LA WATCHDOG - On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council will consider a motion to retain a consultant to assist in the development of a ballot measure to raise $2.1 billion to finance the repair and improvement of our parks that have been neglected by the City over the past three decades.
The consultant will need to consider the 2018 Parks Condition Assessment Report prepared by the Department of Recreation and Parks, a 1,088 page tomb that reviewed the deferred maintenance on City’s 16,000 acres of parks and almost 600 park sites. The report outlined the many needed improvements, “including the replacement of 20 recreation centers, 12 pool and bathhouse facilities, outdoor improvements such as landscape and tree planting, replacement upgrades to irrigation systems, accessibility, energy and water conservation improvements, as well as building improvements such as kitchen and restroom upgrades, lighting improvements, heating, ventilation and air condition system replacements or upgrades, and general building maintenance repairs, such as roofing, flooring and painting.”
The consultant will also be instructed to consider Mayor Garcetti’s Executive Directive 31, Achieving Park Equity. It directs the “City Administrative Officer, in consultation with Recreation and Parks, Bureau of Engineering, the Chief Legislative Analyst, and the City Attorney, shall work with stakeholders, including the Park Equity Working Group and other park advocates, to evaluate the possibility of a park funding measure with strong equity components."
The consultant, if retained, needs to consider other issues, including the on-going funding of Rec & Parks, the management and oversight of the repair and improvement program, and the structure of the financing.
Over the last twelve years, the charter funded Department of Recreation and Parks has been hit up for $750 million under the “full cost recovery” policy, a program that does not apply to any other City department other than the Library. This year, the hit is almost $100 million, representing 40% of its charter mandated funding. No wonder our parks and their bathrooms are in sorry shape.
The consultant needs to consider the elimination of the full cost recovery policy so that the Department is better able to maintain our parks and their facilities.
Another concern is the management of this $2.1 billion program. In the past, the City has demonstrated that it is unable to manage large infrastructure programs, failing to bring projects in on time and on budget. A prime example is the construction of permanent supportive housing for the homeless where the City is developing fewer units than promised, at a slower pace than promised, and at a higher price ($600,000 !!!) than promised.
Accountability and transparency must be addressed. Rather than an oversight board appointed by the Mayor, the consultant ought to consider the idea of the City retaining a professional firm that has experience in managing and overseeing large infrastructure projects, reporting to the public on a quarterly basis.
The consultant will also need to address how to finance this $2.1 billion repair and improvement program. This most likely will involve the issuance of general obligation bonds that will require an increase of around 2% in our property taxes over the next thirty years. Importantly, the bond indenture must include a covenant that the City maintain its parks in good repair for the sake of the next generations of Angelenos.
The $2.1 billion repair and improvement program will require the approval of the voters. But do Angelenos trust City Hall given the corruption at City Hall and the Department of Water and Power, the budget busting labor agreements negotiated behind closed doors, and the escalating homeless situation and the failure to develop alternative housing on time and on budget? Or will voter fatigue and disgust be the determining factor?
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)