Where have you gone Bill Rosendahl?

By Alex Thompson

(originally printed on City Watch on Monday.  Sign up for City Watch here.)

Bill Rosendahl, LA City Council Transportation Committee Chair, can be a great champion of any cause, but lately he is missed by cyclists and transportation advocates.  And so, if I may begin this public comment with my “ask”, I ask Bill to re-engage with cyclists, and re-engage his constituents with a transportation vision.

On Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s watch, LADOT released its draft Bike Plan eight months overdue, and turned around and constrained public comment to 42 days 0[LINK] , too little for most Neighborhood Councils to react.   The Mar Vista Community Council, Bicycle Advisory Committee, and CD11 Transportation Empowerment Committee – among others – decried the narrow window, and demanded an extension of the comment period.  Citizens emailed and called Rosendahl’s office asking for an extension.

Most thought Rosendahl would measure public opinion, and push for a proper comment period. Jay Handal, West LA Neighborhood Council Chair, remarks, “Bill Rosendahl, in his years as our representative, has always come to the community for input. In most cases that I have been involved with, he has not only heard us but acted in our best interest.”

Last Friday the comment deadline came and passed.  Rosendahl never publicly responded to any of it. Steve Mattson, Venice resident and General Manager of Bikerowave, wrote Rosendahl’s office asking for an extension. He never received a reply.  “Rosendahl is our City Councilman and head of the Transportation Committee and I thought his office would have responded to my emails” writes Mattson.  “No response is a response–and that’s disenchanting.”  Rosendahl’s own Constituent Bill of Rights [LINK] states that constituents have the right to prompt return and follow-up calls concerning complaints and requests.”  For me, Rosendahl’s field deputies have been consummate community organizers, listening and engaging, that hasn’t translated into one iota of top level action.

While cyclists and supporters clamored for his attention, we were confronted daily with the issues that Rosendahl did take a position on.  Last week he took time out of his day to chat about a transit themed punk band with LA Weekly.  Last month he talked to the LA Times about the demolition of the Nude Nudes Strip Club.  He also turned attention to a serious runway incursion, and the Bradley terminal plans.

Serious issues mixed with fluff – that’s normal for any public official.  The problem is where is the Transportation Chair on transportation?  He’s talking about it, but he’s talking about it in terms of punk bands and airplanes.  Those won’t get you from Venice to Downtown.  Now five months into his tenure as Chair, Rosendahl has yet to push a focused transportation agenda.

If you were looking for evidence of engagement on transportation, you might look to Rosendahl’s CD11 Transportation Empowerment Committee.  It’s one of ten committees of local experts he created to inform him on issues, along with an empowerment congress.  It was a bold step, fulfilling a campaign promise in grand fashion – a signature Rosendahl move.

While the other nine committees have perished, the Transportation Committee has proved hardy, and remains very active.  However, Rosendahl doesn’t attend often.  His Transportation Deputy has never attended.

As part of that same campaign promise, Rosendahl pledged to create task forces in response to select issues.  When, on July 4th, 2008, an angry ER doctor in Mandeville Canyon viciously assaulted two cyclists to, in his own words, “teach them a lesson”, Bill Rosendahl didn’t create a task force.  He did better.

Bill Rosendahl was inspired to action, and immediately called a press conference decrying the incident.  He called all parties to act under the banner of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.  “Here now, finally, is our champion,” cyclists thought.  He scheduled a public town hall – a task force which allows public participation, and is better for it.

Then the councilman sensed the vitriol on both sides of the issue.  In violation of his own Constituent Bill of Rights … the right to an inclusive and transparent process for community development, parks, and transportation decisions” – he canceled the town hall [LINK] at the last minute, replacing it with a private task force.  The task force met once in private, and died, producing only a series of flacid recommendations [LINK] focused on educating cyclists.  Educating the victims.

Then Rosendahl disappeared.  Fortunately, the justice system ground on, and on November 2,  Dr. Christopher Thompson was convicted of six felonies.

Thompson is going to the big house, but the tension in the canyons remains.  Commenting on the trial’s outcome on KPCC [LINK] a Brentwood resident whose parents live in the canyons, remarked that cyclists are “asking for trouble . . . someone’s gonna get killed and to be frank with you the residents aren’t going to feel too bad about it.”  The tensions that the task force failed to address, and that the court system, by its nature, will not address, still exist.

This is where LA is now, where it has been, and where it will be – angry and immobile.  People are so frustrated with immobility that their empathy has eroded.  If we don’t deal with it, collectively, we guarantee a future of dehumanizing gridlock and anger.  Ken Alpern says it best:

“I grew up in a city (Long Beach) where everyone could bicycle just about anywhere … but my own son’s bicycle is gathering dust because he can’t safely use it much in the City of Los Angeles.  I’d really like to see my son enjoy as much a quality of life as I did growing up.

“Rosendahl needs to capitalize on his experience, his vision and his energy to create a comprehensive mobility plan for the City–and everyone knows that bicycle mobility must be a part of this plan.”

(Photo by Hal Bergman)

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4 Responses to “Where have you gone Bill Rosendahl?”

  1. Can someone explain the process? After the review period what occurs next? Does this go to the DOT? Will they review all the changes and proposed changes and outline construction timetables etc?

  2. Councilman LaBonge has also been MIA on the issue.

  3. Dan – maybe a post on the process is in order. Right now the plan goes dark, the city and the consultants review the comments. From that they create a final draft. Understand that they are not obligated by law to change the plan at all, and that when we made comments at the beginning of the process, most were ignored.

  4. Thus far the entire City Council has been MIA on the Bike Plan since the new draft came out. Have to hope that they get involved sooner rather than later. I’ve talked to my Councilman…who else is talking to theirs?

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