MTA Votes but Leimert Stop not Guaranteed
After the board voted, the community was left with more questions than answers, and they walked away empty-handed, vowing to fight on
By Brandon I. Brooks
Sentinel Assistant Managing Editor
On the day before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board was scheduled to vote on the community’s call for a train station in the heart of South L.A.’s most important cultural Mecca, Leimert Park, and to underground the proposed light rail line through the Park Mesa Heights section of Crenshaw Boulevard, Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas held a press conference at the headquarters of national television and radio show host, Tavis Smiley to highlight the need for the above-mentioned items.
Also in attendance were noted Princeton Scholar, Dr. Cornel West; Blair Taylor, president of L.A. Urban League; Denise Hunter, of FAME Corporation; Gene Hale, of GLAAACC; Tunua Thrash of West Angeles Dev. Corp.; and a host of residents and members of the Leimert business community.
The significance of the press conference/meeting – which followed by a similar meeting held two days prior, in the Mayor’s office, about the same items – was to show the intensity, commitment and focus of the community that had been asking, not for anything special, but for equal consideration relative to the social, cultural and economic needs of the community.
Fast forward to the next day (last week Thursday), before a standing-room-only audience of 600 community residents, business, civic and religious leaders, the MTA board voted in the affirmative to designate a train station stop in Leimert Park, but there was a catch: the project had to be done within the confines of the existing of $1.7 billion, the budget allocated for the Crenshaw-to-LAX line. Although members of the Board overwhelmingly voiced support for the station, the refusal to allocate funds for the project leaves its fate up in the air. If contract bids for the light rail line project come in at lower-than-expected numbers, then savings will be used to fund the stop at Vernon and Crenshaw.
Referring to Sentinel’s 5.26.11 issue, it stated ‘The report from Metro’s planning division, has identified $2 billion, as potential money sources, from which portions could be shifted to cover the Crenshaw project costs.’
In addition, after the vote, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas issued the following statement: “In a nutshell, the ball has been moved forward in favor of the station, it’s moved forward, but not nearly far enough. It’s a victory with a small “v.” The supervisor has championed locating a stop in the iconic town square since he joined the Metro Board in 2008.
And the urgency of locating a station in Leimert Park Village united the entire South L.A. community, expressed the day before.
Smiley referred to the station in Leimert Park as, “ … political, cultural and social. When it comes to transportation, citizens of color are left behind. I was banking on Crenshaw; I was bullish on Crenshaw. I’ve located my headquarters on Crenshaw. I want the MTA train to stop at Leimert Park.”
And though Dr. West is not a resident nor a business person in the area, he let it be known that he is familiar with Leimert Park and its significance to Black people. He spoke of the rich past and “…its history with jazz, politics, philosophy and wrestling with the God question. But now we’re wrestling with the rail question.”
Since she was present at the MTA meeting, Hunter expressed her frustration with the outcome. She said, “We had a lot of people from the community to come; all of whom were advocating for the Leimert Park Station and the underground subway along Park Mesa. I think it was doomed from the start. I think the board had made up its mind … deals had been cut prior to the meeting taking place. I think the meeting, for the most part, was just a formality; and I say that because of the absence of some, and the lack of attention on the part of others. I think had the Mayor been more aggressive (on behalf of the community), it would have made a huge difference, because of the budgetary issues that were discussed.”
Furthermore, when the issue of funds was mentioned, Hunter remarked, “It is my understanding, there are a number of funding streams. They were trying to keep it within the funds from Measure “R,” but it is also my understanding that there are funds outside of Measure “R” that could have been included.” She ended with an ominous prediction, “It ain’t over, that’s one thing that’s in the hearts and minds of member of the community.”
Danny J. Bakewell Sr., who has been at the forefront advocating for this project, share the same sentiments as the community – that it’s not over. He said, “we’ve tried friendly negotiations trying to use our influence, and at this point, we’ve come up short with nothing. I’m will be calling a community meeting in Leimert Park to rally the residents of Baldwin Hils, View Park, Windsor Hills to voice our concerns, loud and clear – either we get an underground train, or there’ll be no train.”
Stay tune, more to come!