Should American Tax Dollars Stay in America?

Madeline Janis, former commissioner on the board of L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency, argues that American job creation should be a top priority when awarding transit contracts.
May 31, 2012, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Criticizing the recent selection of a Japanese firm to manufacture 235 light rail cars for L.A.'s expanding transit infrastructure and the awarding of a $2.5-billion contract by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency for the manufacture of 775 rail cars to a Canadian firm, Janis argues that "It's critically important that we build consensus among public officials across the country in the years ahead that job creation should be considered one of the primary criteria in the purchase of equipment for public use."

While Janis notes that "the federal Buy America law, in effect since 1983, requires that all transit-related goods and equipment purchased with federal dollars need to be substantially made in America," the recent process by which the L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to award the $890-million rail car contract revealed flaws in the city's procurement process.

Although "MTA officials started out on the right path," notes Janis, "the MTA staff didn't follow its own criteria."

"Even once everyone agrees on the importance of job creation in the procurement process, transit agencies will still need to establish clear procedures on how to value jobs and job creation. Should a part-time, temporary job be counted the same as a full-time job with extensive training opportunities? Is the creation of a temporary facility as valuable as the construction of a permanent manufacturing facility in a poor neighborhood? These are questions that the MTA failed to address in its procurement decision."

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Published on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 in Los Angeles Times
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