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Valley Perspective

Failure of Prop. 1 Doesn't Erase Needs

Before there's talk of another bond measure, the city must do better with what it has.

May 02, 1999|LAURA CHICK | Laura Chick is the Los Angeles City Council member for the 3rd District. She chairs the Public Safety Committee

Proposition 1, the police and fire bond measure on the April 13 ballot, did not pass.

Few can argue that the funds for our police and fire departments weren't needed. Proposition dollars would have made fire stations more functional. Crumbling police facilities would have been refurbished, allowing more officers in the communities they serve. Areas still waiting for needed stations would have finally gained them.

Yet for all the city's needs, clearly the public still had questions. Before there's talk of another bond asking for more money, the city must do a better job with what it has.

There is much we can do to regain the public's confidence. Although the City Council strived to reassure voters that the projects were necessary and guarantee them that they would be built and that the bond would be brought in on time and on budget, it clearly wasn't enough to get a two-thirds vote. The council now must take a fresh look at meeting the city's public safety needs.

It is time for Los Angeles to rethink its resources and its needs. Critical city department heads must analyze their staffing and properties and determine their priority must-haves. My proposal, now before the Fire, Police and General Services departments, calls on city agencies and leaders to think bigger and better. It asks how, in the absence of bond dollars, the city of Los Angeles can obtain necessary public safety facilities, manage projects properly and thereby send the message to voters--for any future bond measures--that we can spend their money wisely and effectively with an on-time, on-budget product.

In truth, there are a number of ways the city can work to reallocate resources and better meet existing and future needs. Experts from the private sector, as well as our own city professionals, point to the fact that Los Angeles owns more than 8,000 properties. How are they being used? Should some parcels be sold to provide needed funds for public safety facilities? The former Lincoln Heights Jail building is only half full. Perhaps the city should consider using that vacant area for possible administrative space.

We need to show the public that we can work differently in the interim and long-term. With building design and construction, we need to get the most for our city dollars. Only the minimum number of needed facilities should be built; departments should be encouraged to share resources and space. It's time to eliminate wish lists and focus on the real and critical public safety needs.

The city must use the most efficient methods to build any facility. Why must we have one design team and then hire another to review the design and build the facility? Why don't we cut our costs and time by at least one-third and use a single team of workers to take a project from design to construction?

The city should explore using alternative financing methods. In fact, certificates of participation and lease revenue bonds are among the most widely used public financing methods for public facilities by other municipalities. The Reagan Federal Building downtown was funded through one such alternative.

Before we go back to the public asking for more, let's demonstrate what we can do differently. Why doesn't the city institute a cap on the price spent per usable square foot of new or rehabilitated buildings? Our cost per square foot is often exponentially higher than in the private sector. Buildings such as the Police Department's North Hollywood Station cost $700 per usable square foot--for a $13 million price tag. Costs like these must be stamped out.

Because the public's safety is the top priority for the city of Los Angeles, let's find a way to get necessary projects done. When people dial 911, they should expect and receive rapid response. There shouldn't be a delay because firefighters come from one station and trained paramedics from another. These are requirements--not options--to ensure that city residents stay safe.

The needs are real; they have not gone away simply because Proposition 1 did not pass. The city of Los Angeles needs to step up to the plate and run this city the way it should be run. Before talk of another bond, let's look at what we have and make sure we're using things well. If you want a yes vote, you've got to point to results.

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