Don’t Ask Me About My Hummer

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From the political left, concern is growing about global warming. From the political right, concern is growing about the United States funding both sides on the war on terror. Health officials worry about a national epidemic of obesity and high urban asthma rates, urbanists are concerned with degraded, atrophied public spaces.

Slowly but perceptibly, people of all political persuasions are waking up to the fact that all these interrelated problems would be mitigated by reducing our dependence on the automobile. Awareness is starting with the most ostentatious of all automobiles, like the one pictured above. Hummer ownership is becoming something that some public officials, at least, would rather not own up to. That is the first step on a long road toward the social unacceptability that this overwrought piece of bling deserves.

This week, L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez scored a tense interview with Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Transportation, Jaime de la Vega, a transit chief who drives a Hummer. Lopez scored the interview on the condition that he not ask questions about de la Vega’s Hummer. But he did anyway:

What’s with the Hummer? I asked as soon as we were seated in de la Vega’s office.

De la Vega gave me a cold stare, his lips sealed.

De la Vega clearly knows that what he is driving, while great for his own personal comfort, is wrong for the city, the country, heck, the planet even, and he is not happy about being called out on it by a reporter. The interview continues. (They’re thinking about doing some congestion pricing over there, expanding a light rail line, yada yada.) But Lopez brings it back to personal accountability:

I just can’t get past it, I told de la Vega. A Hummer?

And then I noticed a quote on his wall from Rosa Parks.

"Every person must live their lives as a model for others."

I read the quote to de la Vega, who clammed up again.

"Should we all drive Hummers?" I asked.

Silence.

The column ends combatively (no pun intended), but on a positive note:

I can’t think of a better way for City Hall to show it’s serious than to have [L.A. Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa take de la Vega’s Hummer and ship it to the troops in Iraq, where it might come in handy.

Or he could trade it to the governor for a bigger chunk of state transit funding. I told him if they can’t work a deal, I’ll be happy to drive his tank back to the dealer and trade it in on a nice Honda or something.

De la Vega didn’t respond, but I could tell he was beginning to see the wisdom of unloading this thing.

(Photo: Steve Hymon/Los Angeles Times)

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