Because I don’t live in the district he’s vying to represent. But if I did, I would. And if you do, you should. Allow me to get a bit long-winded and reminiscent but hardly political in telling you why.
I first met Stephen and his wife Enci 5 years ago, which is about 45 in bicycle years. I had read about them in an article in the Los Angeles Times during the days leading to its long-delayed reopening of Griffith Observatory that November. In the article I found them doing something I’d rarely encountered: fighting for cyclists. In this case it was to restore our access to the roads up to the Griffith Observatory, and a day or two later I joined them for a late-afternoon ride up Vermont to the treasured landmark where city and parks officials, in anticipation of maxed-out visitor demand had established a reservation system, planned on shutting the roads to motorists, and instead would force citizens to fork over a fee to take a shuttle up and down the hill from various park-and-ride points.
Given the limited parking at the top, I wasn’t against the road closure and shuttle system and Box probably didn’t mind it either (except that unless you were willing to walk in and up, the city mandated you pay for the privilege of visiting a public park). But then came the news that the ban was going to be applied to anything and everything on wheels and Box and Enci sounded the alarm and beat the drum until those who had either peddled the pedalers’ prohibition and/or supported it (one of whom was Box’s opponent, incumbent Councilman Tom LaBonge) begrudgingly reversed grears and decided it was indeed not going to create any additional Griffith Park gridlock to have the roads open to anyone one wishing to self-propel themselves up there.
Needless to say I was suitably impressed.
In the time since Box has placed himself at the forefront not just as a bicycle advocate, but as one for safer streets — for everyone. He recruited me in 2008 to join his Bicycle Writers Collective, but any hopes he might have had of me stepping up to his tireless level of activism faded relatively quickly, perhaps to his disappointment.
Fittingly, the last time I saw Box was during what has since become the Woodstock of LA cycling: last October’s glorious and game-changing CicLAvia. I found him on Spring Street taking in the spectacle, and I congratulated him on having just become a US citizen before giving him a good-natured sock in the shoulder because I had absolutely no idea he wasn’t — much less that his entirely accentless self was Australian. There he is on the left in a photo by Bikeside’s Alex Thomspon pontificating to me and Enci.
There’s a lot of things I don’t know about Stephen Box, which perhaps uniquely disqualifies me from suggesting you vote for him tomorrow. But I do know it takes guts to throw your hat into the political ring, and he’s not thrown it lightly. Box has intricate knowledge of how City Hall works, he’s energized and trumpets access and transparency as the foundation of his leadership. My man!
The main thing I know about the other challenger Tomas O’Grady is that he’ll cut his salary as councilman and that of his staff in half. But I know even less about LaBonge, other than he is great if you’re a constituent in need of a pothole filled. I also know he’s been a great part of the local leadership that’s collectively dug the city into an ever-deepening hole, and thus it’s time for a change.
Or at least a runoff election! I don’t harbor delusions that Box is going to pull off some sort of a miracle victory tomorrow, but I do hope enough people going to the polls in that district tomorrow see the chance to let in some fresh air and keep LaBonge from waltzing into another stale term — at least not without having to fight a little harder for it.