Setting the Record Straight

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Over the past week, the Los Angeles Daily News has published a series of misleading articles accusing me of “driving in costly style” and “off the books,” thereby “stretching County vehicle resources more than other Supervisors.”

By doing so, the Los Angeles Daily News “stretched the truth.”

This all began when I was ambushed by Los Angeles Daily News “investigative reporter” Mike Reicher at a Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board Committee meeting on July 16, 2015. He asked me a question and, rather than ignoring him, I tried to answer. Silly me for thinking that he was impartial and fair-minded.

These are the facts as I know them.

I have been using the same vehicle, a 2006 Chrysler 300 Limited, currently valued at approximately $4,500, for the vast majority of the last nine years, spanning my service as a California State Senator and my nearly seven years as a Los Angeles County Supervisor, because it served its purpose satisfactorily. Although customary, the County of Los Angeles has not, to date, purchased a new vehicle for me.

As of this writing, the odometer on the 2006 Chrysler showed more than 135,000 miles. That includes repeated trips to check the progress of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project; planning the redevelopment of the Vermont Corridor and Leimert Park Village; and overseeing the development of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, which will bring much-needed healthcare to the people of South Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

As can be expected of any car that has been on the road almost every day for much of the last decade, it began showing wear and tear. But instead of having taxpayers purchase a brand new replacement vehicle that would allow me to traverse Los Angeles County’s 162-square mile Second District, I opted to temporarily use a vehicle recommended by fleet management staff. It was a 2012 Chrysler assigned to the Office of the Assessor that had been sitting idly in the County fleet for over a year and perhaps longer.

I thought I was being prudent by using a vehicle that was already in the County garage instead of purchasing a brand new vehicle that would have cost taxpayers up to $50,000. Apparently, the Los Angeles Daily News disagrees.

While I used the 2012 Chrysler, the 2006 Chrysler was garaged and, to my knowledge, not used by anyone, as erroneously implied by the Los Angeles Daily News. I used the 2012 Chrysler – valued at less than $20,000 – for several months until the Office of the Assessor resumed using it in December 2014. I then went back to my old workhorse, the 2006 Chrysler, which I am still using.

Surely the Los Angeles Daily News reporter knew this, as it was in the public record. I am at a loss as to why he would claim that I am “stretching County vehicle resources more than other Supervisors” – especially since he has accurately reported in previous articles that my vehicle is the least expensive among those driven by the Board of Supervisors.

It is patently false that I was assigned and used two vehicles as though I received special privileges, drove a vehicle that was “off the books” or, even worse, ripped off the public and somehow was untruthful.

I wonder what the reporter’s motivation was for deliberately misleading Los Angeles Daily News readers and besmirching the reputation of an office holder who actually saved taxpayer dollars. Whose bidding was the “investigative reporter” doing?

Additionally, the articles highlighted the frequency of Board members’ car washes and suggested each car wash wasted 80-100 gallons of water – a grossly exaggerated assertion without substantiation.

Board members do not micromanage the repair, maintenance and other needs of their vehicles so, I must say, I was not aware of how often car washes were happening.

I agree with the County Internal Services Division in its recent directive limiting car washes at the Hall of Administration to once a week, and I expect that it will be implemented immediately. It is consistent with my record on environmental issues and other measures taken by the County to conserve water.

Long before Governor Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water reductions in April, County departments and agencies began implementing turf conversion programs; switching to low-flow plumbing; modifying landscape irrigation systems; using recycled water at public parks and golf courses; and facilitating the financing of homeowners’ energy efficiency upgrades. County initiatives have already kept millions of gallons of water from flowing down the drain during this punishing drought, and even more initiatives are planned.

Today’s article is yet another example of the Los Angeles Daily News’ attempt to mislead the public regarding the County’s water policy and water usage. Even worse, attempts to rebut the Los Angeles Daily News’ erroneous claims go unheeded, not even allowing a letter submitted a week ago to be printed as promised.

As has been the case in past Board meetings, and as will be the case in upcoming Board meetings: sustainability issues, environmental justice and water conservation shall be ongoing priorities for the Board of Supervisors.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and allowing me to set the record straight.

MRT-signatureSeptember 3, 2015