Just before Christmas, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vetoed a City Council-approved plan to reallocate some of the $150 million “defunded” from the police department in June following the street demonstrations over the George Floyd death in Minneapolis to infrastructure projects.
The Mayor said he’d rather spend the money to generate “lasting change” on racial equality and social justice following the city’s unrest this summer
The City Council proposed spending $88.8 million on 133 infrastructure/neighborhood improvement projects in a plan released in early December. The projects included some water and sewer work, street and sidewalk repairs and park improvements, along with a host of non-infrastructure social programs. The funding plan ranked the 15 council districts based on Census tract data on college education attainment, median income, federally defined poverty level, and unemployment.
See the 14-page project list:
The Council Isn’t Happy
“We listened to our Black and Brown communities as they asked for more resources – the same resources they see in affluent communities and are easy to take for granted unless you’ve had to push a stroller through dirt in the dark, unless you live in a garage, and your kids rely on parks as their only play space,” said Council President Nury Martinez in defending the proposal.
However, Mayor Garcetti noted in his veto letter that most of the plan didn’t cover “racial justice or equality, more mental health programs, or other social programs designed to help those in need.” Garcetti spelled out “protecting jobs held by people of color with new opportunities in the city workforce” as a key to gaining his signature on the Council bill.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s critically important to someone’s quality of life, but I don’t think people hit the streets for us to fix the sidewalks,” Garcetti said in a Los Angeles Times interview. “They hit the streets for us to get out there and make some lasting change.”
We disagree. The real issue here isn’t political but financial. The city of L.A. is projecting budget deficits over a half-billion dollars for this fiscal year, mainly due to runaway pension costs for its retired employees. Until the Mayor and Council sort this issue out, we will continue to see these budget tiffs and financial gridlock. Reducing city employee headcount and privatizing public work is part of that solution.
By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]