July 24, 2008
Green transit, Hollywood Jew, New Yorker cover
Take Back L.A.
I'm pleased Rob Eshman plans to get involved in making local transportation better ("Take Back L.A.," July 11).
This is prime time for action, with the push for a new half-cent sales tax that would fund a subway extension and many other transit and highway projects in the county.
The last time The Journal wrote about transportation was to fault the Metro Orange Line, now a huge success for the Valley and the region. Since then, thousands of Angelenos, fed up with traffic and high gas prices, have helped guide development of Metro's new Long Range Transportation Plan that looks ahead to the year 2030 and recommends dozens of new transportation projects to keep pace with the county's population and job growth.
Extending the subway is an important part of that plan. Last fall, Metro kicked off the Westside Extension Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis Study. More than 1,000 people have participated in 13 formal meetings so far. The Jewish Journal has received meeting notices but hasn't responded.
It's not too late. That study is nearing its conclusion, and there will be another round of community meetings before staff presents its recommendation to the Metro board this fall and requests authorization to enter into a full environmental study.
Eshman should go to www.metro.net for details about this and other planning studies. Then maybe he can put his frustration to work and, in the future when tourists ask him how to get to the beach via Metro, he'll be able to give them positive directions.
Jody Feerst Litvak
Metro Community Relations Manager
Rob Eshman responds:
I want to believe that the proposed half-cent sales tax will solve Los Angeles' traffic problem.
But Ms. Litvak and the MTA will have to convince me that MTA will use the increased revenue in a wise and timely manner. A track record of cost overruns and poor management make me skeptical, but I invite her to make the case in these pages that the MTA will do its job well.
Meanwhile, Ms. Litvak criticizes The Jewish Journal for doing our job well. We didn't fault the Orange Line system, we wrote a cover story that reported on the concerns of adjacent neighborhoods. Those concerns were addressed, and the line is a success -- several of our employees take the Orange Line to the office.
Since then, we have run other stories and opinion pieces on L.A. traffic -- an issue that deeply affects the ability of all communities, including the Jewish one, to prosper, connect and flourish.
As for attending meetings, guilty as charged. But as long as Ms. Litvak continues to read The Jewish Journal, she'll have all the input from us she could ever want.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is proud of the leadership position we have taken on a range of civic issues, including transportation. AJC is actively working in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to advocate for a world-class transportation system in Los Angeles, with the goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil that threatens our security, environment and economy.
For example, AJC worked with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to implement a landmark "Green Car Incentive Program" that provides fleet car pricing for hybrid vehicles for the county's over 100,000 employees. AJC is working with L.A. City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel to create a similar program for city employees. AJC is also participating in Metro's Long Range Transportation Plan and a range of mass transit improvements, including, but not limited too, the Gold Line and Expo Line light-rail extensions, as well as the "Subway to the Sea" Purple Line.
AJC's award-winning Energy Security Program is advancing Los Angeles.
Allan Alexander and Nadine Gerson
AJC Los Angeles Energy Security Program
I read the "Q&A: Hollywood Insider" of July 18 about Irv Weintraub and came away with the impression that he lives in high style and can't quite defend why wealthy Jewish entertainment executives and celebrities are not more active in acts of tzedakah (charitable giving). He seemed to be very defensive.
However, I know Irv and have been fortunate to work with him on the both the executive committee and the board of directors of Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino.
Irv is the ultimate mensch. He can daven up a storm and chant a mean haftarah, is more than generous with his checkbook and his time and was a fabulous vice president at VBS -- showing great leadership, dedication, compassion and creativity. He is so well respected by VBS that we honored him a few years ago as our Man of the Year.
I am a better person for knowing Irv Weintraub; VBS and the Los Angeles Jewish community are enriched by having him as one of the menschen in our lives.
Michael A. Waterman
New Yorker Cover
Congratulations for the brilliant article by Mona Eltahawy ("Fear of an Obama Planet Grips Some Americans," July 18). It puts The Journal a cut above. However, The New Yorker magazine's Barry Blitt had overestimated the intellectual insight of many of the readers.
I don't believe that the satirical aspect of the cartoon reached everyone. Eltahawy's article should go a long way toward clearing up the confusion.
I had trouble keeping my lunch down after reading Marty Kaplan's "Beyond Sicko" (July 18). In the field of education, we already have a monstrous, corrupt, money-squandering, dysfunctional bureaucracy known as the public school system, which robs parents of control over their children's education and leaves them powerless and defenseless against the colossus of the state. The last thing we need is to create a similar monstrous bureaucracy to deliver health care.
No sane person would deny that we have serious problems with our health care system and that it needs to be reformed. However, any reforms in health care must seek to: 1) empower the individual patient, 2) maximize choice, 3) encourage competition, 4) allow health care practioners to do their jobs without fear of devastating lawsuits.
Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute, beautifully stated, "The essence of America is a respect for the dignity of the individual. It should be axiomatic that such dignity is enhanced to the extent one has control over one's own life."
Rabbi Louis J. Feldman