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Joel Epstein Headshot

Revolution, Democracy and the Subway in Beverly Hills

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As I ride the Metro 720 Rapid Bus along the washboard known as Wilshire Blvd. I think maybe, as hard as it would be, that it is time to get an office closer to home. The rent on Metro is great but it sure is hard to take a business call with the rat-a-tat-tat sound made by the bus crawling down the seemingly war-ravaged pavement of the Boulevard. I hope I didn't lose that much-needed client on the other end of the line.

But of course that is not all I am thinking about. Obsessed about mobility and public transit in Los Angeles, I am also thinking of the Wilshire subway and the preferred siting of the Century City station at Constellation Blvd and Avenue of the Stars.

As my cousin Bocababe, née Annabel, reminded me recently, "Remember, it's never a complaint, it's a comment." So here are my comments on the Battle of Beverly Hills, with a story attached.

In my last piece, a cover story on the future of transit in LA for a community newspaper, I took heat in the comments for referring to the Beverly Hills critics of a station at Constellation as "a handful of Beverly Hills opponents." That's the truth. Vocal, organized and wound up I will give them, but numerous, forgetaboutit. And contrary to at least one irate letter writer's J'accuse, I never called anyone a NIMBY (not in my backyard) or NUMBY (not under my backyard). What I did say in the piece is that some pundits refer to the critics that way. I learned good from my high school English teacher; precision in journalistic writing is critical.

In any event, this indictment of my motives and objectivity requires a response. For starters, I dare say the self-proclaimed leadership of the opponents of a Constellation Blvd station appears to be suffering from delusions of grandeur regarding their importance to the safety of Beverly Hills' students.

Take for example the (I hope) hyperbolic statement of one city resident at a January meeting held in Beverly Hills on the progress of the Westside Subway Extension.

"I have a 3-year-old son, and his life is at stake."

I would thoroughly deconstruct this statement, though I think it speaks for itself, as well of the blinding conviction of the resident. Suffice it to ask, is the speaker's three year old planning on playing in the sand box 50 feet under the high school property directly ahead of Metro's subway tunnel boring machine?

Did it ever occur to the Beverly Hillbillies who have joined forces with the likes of the school board president and the odd councilmember or two, or more, who share the board president's delirium about Metro's willful deception of Beverly Hills on the subway tunnel's route that perhaps the electeds are merely showboating for the voters? After all, there is an election coming to 90210 next week and what else do some of these officeholders have to show for their title and assigned parking space at City Hall?

Remember, that is just me making a comment, not offering criticism, about public officials who have thrust themselves into the public eye over this spat with Metro.

My take on the whole thing; the fumes wafting up from the oil well on the Beverly Hills High School property have gone to the Hillbillies' heads, and judgment.

Were this a less relaxed town I guess I'd say I can't imagine why the people of Beverly Hills aren't up in arms over the School Board and the City wasting precious education dollars paying lawyers and PR flacks to fight The Power. And who, you ask, is The Power? Why it's Metro, of course, doing the bidding of large property owners in Century City, out to tunnel their way unnecessarily, in the Hillbillies' view, under the sacred ground of Beverly Hills High School.

Inspired by the nonviolent protests by the Egyptian street which led to the overthrow of long-time despot Hosni Mubarak, tomorrow and the next day I will be at Beverly Hills City Hall calling for the overthrow of the handful of Metro-agitated electeds who don't represent the people of Beverly Hills. But since I am not a resident of that fair city, if you are, I hope you will join me on the barricades. I will be the guy in the Metro conductor's cap shouting, "All Aboard!"

Yours in transit,
Joel