LA WATCHDOG--One of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Back to Basics Priority Outcomes was the repair our streets. But after almost five years as Mayor, very little progress has been made as “nearly 40% of our City streets have a D or F rating and more than 8,700 miles of streets in the City need rehabilitation” according to a recent motion filed by Councilmen Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino.
With this motion, Englander and Buscaino have requested that the Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer prepare a report on how the City can expedite the repair of our failed streets in time for the 2028 Olympics.
The estimated cost to repair our failed streets is in the range of $3 to $4 billion. Under the Englander/Buscaino plan, the City would issue long term bonds to finance the accelerated repair of our failed streets. And rather than raising our sales tax by a half cent as was considered in 2014, the City would service the debt with the money received from its share of the newly instituted State gas tax (Senate Bill 1 (SB1) was passed in April 2017) and the Local Return revenues associated with Measure M, the recent half cent increase in our sales tax to fund Metro’s operating losses and capital expenditure program.
The City’s share of these two new taxes is estimated to be in the range of $100 to $150 million a year. These funds would support anywhere from $1.5 to $3 billion of Street Repair Bonds, depending on the interest rate and the maturity of the bonds.
While Englander and Buscaino are citing the Olympics as the reason to repair our failed streets, the truth is that the health of our economy is dependent on an excellent transportation system. As such, we cannot rely on the Mayor’s failed sound bite strategy of just maintaining our A, B, and C streets, filling potholes, and neglecting our failed streets.
But more importantly, by developing a strategy where these new transportation related revenues are directed to the repayment of the Street Repair Bonds, the Mayor and the City Council will not be able to divert this money to the General Fund to help cover the budget deficit caused by unsupportable raises for city employees and the ever increasing pension contributions mandated by the need to pay for the unfunded pension liability of $15 billion.
Unfortunately, the City has a history of diverting funds from their intended uses, whether it is from the Solid Waste and Sewer Fees that are part of our bimonthly bill from the Department of Water and Power, the Local Return revenues from Metro pursuant to Proposition A, Proposition C, and Measure R, or the Special Parking Revenue Fund. Now the City is licking its chops as it prepares to chow down on a portion of the new linkage fees destined to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, of the fees associated with the Garcetti Exclusive Trash Franchise, and of the pot tax.
Englander and Buscaino deserve credit for once again pursuing the repair of our lunar cratered streets. But first they must protect the funds from the SB1 State gas tax and the Measure M Local Return revenue from the Mayor, the City Council, and the campaign funding leaders of the City’s public sector unions. Otherwise, our lunar cratered streets will not be repaired and Garcetti’s Back to Basics promises will be just another broken campaign promise.
(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. He can be reached at: email@example.com.)
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