TPM News

Downtown Los Angeles, once a rather windswept zone of dust and awkward, empty buildings, has come alive in recent years with a blossoming of residential development. But it's LA's natural, geographical center that's now been restored as an emerging transit hub. The intersection of Amtrak, commuter rail, and LA metro lines forms at the majestic Union Station, a wonder of Mission Revival architecture.

These transportation options are new developments in a city that once boasted the largest streetcar network in the world, with over 20 separate lines stretching from Pasadena to the coast, and from Hollywood down to edges of Orange County. When the Los Angeles Metro Expo Line extension is completed next year, it will be the first time since the 1940s, a trip from downtown to the beach in Santa Monica will become possible by rail. In many ways, today's Expo Line is a resurrection project: its tracks will lay almost exactly where the Santa Monica Air Line streetcar once ran through the entire Westside, before cars and cheap gasoline converted Los Angeles into the ganglion of freeways we see today.

Today, displacing the automobile in Los Angeles would appear to be a Sisyphean task. But the regrettable lurch towards a petrol-powered transportation system, many decades ago, is only one of the problematic legacies Los Angeles, and the state of California, must confront in the new millennium. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an historic drought, perhaps the worst in a thousand years, has stressed water supplies so badly that it’s caused hydropower to crash from 23% to 11% of the state’s power generation between 2011 and 2014.

Antiquated water infrastructure in the great Central Valley looks to further exacerbate the problem, as California agriculture corners the state’s overall water demand. Unstoppable economic growth—expanding the cities, spreading out into the deserts, always consuming more energy—was once a key part of California’s brand. But nature, it would seem, has started to put up roadblocks.

In answer, Los Angeles has undertaken a surprising effort to refashion its transport, water, and energy systems—although progress is slow. Automobile registrations stood at 5.9 million in Los Angeles County in 2004. A decade later, and admittedly in part due to recession and slower population growth, registered autos stood at just 6.2 million, according to California’s DMV. That’s also due, however, to the heroic Measure R—the long term investment in public rail that took effect in 2009 that attempts to persuade Angelinos to abandon their cars in favor of the train.

Data on air quality, long the bane of LA’s reputation, show a clear improvement. Los Angeles has even taken on the herculean project of restoring its river, nearly 50 miles long, creating an estuary that doubles as a connecting bicycle route.

Finally, Los Angeles is doing its best to embrace solar power as every entity from businesses to universities, to individual homeowners (and LA Metro too), races to construct rooftop solar. Los Angeles, like much of the rest of the world, is valiantly trying to reduce its exposure to oil, while increasing its exposure to electricity. And more importantly, electricity from clean power.

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Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) tweeted a photo last week of him and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) posing with an American flag-patterned AR-15 rifle in a show of their Second Amendment bona fides.

Unfortunately for Buck, a Washington, D.C. attorney general's office spokesperson told The Hill that it's illegal to possess an AR-15 in the District. The spokesperson told the publication that the matter had been referred to the Metropolitan Police Department.

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The former mayor of Parma, Mo., on Tuesday said that he believes numerous police officers and city officials resigned from their positions when the town's first black female mayor took office because they believed they would be fired.

Randall Ramsey, who lost his bid for re-election as mayor to Tyrus Byrd, told TPM over the phone on Tuesday that there were "lot of rumors that they were going to be fired."

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WASHINGTON — Top Republican senators criticized GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker on Tuesday for casting doubt on legal immigration policies and echoing calls by outspoken restrictionist Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for a discussion about whether immigrants harm wages for native-born American workers.

It's hardly remarkable for a Republican to be unsympathetic to undocumented immigrants but it is rare for a top-tier presidential candidate to call into question legal immigration, which the party (and business community) broadly supports.

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