UCLA campus. This is the process that is going to result in a subway system that effectively gives the Veterans Affairs medical campus two subway stations, while leaving people to take the bus to UCLA, medical facilities and all. It is a process that is clearly flawed.
How about also putting better protections in place to make sure that scarce taxpayer dollars are going to be spent in a way that will actually give taxpayers the best value for their money? Federal funding should not be made available to projects that don’t make the best and most effective use of taxpayer dollars. Instead, projects elsewhere that can better withstand scrutiny should be prioritized.
And that’s exactly why CEQA and the legal process should not be weakened for Metro or any other government agency. Government agencies can sometimes take on a life of their own, and the bureaucracies they establish and the internal cultures they create sometimes seem most bent on self-perpetuation and justifying their own existence. The courts can serve as an important check on government agency megalomania, can play a critical role in making sure that public agencies don’t run amok and can place needed constraints on their tentacles, as the consent decree imposed upon Metro in the ’90s demonstrates.
It’s just one example of why the process shouldn’t be artificially rushed. While for Machiavellian subway enthusiasts, the end may always justify the means, for those of us who believe in good government and want to avoid omnipotent government leviathans, the process is every bit as important.
If we remember that the process is both timeless and important, and if we act upon it, there may be hope yet for Granny and our kids.
John Mirisch is a member of the Beverly Hills City Council.
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