Archdiocese of Los Angeles and The Sexual Abuse Settlement

Over at The London Times, the author took exception to Catholic officials trying to block some leaders from receiving communion during Pope Francis’ installation mass. She laments:

 The Catholic Church portrays itself hypocritical…[It] is the most powerful religion in the world today but by making itself seem above others creates more harm then benefit.

The hypocrisy The London Times underscores during Pope Francis’ short tenure has roots in his election. On March 12, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled four clergy sexual abuse cases for roughly $10 million stemming from allegations by victims that alleged former priest Michael Baker repeatedly molested them in the 1970s. Baker committed these acts under the watch of former Cardinal Roger Mahony, and many people are rightfully up in arms over the fact Mahony allowed this heinous criminal to continue as a priest. Disgraced, Mahony retired in 2011, was stripped of his diocesan duties in January, and formally rebuked in March. Somehow, the history of covering up for a pedophile did not prevent Mahony from continuing to play a significant role within the Catholic Church on a global level though. The day the settlement was reached, Mahony was at the Vatican helping to elect the Pope, the holy leader of one of the world’s largest religions.

By itself, the above set of circumstances paint a disturbing picture, but they are not the end of the story. Not only did Mahony’s actions reveal a flawed character, but his words also did the same. Mahony took to his blog to complain about being made a “scapegoat” in the church scandal. The ex-Cardinal believes he is somehow a victim in this episode, a horrific diminishment of the true trauma Baker’s victims experienced. He is not a scapegoat, but a tacit accomplice who bucked all moral and ethical obligations to protect a fellow clergymen.

Furthermore, the church’s statement after the settlement only worsened the situation. ” The Archdiocese has always taken full responsibility for Michael Baker’s actions, it was just a matter of agreeing on a number. We’re happy to move past this,” said J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Taken full responsibility? Move past this? Mahony continues to distance himself from the situation, and it’s impossible for the victims to suddenly forget the abuses they were subjected to simply because the Catholic Church cut them a check. This kind of public relations garbage is to be expected from slimy organizations or individuals trying to save face, but we should expect more from the Catholic Church.

At the Papal Conclave, Mahony posted several blog posts about his wonderful experience. He also suggested that he would pray for his critics, a sizable portion of people who vehemently opposed his attendance in Rome. Quite frankly, Mahony should spend his time more wisely. Instead of praying for his detractors, he needs to reflect introspectively to understand why he has failed miserably to conduct himself in a morally acceptable matter becoming of reputable individual.

LA Public Transit and The HOV Toll Lane Experiment

A recently released American Public Transportation Association report noted an 18.5 percent increase in ridership on Los Angeles’ light rail system, a testament to the effectiveness of the beautiful new Expo Line. The news signals welcome progress, and the transportation authority should charge full speed ahead with other mass-transit expansions.

Currently, the public transportation system in Los Angeles is woefully underwhelming. Short trips are relatively easy and reliable, but don’t bother trying to navigate several miles unless you’re willing to map out numerous transfers and spend thrice as long as a car would take for most voyages. The inability to travel long distances discourages many from using public transit and contributes to congestion on the roadways. The region’s many attractions are spread out among various areas, and Angelenos drive more miles per person than any other metropolitan area to reach their destinations according to the RAND Corporation.

Many proposals have outlined an astoundingly comprehensive public transit system, and there is no doubt Los Angeles can compete with other world-class cities such as London in this area.

In order to build out new lines, the transit authority must find a strong source of revenue. Voters narrowly defeated measure J in November to extend the sales tax and provide an estimated $30 billion for expansion, and fuel taxes have not kept pace with inflation.

Though the situation seems dire, a new experiment currently underway is the answer to funding the system upgrade. The transit authority has a cash cow under its nose, and it should not hesitate to milk it. In November, toll lanes popped up along the Harbor Freeway and the San Bernardino Freeway in Los Angeles County for a one-year trial. Not only should the experiment continue along these corridors, but the project should also be expanded to include all freeways within the county that already have HOV lanes.

The toll lanes do not alter the current state of affairs on the roadway; they only improve them. High-occupancy vehicles are still able to use the express lanes free of charge, provided they install a Fastrak transponder on their vehicle that can be purchased for $40. Thus, residents are still encouraged to carpool and cut down on their carbon footprint. Meanwhile, single drivers are now allowed to drive in the express lanes for a variable fee.

Opening up the lanes to all drivers maximizes the use of existing roadways. Single drivers moving into the toll lanes exert a positive externality on other drivers because more space is available in the regular lanes.  The result is a faster commute as the traffic load achieves a greater balance.

Based on congestion, solo drivers pay between $.25 and $1.40 per mile to utilize the lanes. The project, which covers a small fraction of the freeway system, is expected to generate nearly $20 million in revenue per year. A countywide implementation would surely rake in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Initial reception to the experiment was overwhelmingly negative. However, the lanes have operated without a hitch, and case studies of other congestion pricing initiatives suggest that residents will soon warm to the concept.

Critics of the plan have had two main complaints. They denounce it as simply another tax that robs hard-working constituents of their pay. I don’t disagree that some initiatives in this city have been thinly veiled money grabs, but this is a well-researched plan based on several commissioned studies. The transit authority has been left with a dearth of options, and the money is not being used to pad employee salaries or cover pension expenses. Instead, it is being reinvested in infrastructure to fund extremely beneficial projects.

In addition, opponents denounce the creation of a two-tiered commuting system because people with higher incomes are more likely to pay the tolls. To combat income inequality issues, the transportation authority has offered discounted rates for low-income drivers and provided other initiatives to level the playing field.

Above all, the transit authority is not forcing anyone to pay the fee to use the lane. They are simply offering an option to motorists who value the convenience of a faster commute. Anyone opposed to the fee can continue to use the lanes they used to free of charge.

By implementing this innovative approach, elected officials will vastly improve public transit routes and take a major step towards combatting the severe traffic problem in Los Angeles. Study after study decries the congestion on the region’s roadways, and it consumes precious time, pollutes the air, hinders fuel economy, and stresses drivers out. Our quality of life suffers drastically.

Los Angeles stands among the greatest cities in the world. Shouldn’t its transit system reflect its gleaming reputation?