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LA contract goes to firm with best ‘cultural competency plan,’ bids to pay nonprofits

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(The Center Square) – Los Angeles Metro awarded a $31 million contract for a preliminary design-build of a new rail line to a firm for scoring the highest on “cultural competency.”

With the state facing a $73 billion budget deficit and Los Angeles finances strained by shrinking employment, voters are increasingly wary of the costs of government programs. As costs mount, some wonder why transportation dollars aren’t being spent on transportation.

As part of the procurement process, and in a first for Metro “for a mega-project,” proposers had to include “Cultural Competency Plans” that include “policies and practices” and “values and behaviors at the individual level that enable cross cultural interaction, dialogue, and shared power”; “tools to respond effectively to diverse environments to remediate systematic denial of resources and opportunities caused by institutional prejudicial practices and policies”; “a strategy to establish reciprocal relationships that support trustworthy communication among the Project team and the community”; and “understanding of the communities’ lived experiences such that they are able to clearly articulate how those lived experiences will inform the Work, their communications and proposed mitigations.”

San Fernando Transit Constructors, which was awarded the preliminary design-build contract for the $3.6 billion rail project, was lauded by LA Metro for its “Mandatory subconsultant diversity and inclusion training that aligns with Metro’s D&I purpose initiatives”; “Preliminary research into local events to engage, such as City of San Fernando Day of the Dead Festival and Annual César E. Chávez Day Celebration and March for Justice”; and “Identifying 20 community and faith-based organizations to develop compensated partnerships within the Project Area.”

While diversity and inclusion trainings are typical for government projects, taxpayer-sponsored transportation contractor spending on public events for minorities and “compensated partnerships” with “community and faith-based organizations” appear to be outside the scope of transportation spending.

“This proposal will only promote the latest politically correct fads and increase costs by requiring “compensated partnerships” with community groups — presumably the types of groups favored by LA Metro officials,” said Steven Greenhut, director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Free Cities Center. “This plan shows the degree to which our major transit systems are focused on tangential and bureaucratic issues rather than on building the best possible transit systems to serve the people who depend on them.”

Greenhut also decried the unfairness of spending limit transit funds on non-transit purposes to the most vulnerable members of the city who rely on public transit as their only form of transportation.

“If LA Metro is serious about cultural competency, it should focus on transportation competency, so that LA’s diverse communities can rely on convenient, safe and reliable buses and trains,” continued Greenhut.

LA Metro is currently reviewing SFTC’s cultural competency plan and final validation of the base design for the rail line, which is supposed to enter service in 2031 and connect Sylmar to Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley via 9-mile light rail.

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