Sun, Jul

The “LA Road Works” Shell Game

LA WATCHDOG - Over the past seven fiscal years, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has short changed the Bureau of Street Services and its road maintenance and repair budget in order to fund the ever increasing salary and benefit demands of the City’s work force.  As a result, the City’s 6,500 miles of streets are the worst in the country, after San Jose, where 63% of our roads are in “poor condition and provide a rough ride.”

But now, with a grand gesture, the Mayor Who Broke LA has introduced “LA Road Works,” a “bold and innovative” plan that will repair a quarter of all City streets, financed through the issuance of about $800 million of debt secured by over $1.4 billion of future Measure R sales tax revenues over the next 27 years.

However the plan is fundamentally flawed, primarily because the Mayor and the highly compensated, politically appointed Board of Public Works headed by Andrea Alarcon have not developed a long term operational and financial plan to maintain and repair our streets.

While LA Road Works contemplates repaving and repairing 23% (1,500 miles) of the City’s streets, the September 2008 Street Infrastructure Condition Assessment prepared by the Bureau of Street Services indicated that 40% (2,600 miles) of our Residential and Major Roads were in Poor to Very Poor Condition and that an additional 20% (1,300 miles) were in only Fair condition. (Link)

This informative and well research report also indicated that the estimated expenditure to eliminate the maintenance backlog over the next 10 years was almost $2.9 billion, or $285 million a year, of which $31 million was for preventative maintenance and $254 million was for rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, in 2008, the City’s Annual Resurfacing Budget had averaged about $45 million a year for the last 10 years, resulting in a marked deterioration of our streets.  And if this trend continues, the street network will be in a poor to very poor condition (a D-) within 10 years.

Nor does the Mayor’s hastily developed plan address the issue of whether the City, the Board of Public Works, the Bureau of Street Services, and the Department of Engineering have the technical, operational, and management expertise and experience to manage $800 million of projects in a two year period.

The failure of the Mayor’s patch work plan to address the overall condition of our streets is further compounded by its harebrained, short sighted financing scheme which calls for spending almost $800 million over the next two or three years.  These expenditures will be financed by bonds secured by $1.4 billion of revenue generated over the next 27 years by the half cent sales tax increase authorized by Measure R, the November 2008 initiative approved by more than two-thirds of the voters.  

But this financing scheme requires interest payments of over $650 million, money that would be better used to rehabilitate our network of streets, a position supported by The Los Angeles Times.

Furthermore, the Mayor and the Board of Public Works have not even developed a long term financing strategy that addresses the financing requirements of our streets after the $800 million has been squandered.

Fortunately, this poorly developed, politically motivated scheme was exposed by David (“I Want to Know What They Do Not Want Me to Know”) Zahniser and Ari Bloomekatz of The Los Angeles Times before the Mayor and his financial wunderkinds were finished bamboozling the City Council.

As such, the Mayor, the Garcetti led City Council, the Board of Public Works, the Bureau of Street Services, and the Department of Engineering must develop an operational and financial plan in an open and transparent manner, pursuant to the Brown Act, where public participation is welcome.  This plan needs to recognize the need to repair 3,900 miles of streets (v 1,500 under the Mayor’s plan) at a cost of $2.9 billion (v $800 million), and that Street Services is a core service that is financed by the City’s General and Special Revenue Funds.

And City Hall must recognize that the “mission of the Bureau of Street Services is to maintain all improved streets, alleys, and related throughways in a perpetually good to excellent condition while providing desirable standards of safety, appearance, and convenience to the residents and the traveling public within our jurisdiction.”

LA Road Works is just another example of why we need a Financial Control Board to oversee the deteriorating finances of the City.

Once again, we need to follow the CASH.  

In this case, the Mayor Who Broke LA and his cronies on the Board of Public Works are stealing from the future to fund politically motivated projects through the issuance of long term bonds.  At the same time, this Mayor and Board of Public Works are failing to fund the repair and maintenance of our streets on a sustained basis, using the “savings” to finance massive increases in salaries and benefits for the City family.  

And this is the same globetrotting Mayor and City Council that have failed to properly finance the City’s $11.7 billion unfunded pension liability, relying on Enronesque accounting policies that would have corporate executives in orange jump suits.  These Elected Elites have also defied Generally Accepted Accounting Principles by refusing to recognize the expenses associated with deferred compensation for City workers and the deferred overtime for the Police Department.

Once again, the 99% that are footing the bills for the 1% that occupy City Hall need a full and complete understanding of the City’s convoluted finances.  No more being treated like mushrooms: in the dark and covered by manure.

(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 -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: [email protected] )

Tags: Los Angeles, Jack Humphreville, LA Watchdog, LA Mayor, Mayor Villaraigosa, City Council, Eric Garcetti, Board of Public Works, Street Services, LA Road Works, City Hall, roads, streets

Vol 9 Issue 91
Pub: Nov 15, 2011