Last Friday, in a quickly assembled celebration at Leimert Park, activists, politicians and community stakeholders exulted over a decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board to fund the Leimert Park Village Station on the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line. The decision had been made on Thursday, the day before.
In the eyes of many, the years-long battle for the station had been won when the MTA agreed to commit an additional $80 million to fund the underground station. The Los Angeles City Council had already decided to spring for $40 million for design and construction of the station. With $120 million now committed to the project, there was no hindrance to moving forward with the station.
The lack of a commitment from the MTA board beforehand had been a point of contention between the community and the MTA board, but on Friday it was hailed as a major victory for the community.
"There's good news in the village today," proclaimed Second District County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, one of the board members, who then paraphrased an African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. "It takes a village to a raise a station at Leimert Park. We did it together."
"This is a celebration of you. This is a celebration of a community that is vibrant, that has always been a big part of this town from the very beginning," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa extolled the gathering.
"Need I remind you that 26 of the 44 settlers that founded this town came from Africa."
However, Villaraigosa initially held back his four votes on the MTA board.
"All I want to do is give some thank-yous," said City Council President Herb Wesson. "The most important group that made this possible--that's you," Wesson said. He went on to acknowledge a group from Westchester that supported the Leimert Park station; Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition; City Councilmember Bernard C. Parks; Councilwoman Jan Perry and, of course, Ridley-Thomas.
Councilwoman Jan Perry told the gathering that all the hard work had finally paid off, but "now we can't relax. This is just the beginning," she noted. "We did it together."
And there were written kudos from Congresswoman Karen Bass, state Senator Curren Price and Los Angeles County Supervisor and MTA Board Chairman Michael D. Antonovich.
"We're excited about it," said Mae Shaw, owner of A Kut Above Barber and Beauty Shop at 3631 Crenshaw Blvd. "It never bothered me that the line would be coming down Crenshaw. The thing we wanted was a stop at Leimert Park. I'm glad it's coming because it's (the Crenshaw line) connecting with the Expo Line (which intersects right beside the mall where her business is). I'm thinking it's going to be bringing more business into this area."
But not everyone is satisfied--for varying reasons.
"By no stretch of the imagination are we satisfied," said the Subway Coalition's Damien Goodmon on Friday. "We're grateful. We're taking this moment to celebrate a tremendous victory, but.... we [have to] get back to work. The speed with which this occurred indicates what we've been saying all along. It's just a matter of political will. The money is there. It's been there all along. By having the community remain focused and by demanding that the politicians comply with the will of the people we got it done."