July 26, 2007

Perhaps a Presidential limo?

Sigh...this stuff never ends. "We work in state/local govt. We are privileged. We are the ruling class. We dont want to hear complaints from you 'little people'. Just pay your taxes and shut up." Hmmm well I guess the 'little people' found the internet. Read more about that here.

Officials balk at driving hybrids
County supervisors cling to gas-guzzlers

By Alison Hewitt Staff Writer

The Board of Supervisors voted to encourage the county to use hybrid vehicles a year and a half ago, but several supervisors are still buying and driving regular gasoline-powered cars.

The supervisors asked in 2005 that the county buy hybrids for the county fleet to protect the environment.

But some of the supervisors and their press deputies described hybrids as generally too small for the county's five elected representatives, although all 16 new cars purchased for the supervisors' staffs since late 2005 have been hybrids.

"I don't see any benefit to driving large, non-hybrid vehicles on the highways," said Mark Bernstein, a USC politics professor and member of the USC future fuels and energy initiative.

"Hybrids are significantly cleaner than other vehicles," Bernstein said. "It's not like the electric vehicle, those tiny cars that were out a few years ago. Hybrids are regular cars."

Supervisor Michael Antonovich's press deputy said Antonovich, who has a Cadillac, is too tall and spends too many hours traveling each day to be comfortable in a hybrid.

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said she would need a hybrid large enough to ferry her and her constituents around, but
the hybrid waiting list was too long when she got her Chrysler.

A spokeswoman for Supervisor Gloria Molina said Molina wanted an American car, but American-made hybrids were unsatisfactory, so she stuck with a Buick. Even Supervisor Don Knabe, who does drive a hybrid, noted that it was smaller than what he was used to.

Four of the five supervisors have replaced their county-provided vehicles since enacting the policy.

The cars are bought with county funds, then either leased by the supervisors for $670 per month - after they receive a $620-per-month car allowance and $70-per-month parking allowance - or the supervisors are taxed for their personal use of the vehicle, said Don Ashton, the administrative deputy for the executive office of the Board of Supervisors.

The county has replaced 170 cars in the fleet with environmentally friendly, gas-sipping hybrids, primarily Toyota Priuses.

Conversely, the supervisors' replacement autos have been large cars.

Molina drives a Buick Lucerne, bought by the county for $32,409; Burke has a Chrysler 300, bought for $37,854; Antonovich has a Cadillac DTS, bought for $31,663; and Knabe a hybrid Toyota Highlander, bought for $39,795.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who still drives the same car as when he and Antonovich authored the motion supporting hybrids, has a Buick Park Avenue, bought for $27,600.

There aren't many hybridized luxury vehicles available for those who prefer larger cars, said Matt Miyasato, a technology demonstration manager at the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

"Hybrids are better for the air than a regular gasoline-powered car," said Miyasato. "For air quality, there are some equivalent models out there among regular gasoline-powered cars, but where the hybrids really shine is in fuel economy."

The AQMD's "Clean Air Choice Vehicles" list includes the Prius, listing it as getting up to 60 miles per gallon. The list also includes Knabe's hybrid Highlander at up to 33 mpg. Also on the list, as a "Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle," is Molina's regular Buick Lucerne at up to 29 mpg.

"When you look at the Clean Air Choice list, there are very few large luxury vehicles on the list," Miyasato said.

The motion the supervisors passed in November 2005 called for cars to be replaced with hybrids only "where practical and economically feasible."

"This motion is designed to have the county make a priority out of buying ... hybrid vehicles," Yaroslavsky said at the 2005 meeting. "We can contribute in that way to cleaning our air ... we can do something about conserving fuel."

Tony Bell, Antonovich's press deputy, said the 6-foot-3-inch supervisor has to spend an unusual amount of time in his car - three to four hours daily - to traverse his large district and meet with constituents.

"For the supervisor's job, a large sedan is more suitable for covering an area twice as large as Rhode Island," Bell said. "Hybrids are small by design. They are lightweight, the materials can be fairly flimsy, and the interiors are not that large."

USC's Bernstein disagreed.

"A Prius is a really nice car. It's not a chintzy little car ... (and) the Prius meets all the crash tests that everyone else does," he said. "I would ask them if they actually went in to drive one ... They're not as big as a Cadillac DTS, but do they need that size vehicle?"

Those of Antonovich's deputies who have hybrids spend less time in the car than the supervisor, Bell said.

"It was Supervisor Antonovich's motion that began the process of replacing retired cars with hybrids," Bell noted.

Knabe also found hybrids to be too small, but ultimately settled on the SUV hybrid Highlander.

"Other than it being smaller than what I'm used to, it's very comfortable," Knabe said. "I'd driven some of my staff's Priuses, and I liked the feel of it, but they were way too small. It sounds hokey, but I wanted to do my share (for the environment)."

Burke said when she replaced her last car, there were no hybrids available for her or her deputies because there was a waiting list. She said she would be interested in exchanging her Chrysler, which she added gets 16 mpg in city streets, for a hybrid when her lease ends next year, especially now that hybrids are getting bigger.

"We have to get cars sufficient to be able to carry constituents or staff ... so we do have to have something of a certain size," Burke said.

Yaroslavsky, who co-authored the motion encouraging the purchase of hybrids, will keep driving his Buick until it's time to replace it, said his press deputy, Joel Bellman.

"Zev definitely intends to replace his car with a hybrid," Bellman said.

Molina's press deputy, Roxanne Marquez, said the supervisor prefers an American car.

"She did research to see if there were any hybrid vehicles that were to her liking, but it was important to her to drive an American-made car, and the only two American-made hybrids at the time in `07 were SUVs, and she was not comfortable driving one," Marquez said. "She is used to Buick, therefore we stuck with that."

Bernstein acknowledged that American-made hybrid options are limited.

"You really don't have too many options if you're buying U.S.," he said. "You basically have to buy the Ford Escape or the Lincoln."


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Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
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