Mon, Mar

How Much is Too Much?

NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL BUDGET ADVOCATES-The citizenry of Los Angeles want more services, but they want to pay less in taxes. 

Are there ways to achieve this? The answer is yes. 

If the city takes the long-term approach on the financial side. And if Angelenos themselves are willing to amend their lifestyles to be less wasteful and more conservative of resources. 

The former is especially visible in some aspects of budgeting by Los Angeles’ Department of Sanitation (“LASan”). 

If we don’t want disease with multiple layers of public health expenses not to mention the costs of lawsuits, we have to prioritize funding for alley cleaning, garbage bins and hygiene services for the homeless, consistent pump-outs for the RVs the un-housed call home, and rat abatement. 

If we don’t want to be dependent on outside water at exponentially increasing cost, we must accelerate the push to source 100% of water locally by expanding water capture and recycling and increasing effective water conservation by residents, businesses and the city itself. 

If we want recycling and the Asian markets will no longer pay for our garbage, we need to provide seed money to develop such businesses here in the Southland. This would build up our local economy and, if it implemented intelligently and soon, provide stable careers here by attracting other cities’ blue bin materials and, more synchronistically, businesses that will use the output of the recycling. 

If we don’t want to address the results of poisons seeping into our groundwater and affecting our children, we must increase clean water oversight including the use and disposal of glyphosate, neonicotinoids, other herbicides and pesticides, prescription meds, micro-plastics, and the like at homes and businesses. Industrial pollutant remediation efforts need to be accelerated and cannabis industry effluvia aggressively contained. 

If we want to improve the quality of our lives and leave our children a Los Angeles for them to enjoy with their children, we must put a down payment on the changes that will benefit all Angelenos so, at least here, we won’t face urban battles between the haves and the have-nots. This can be through small but incremental steps starting with expanding urban gardens programs citywide, supporting composting and the use of electric vehicles. 

LASan should insist, in particular with regard to infrastructure concerns and long-term programs, on moving off the year-to-year line-item budgeting that continues to fail the city and developing a more suitable, more effective and more sustainable approach to budgeting that embraces a city moving into the future. 

This is not going to be cheap and some sacrifices will need to be made or real efficiencies found, so they will need to document the long-term overall savings to justify the up-front costs. 

We also need a permanent and intelligently funded City and County team to actively and proactively develop a more effective way to direct inquiries and concerns to the appropriate departments, and to address shared issues such as homelessness, stormwater upgrades, green infrastructure and other long-term proactive goals. Both jurisdictions must work together on reducing the Southland’s reliance on imported water and continue to build sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change, economic swings and potential natural and manmade disasters. 

LASan should continue to seek out innovative approaches from around the world (such as Israel’s highly successful approach to water usage) to incorporate into their long-term planning and move forward expeditiously on those projects that are applicable to Los Angeles. They must provide the Budget and Finance Committee and all Angelenos with best-case/worst case scenarios for innovative strategies necessary for the City’s continued successful growth and survival in the face of growth, drought and climate change. 

The Budget Advocates encourage LASan and the City Council to expand innovation and track accountability, stop the unsustainable approach of continuing budget lines year-to-year while unrealistically demanding departments do more with less, and base budget decisions on sound projections of results and to find real world solutions that source funding streams to cover all costs. 

Costs that may appear too great to handle in a year-to-year budget may actually prove to be a wise investment in our future. Figures must be realistic, not based on pipe dreams. But by not acting now, by kicking that can down the road, the city could be forced to incur future debts that will be too much for our children to bear. 

We must change, the city must change, and now the City Council’s whole approach to budget strategy, city structure and services must change. 

This is part of a series on suggestions and recommendations developed following interviews Budget Advocates had with various City Departments in the fall of 2019. 

You can send your suggestions to LizAmsden@hotmail.com


(The Budget Advocates are an elected, all volunteer, independent advisory body charged with making constructive recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council regarding the Budget, and to City Departments on ways to improve their operations, and with obtaining input, updating and educating all Angelenos on the City’s fiscal management.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.