LA WATCHDOG--While the City of Los Angeles has some of the worst streets in the country, there is no plan to repair and maintain our 6,500 miles of streets and 900 miles of alleys because of the lack of sufficient funding as pension contributions and other personnel costs have devoured the City’s budget. Rather, the City is bouncing from pot hole to pot hole, filing cracks with slurry, and ignoring the one-third of our streets that are in a failed condition.
In 2014, the Save Our Streets LA plan indicated that the City needed approximately $4 billion over the next twenty years to restore our network of streets to good working order. But in 2014, there was not the political will to place a half cent increase in our sales tax on the ballot, especially after the Controller’s audit of Street Services exposed a very inefficient department.
But now the City has two new sources of cash to fund the repair and maintenance of our streets and alleys.
Last week, the State passed a new transportation bill that will generate $52 billion over the next ten years from higher gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and increased vehicle license fees. Under the local return provisions of this legislation, the City anticipates receiving $100 million a year or $1 billion over the next ten years.
In November, the voters approved Measure M, the half cent increase in our sales tax to fund Metro’s ever increasing operating losses and its ambitious expansion plans. This measure provides that local governments will share in 17% of the revenue based on their share of the County’s population. Under this plan, the City will receive $56 million next year and $700 million over the next ten years based on Metro’s projections.
Over the next 40 years, the Measure M Local Return revenue to the City is projected to be $5.1 billion.
The Save Our Streets LA plan may also benefit from stricter oversight of the Local Return revenue from Measure R, the half cent increase in our sales tax that was approved by the voters in 2008. While the Local Return revenue is expected to be $45 million this year, only half of that revenue was allocated to Street Services as the City diverted $15 million to the General Fund and $8 million to the Department of Transportation.
Over the next 10 years, the Measure R Local Return revenue is expected to be over $600 million and $5 billion over the next 40 years.
The City also received Local Return revenue of $128 million this year from Proposition A (approved by the voters in 1980) and Proposition C (approved by the voters in 1990). But true to form, the City diverted 21% of this Local Return revenue to the General Fund while less than 10% made it to Street Services.
Well maintained streets are vital to the City’s economy and to the orderly flow of traffic. But they are not a budget priority for the Mayor or the City Council as funding for Street Services has been neglected while General Fund revenues have increased by $1 billion over the last four years.
But now that the City has the resources from the State and Metro, it is time to go Back to Basics and make the repair and maintenance of our lunar cratered streets and alleys a Priority Outcome.
Our City needs a network of efficient and well maintained streets, especially if we want to be a showcase to the world when we host the Olympics in 2024.
(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. Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)