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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

As the Golf Cart Turns

At yesterday's overly dramatic City Council Arts Parks Health and Aging committee meeting, it was all about golf carts. Two concessionairs have been vying for the Department of Recreation and Parks' golf cart concession in a drama lasting more than half a decade:  Kishi JH Co, who has had the contract for 40 years, and Ready Golf Centers who currently run much of the Sepulveda Golf Complex for the City (and who hosted last month's DRP Commission meeting for free).

Kishi made an offer that turns over 50% of its revenue to the City, while Ready's offer was in the 35% range. Yet GM Mukri states that he thinks awarding Ready the contract will result in higher revenue. Tom LaBonge's Arts Parks Health and Aging Committee (not a panel) went along with Mukri's intuition yesterday. Fascinating that Herb Wesson suddenly has all this interest in golf carts, too. Wesson's asking questions and LaBonge is going with Mukri on a deal that isn't at all transparent.

Sounds like a heck of a lot of behind the scenes nonsense is happening on this one. Six years' worth, in fact. Wondering just how much in campaign contributions have changed hands during that time. Or, conversely, how much money Kishi may have siphoned off the City over four decades of questionable oversight.

From the Daily News' Rick Orlov:

Panel urges change in golf cart operator 
SWITCH: Advisory committee recommends replacing company that had been contracted for 40 years in order to boost revenue.  
By Rick Orlov 213-978-0390 Staff Writer

A city panel Tuesday recommended changing the operator for cart concessions at seven city golf courses -- replacing a company that had the contract for 40 years -- in a bid to boost city revenues. The council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee recommended the full City Council award a 10-year contract to Ready Golf Centers. Kishi Golf had held the concession for four decades. Ready Golf has offered to make improvements, bring in new golf carts and expand the number of carts being rented in return for paying 39 percent of its revenue in a lease. The panel voted to recommend switching operators even after Kishi offered to bring in new carts as well and offered to pay 50 percent of its revenue in rent. City officials said Ready Golf's business plan was superior and would still bring in more revenue than Kishi.

"It's all raw dollars in the end, not a percentage of gross," said Jon Kirk Mukri, general manager of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks. "Ready Golf's business plan ... probably would generate more revenue." 

The contract includes golf carts at the Sepulveda Golf Complex (Balboa and Encino golf courses), Griffith Park (Wilson and Harding golf courses), Hansen Dam Golf Course, Ranch Park Golf Course, and Woodley Lakes Golf Course. "I still have a lot of questions and want to know why this is the best deal for the city," said Councilman Herb Wesson, who still voted in favor of the recommendation. The city currently maintains separate concession agreements for the golf carts, restaurants, pro shops and driving ranges. City employees are responsible for the grounds and checking in golfers. Wesson said he wanted to see a comparison with how other jurisdictions manage their golf courses. Under Los Angeles County courses, American Golf is responsible for all aspects."I am not saying we want to do that, but I am interested in seeing what is best for the city and for golfers," Wesson said.

Councilman Tom LaBonge, who heads the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, pushed for approval of the contract, saying the Department of Recreation and Parks had been trying for six years to hire a golf cart concessionaire. The delay led to the deterioration of city-owned carts, some of which are now considered out of commission. "I think it's absolutely imperative that we move forward," LaBonge said. "If we want to serve the public now ... then go forward with this recommendation."