• U.S.

Politics: Pork and the Fast Track

2 minute read
Margot Hornblower/Los Angeles

When MATTHEW MARTINEZ (D., Calif.), an affable ex-Marine who represents a swath of suburban Los Angeles, attended the White House luncheon for Mexican President ERNESTO ZEDILLO last November, he had something that President Clinton wanted: a potential vote for the fast-track trade bill. And Clinton had something Martinez wanted: power to approve the $1.4 billion Long Beach freeway extension, blocked by environmentalists and historic preservationists for two decades. When a Clinton lobbyist approached him, Martinez was ready: “Why should I vote for fast track when it’s like pulling teeth to get anything from [the President]?” Martinez recalls saying. Within days, Martinez got a late-night call from Clinton, and, later, a call from Transportation Secretary RODNEY SLATER, telling him that the project would move forward. Martinez claims “there was never a deal,” but a week after he came out in favor of the now dormant fast-track bill, the Federal Highway Administration green-lighted the 4.5-mile project. At $311 million a mile, the freeway would slice through historic areas of South Pasadena and the largely Latino community of El Sereno, displacing 1,000 homes. Moreover, just as the highway suddenly acquired Clinton’s backing, the Administration was pulling the plug on Los Angeles’ subway funding.

–By Margot Hornblower/Los Angeles

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