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Free Rec & Parks!

LA WATCHDOG - The Department of Recreation and Parks is like the Frank McCourt owned Dodgers: a great franchise with a major league jerk for an owner.

Our Department of Recreation and Parks administers over 15,700 acres of parkland, including 4,282 acres in the iconic Griffith Park and 600 acres in Elysian Park, the City’s oldest.  

Rec and Parks also operates 184 recreation centers, 61 swimming pools, 13 municipal golf courses, 11 lakes, seven camps, more than a dozen museums and historical sites, and hundreds of programs for our City’s kids, seniors, and physically disabled.  
But over the past four years, Mayor Villaraigosa and the Garcetti led City Council, just like Boston Frankie, have emasculated the Department’s staff, cutting back on park maintenance and programs.  All this, at the expense of all Angelenos and our deteriorating parks, just to maintain their standard of living by placating their campaign funding “Partners in Labor” with extravagant increases in salaries and pension and medical benefits for the pampered members of the “City Family.”

Under the newly instituted “full cost recovery” plan, Rec and Parks was hit up for $44 million in charge backs by the City during the current fiscal year for such items as its portion of the City’s water and electricity charges ($16 million), the expenses associated with the exceptionally generous Early Retirement Incentive Program ($4.3 million), Refuse Collection ($3.7 million), and General Fund Cost Reimbursement ($20 million).

These charges were offset, in part, by reimbursements and transfers in the range of $15 million from other City departments.

At the same time, City Hall held the Department’s funding relatively constant, with the absolute knowledge that maintenance and services would be slashed, the hell with the consequences on our youth, our seniors, and the disabled.

However, in response to the proposed elimination of another 96 positions in the upcoming year, leaders of influential foundations and businesses, private benefactors, and community leaders formed ParksSave!, [[ ]]a new civic minded coalition designed to support well maintained parks and active park programming.  The immediate goal is to preserve the existing level of funding and to attract outside money from charities, businesses, and individuals to benefit our deteriorating parks.      

Eric Garcetti, a very recent recruit to this group now that he is running for mayor, along with Tom LaBonge, a long time friend of our parks, called for “new models of funding for parks,” including Public Private Partnerships.

But who in their right mind would want to do business with the barely solvent City of Los Angeles, a city that is burdened by a $20 billion Black Hole (consisting of unfunded pensions and deferred maintenance on our deteriorating infrastructure and parks) and controlled by a bunch of self servicing, dysfunctional meddlers who occupy City Hall and who have no clue what the hell is going on in the real world?

And why would anybody contribute their money, time and effort to this inefficient Department where the average compensation package (including pension and medical benefits) is projected to be almost $96,000 a year for each of the 1,428 positions?

So if the City and this Department are serious about attracting outside funding to support our parks, they would be wise to establish Public Private Partnerships throughout the City that are transparent and accountable to their constituents and benefactors, that allow the local communities to have meaningful input, and that provide services in an efficient manner where people believe they are for once getting the “bang for their buck” from our unresponsive and bloated City bureaucracy.  

For openers, Public Private Partnerships should be established for both Griffith and Elysian Parks as well other major parks throughout the City. These partnerships and their local City administrators would be responsible for the operation of their respective parks and, as such, would be able to contract with the City or with local third party vendors and volunteers to supply any and all services necessary to maintain the parks and programs.

These partnerships would be allocated their fair share of the Department’s $269 million budget, which amount includes all related costs such as pensions and medical benefits. These partnerships would also be responsible for reasonable and justifiable expenses such as water, electricity, benefits, and other City services and expenses.  Importantly, any partnership would be able to retain 100% of any outside contributions and not be dinged for any contributions.

Public Private Partnerships may also be established to support various activities and programs such as golf and swimming, or various facilities such as the Observatory, the Equestrian Center, and the poorly managed Pershing Square garage.

Public Private Partnerships may also be established in each of the City’s seven Planning Areas (North Valley, South Valley, East, Central, West, South, and Harbor) or in any of the 95 Neighborhood Councils to oversee their local parks.  

The Board of Commissioners also needs to be reconstituted so that it is more responsive to the needs of Angelenos, as opposed to the self serving interests of the political establishment and their cronies that occupy City Hall. Commissioners must include representatives of the donor community, people knowledgeable about the operation of parks, and members of the Neighborhood Councils and their stakeholders.

Our parks are a core service of the City. They are essential to the quality of our lives in our under parked City. They, like the Dodgers, are too important to be left solely in the clutches of our fiscally irresponsible, self serving Elected Elite.   

We need a major overhaul of our Department of Recreation and Parks, where the City recognizes that they are working for us, not the 1% that Occupy City Hall.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- He can be reached at: –cw

Tags: Jack Humphreville, LA Watchdog, Department of Recreation and Parks, Parks, Free the Parks, Save the Parks, Los Angeles Parks, Rec and Parks

Vol 10 Issue 36
Pub: May 4, 2012