July 21, 2005

L.A. mayor in pursuit of federal aid for city
Villaraigosa is seeking to get Washington, D.C., to properly fund transportation and homeland security needs.

By Yuliya Horbach
Copley News Service

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa started a two-day visit to the nation's capital Wednesday, lobbying key lawmakers on homeland security and transportation issues.

As Congress takes up spending bills and other legislation on those issues, Villaraigosa said he was focused on efforts to relieve congestion on the San Diego (405) Freeway and to tie the distribution of money for homeland security to a region's risk factors.

Since his election, Villaraigosa has vowed to become a visible advocate in Washington for the city's interests.

He said his goal was "to establish new relationships and re-acquaint myself with old relationships that will benefit our need for funding transportation and homeland security needs in Los Angeles."

Villaraigosa met with Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, to discuss the region's transportation priorities as Congress attempts to pass a major highway funding bill.

Among them were funding for the high-occupancy vehicle lane for the San Diego (405) Freeway, the most congested spot in the United States, and for rail projects, including the planned "Exposition" rail line, which would include Los Angeles International Airport.

"He understands how congested the 405 is," Villaraigosa said. "My expectation is that he will play a strong role to ensure that we include that in the budget."

Saying he was alarmed by the July 7 subway and bus bombings in London, Villaraigosa said he would press lawmakers to distribute homeland security funds based on a formula that takes into account an area's risk of being attacked. Currently, much of the money is distributed in a way that benefits sparsely populated areas that face few threats.

Villaraigosa said he would address the issue in a meeting with Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the homeland security appropriations subcommittee chairman.

"Our need for homeland security and transit security funding is very important to me and I want to share that with congressmen," Villaraigosa said.

During his first official visit to Washington as mayor, he also was planning to meet with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey to discuss the future of Los Angeles International Airport.

Villaraigosa opposed key elements of former Mayor James Hahn's LAX expansion plan, which the FAA approved three days after the election.

In a series of morning meetings at the Capitol, Villaraigosa received a warm welcome from House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Acknowledging how important the city is to the state of California, Pelosi said lawmakers are "looking forward to being enlightened" by the mayor's list of priorities, referring to him as an effective messenger.

"His agenda is an important one for us to hear," she said.