by Alejandro Magallanes
Street changes were made to Foothill Blvd this last month. New bike lanes were striped. Traffic bollards were installed. A lane of traffic was taken away. People became uncivil on Facebook. An emergency STNC meeting was held. Tempers flared. Accusations were made. I guess you could say that for the Safe Streets Committee, April was a noisy month.
As a member of the Safe Streets Committee, I stood at the podium of the emergency STNC meeting and was asked by council members if our committee was responsible for the Foothill Blvd lane changes. When I replied “No,” a different council member asked me the same question. After my third reply, I realized this emergency meeting wasn’t really about solving traffic problems. This was about finding someone to blame.
Most of the blame went to the chair of the Safe Streets Committee, Eve Sinclair. One woman stood up, saying that Eve was behind all the lane changes, working in cahoots with LADOT. Another woman explained how she was once a member of the committee, but she had to leave because Eve had gone awry. Unbelievably, another woman stood up and claimed that Eve had called her a murderer.
“Is that true?” a fellow committee member asked me. “You have to ask?” I retorted.
What was happening? When did these traffic changes become all about Eve Sinclair? The Safe Streets committee has been working toward productive traffic changes for months. All of a sudden, we get a new audience of people, many who had never attended a Safe Streets meeting, directing their anger at Sinclair. Something wasn’t right. This all seemed too personal. But why?
We are in the final heat of a CD7 candidate run-off. Two individuals are fighting to represent our community at city hall. Sinclair is a proud supporter of Monica Rodriguez, who is the North Valley favorite but not necessarily a favorite amongst the STNC. Was this one reason why some people were attacking her? A few audience members did stand up and connect Sinclair with Monica Rodriguez and Eric Garcetti, accusing Sinclair of fulfilling the “mayor’s agenda” by changing our streets. Was this what some of the yelling was about?
And then there was the woman who stood up at the podium, reading Safe Streets Facebook posts, explaining how Sinclair’s use of words proved that she was working with LADOT behind the council’s back. These accusations were far-fetched, and I think everyone in the room felt that. What was obvious was that this woman really did not like Eve Sinclair, and everyone in the room definitely felt that. I asked a fellow attendee who she was. They explained, “That’s Lydia Grant, the former neighborhood commissioner. Eve is the current neighborhood commissioner. Eve has her job now.” Another personal attack? It sure felt like it.
Finally, we were two hours into the meeting when Mark Seigel, former president of the STNC, stood up to talk. He began with some advice on outreach, which I immediately noted. Then, mustering up his best authoritative tone, he shouted that the Safe Streets committee had “gone rogue” under the recklessness of Eve Sinclair.
What I am writing about here might sound silly, considering that citizens, including former STNC councilmembers, would use the neighborhood council as a platform to attack a woman with whom they had a personal gripe, but I have to say, this was the feeling in the room. The clincher for me was when a woman in the audience leaned over to her friend and whispered, “It sounds like they’re all just jealous of Eve, because she’s getting things done and no one else does.”
Out of all of the Safe Streets meetings I attended in the last nine months, this STNC emergency meeting contributed to our community’s traffic issues the least. It was sophomoric. I’ve sat with Vision Zero engineers, traffic police, neighboring councils, and the widow of a cyclist who was killed. All of these people have spent their time and effort to help our community with our dangerous streets. It’s a shame to realize that some individuals who relish their long-time stature within our neighborhood politics bring the least service to our deadly traffic plight.