By Jack Humphreville
The one-Third of our streets and 40% of our sidewalks need repair. But, does that allow the city to hold our streets hostage for a kings ransom?
Our streets, sidewalks, and the rest of our infrastructure have been shortchanged by the City Council during the Villaraigosa/Garcetti era to fund increases in salaries, pensions, and benefits that have exceeded the growth in revenues by $500 to $700 million a year.
The city wants to increase our sales tax by a half cent to 9.5%, one of the highest in the country. The 9.5% rate is a job killer, sending the wrong message to employees and investors. It is a regressive tax that impacts lower income Angelenos disproportionately. Angelenos cannot afford to pay an average of $300 million a year for the next 15 years, especially when DWP is considering a 25%, one billion dollar rate increase in our water and power rates over the next four years. Anelenos’ share of the proposed increases in Federal, State, and County transportation taxes is $1.25 billion a year.
The better plan would be for the City to finance the street program with long term bonds. Interest and principal payments would be funded by the 20% tax on incremental DWP Power System revenues over and above what is already projected.
The proposed plan is incomplete. It shortchanges the two-thirds of the streets that are in good condition by $800 million. It does not take into consideration the 350 miles of alleys that are in need of reconstruction. It does not address the other programs such as Green Streets, Complete Streets, Greet Streets, People St., the Bicycle Plan and the Mobility Element. The plan only provides for 40% of the estimated $1.5 b billion needed to repair our broken streets.
Oversight is inadequate for this 20 year project that is the largest in the City’s history. The Citizens Oversight Advisory Committee consists of 9 political appointees who will not have the expertise, experience or time to monitor this program over 20 years. The City does not have the management or experience to ensure that this project comes in on time and on budget. Angelenos do not trust City Hall, making the likelihood of achieving two-thirds voter approval doubtful. In March of 2013, 55 % of the voters rejected Proposition A, a half-cent increase on our sales tax. What do we get in return, other than being asked to fund our streets a second time?
To help regain the trust and confidence of the voters, the City needs to place a “live within its means” charter amendment on the ballot, so that we have the opportunity to either approve or reject this amendment.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in CityWatch. Jack Humphreville serves the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council and heads the DWP Advocacy Committee. He can be reached at LAJack@grmail.com