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Steve Lopez: Can the Hummer Guy fix L.A.'s transportation problems?

June 4, 2011 | 10:20 am


Does the name of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s new transportation director ring a bell for you?

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4150cbe970b-piHere, give it a try.

Jaime de la Vega.

Yes, he’s the Hummer guy.

In my last dispatch on De la Vega, he was the deputy mayor for transportation, and we had a race to City Hall one morning.

I drove his Hummer, he took the Red Line.

De la Vega won, you may recall.

But you may also recall that he lost the privilege of driving that ridiculous vehicle to work every day. I think the mayor got tired of me beating up on him for having a transportation advisor guzzling around town in a tank while De la Vega was supposed to be carrying out the “green” mayor’s mass transit agenda.

Villaraigosa sent down an order for De la Vega to park the goofball buggy, which he did.

Now that De la Vega carpools to work in a more sensible vehicle, and occasionally takes the train, the mayor could get away with tabbing him to run the screwed-up the Transportation Department. As my colleague Ari Bloomekatz has been reporting, the department has lost millions in potential revenue due to lax oversight, and then there was the little Gold Card Desk scandal. If you got a ticket and knew someone, calling the Gold Card hot line could potentially get you special treatment.

There was some sloppiness in the department, De la Vega admitted Saturday. When I asked how that could happen on Villaraigosa’s watch, he said the mayor can’t know everything going on at the lowest levels of government.

No, but he could hire people who know how to run a department, so that doesn’t happen. Whether De la Vega is that person remains to be seen.

Not to be a nag, but De la Vega never did get rid of the Hummer. He parked it at home for use on weekends, even though I offered to buy it from him and donate it to the National Guard. Come on, though. He’s got to sell it now. I’m guessing that nowhere in America, except perhaps in the Rocky Mountains or perhaps Wyoming, does a transportation director drive a Hummer.

I’m here to help, Jaime.

He said, by the way, that he’s ready to deal if he gets an offer he can’t refuse.

--Steve Lopez

Photo: Jaime de la Vega watches as columnist Steve Lopez examines the tires on De La Vega's Hummer. Credit: Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times