GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009


Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Thursday, December 12, 2013

CAO Miguel Santana's magical powers

Since 2007, City CAO Miguel Santana has been a shameless thief on the taxpayers' dime.

Santana is wholly duplicitous with two incarnations of the City Council and two mayors in taking hundreds of millions of dollars.  Dollars specifically legislated for libraries and parks by none other than The People of Los AngelesMoney meant for libraries and parks.

Santana's been shamelessly taking it from our kids and using it to balance his City budgets, filling the budget holes of other departments and covering an obscene pension fund deficit.

No doubt about it. Santana simply hates our children.


But man oh man -- he must love his job. It has great perks!

Better than almost all other City administrators, that's for sure. Better than some electeds, too.

Allegedly, Miguel Santana has a City car that uses City gas. One of those dark Crown Vics with an e-plate. He drives it back and forth from home saving lots of his gas money on the taxpayers' dime.

Allegedly, Santana also gets a $500 car allowance too. It's supposed to be one or the other. But hey - if you are the Magic Money Guy, you can give yourself both, I guess.


Recently, Santana allegedly had his City car impounded and towed on Hill Street. Wonder why? There must be a story there.

But hey - no problem for the Magic Money Guy!

Santana allegedly made a call to the disgraced former General Manager of the Dept of Transportation, Jaime DeLa Vega, and Santana's City car was then magically returned to him. The towing and impound fees magically disappeared.


CAO Santana has had other well-publicized problems magically disappear.

Allegedly getting drunk at a political function and getting arrested for DUI magically disappeared. 

CAO Santana must have magical powers. After all, he steals from kids and double-dips, and he still has his job.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Comments on the "Crystal Springs Baseball Fields" proposal due Dec 17.

Folks, please weigh in on this project and it's suitability or lack of suitability to this location.

Read the Draft Environmental Impact Report  [DEIR] for this proposed project here.

Then submit your comments one of these ways:
  1. Directly via e-mail to  Maria Martin  at  maria.martin@lacity.org   with the SUBJECT LINE: Griffith Park Crystal Springs - Draft EIR

  2. By writing to:  City of Los Angeles, Public Works, Bureau of Engineering, Environmental Management Group, 1149 S. Broadway, 6th Floor, Mail Stop 939, Los Angeles, CA 90015-2213
Someone may want to comment on the fact that the DEIR only has three choices:  two at Crystal Springs, and one at Atwater, and that a better location that is clearly missing from the DEIR is the Ferraro site where there is easily room for realignment to include this project - plus the location would greatly benefit from related upgrades.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Alternate Atwater site for "Crystal Springs Ballfields" project is the clear "Win-Win" choice.

Should the construction of brand new baseball fields displace thousands of daily picnickers and permanently destroy heritage trees at Crystal Springs?

Certainly not, when there is a perfectly reasonable alternative.


That's not the case, however,  if you listen to the cacophony thrown up by Councilmember Tom LaBonge and his supposedly unbiased proxies, some of whom currently dominate the board of what used to be the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council and have their own personal pet projects pending in Griffith Park.

No one really knows why the councilmember has set his sights on Crystal Springs. I sure don't.  Why on earth is LaBonge determined to willfully disenfranchise thousands of families of predominantly Hispanic descent who rely on and heavily utilize the Crystal Springs picnic area, and have done so for half a century?

There is a perfectly reasonable alternative site for the proposed project that does not result in the permanent loss of heritage trees and that does not wholesale displace an entire large, historic user group at the picnic area. The alternative site on the Atwater side of the park should be chosen, rather than forcing the construction of additional ballfields at Crystal Springs for what are highly questionable reasons.

FoGP has a pretty clear and reasonable description of why the alternative is the best choice for all interests here.



The alternative Atwater site is a win for both the councilmember and friends, and the thousands of families that likely have little to no idea this project is in the works - or what may be decided largely without their input about Crystal Springs: a place that has been a family tradition each weekend for generations.

If you can stomach the manufactured hysteria and questionable testimony that will no doubt be unveiled by LaBonge's propaganda machine (lord these folks are noisy... and relentless), I hope you will bring your rationale mind and come to the EIR Presentation Meeting  - a meeting dubbed 'do or die' by LaBonge's proxies at the local paper - which takes place this Wednesday.

Read the draft EIR first - especially the discussion of the alternatives. Then come to the meeting and point out that the alternate Atwater site represents a win-win proposition for both sides. 

Let's hope the councilmember who ostensibly represents all people of CD 4 will have an epiphany on this when rational minds speak up.


EIR Presentation Meeting info:
A public workshop and hearing will be held, beginning at 5:30, on Wednesday, November 20, 2013, at the Witherbee Auditorium of the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

Please use the Children’s Discovery Center entrance.

Those who cannot attend the meeting but want to go on record may submit their comments directly via e-mail to: Maria Martin maria.martin@lacity.org  with the SUBJECT LINE: Griffith Park Crystal Springs - Draft EIR

Or write to City of Los Angeles, Public Works, Bureau of Engineering, Environmental Management Group, 1149 S. Broadway, 6th Floor, Mail Stop 939, Los Angeles, CA 90015-2213.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Just Give

A friend found this in their email in-box yesterday. They have no idea what/why, and neither do I after reading it.
Sent: Tue, Nov 5, 2013 12:01 pm
Subject: RSVP Today for Private Reception with Councilmember Tom LaBonge Nov. 12!

Dear Friend,

Please join Councilmember Tom LaBonge at a private reception next Tuesday November 12, 2013.

Who: Councilmember Tom LaBonge
When: Tuesday November 12, 2013 from 6:00-7:30pm
Where: Lucy's El Adobe - 5536 Melrose Ave Los Angeles, CA 90004
Suggested Contribution: $5,000 (raise), $1,000 per couple

If you are interested in attending please RSVP to me, Stephanie Daily Smith, at dailysmith@gmail.com or call (310) 497-8162.

I hope that you can join us!
Regards,
Stephanie Daily Smith

Smith was a campaign staffer for Garcetti, but that race is pretty much over now. Best guess: LaBonge staffer Ramsey's run for CD 4.

I won't be spending $5,000 to find out for certain what this is about, but if you do - drop us a line and let us know.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Micromanagement of a Legacy

What can you say about an agenda for a two-hour board(sic) meeting that has more than 70 different agenda items? Besides WTF, that is.

An agenda like this is clearly symptomatic of something.

    panic comes to mind first.  

    obsession, second.  

    who actually manages the parks? third.

And finally:  

     doesn't the Councilmember have an entire council district to be worrying about?


This last is a very good question, and in this particular case, it is getting asked a lot lately. The answer is apparently not, if Steve Lopez's puffy 'Boss For A Day' piece is any indication.

Los Angeles' city councilmembers are the highest paid among key cities in this entire country. It would probably be best if they worried about the big stuff that affects their 280,000 constituents rather than micromanaging their perceived legacy.

There's plenty of big stuff that needs addressing across Los Angeles right now to keep any councilmember very very busy.


-----------------------------------------
Griffith Park Resource Board Meeting
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
5:00 – 7:00 PM


Welcome, Introductions and Review of Meeting Notes

Report on Active Capital Improvements:
•Report on status of Griffith Park Superintendent
•Legislative Report [Council Motions]
•Status of Griffith Park Water System
•Status of Griffith Park Southern Water Recycling Project
•Status of Walking Path Trail from Greek Theatre to Observatory
•Status of Los Angeles Park Rangers Program
•Status of Implementing Circulating Passenger Van for Observatory
•Status of Increasing DASH Service from Metro Stop
•Status of Transportation Pilot Program for Access to GP via Beachwood Cyn
•Status of LADOT Zoo Drive Signal/Traffic Study

Grants Reports:
•Fern Dell Tongva/Gabrielino Tribe Recognition & Amenities -$50,000
•Fern Dell/Black Oak Storm Drain & Resurfacing Project -$150,000
•Merry-Go-Round Restoration - $10,000
•Travel Town - $20,000
•Travel Town Gift Shop (from NBC Universal) - $50,000
•Zoo (from NBC Universal) - $50,000
•Griffith Park Pool Extended Hours - $12,500
•Holiday Lights Festival at Zoo - $100,000
•Symphony in the Glen - $5,000
•PAVA - $5,000
•Independent Shakespeare Company - $2,500
•Holiday Family Film Event at Merry-Go-Round - $1,500
•Merry-Go-Round Anniversary - $500

Report on the Recreation and Parks Projects
•Status of Griffith Park Vision Plan
•Crystal Springs Youth Sports Baseball Fields
•Travel Town mobile gift shop/Travel Town Train Pavilion West
•Adult fitness equipment at Park Central
•Permanent stage at Old Zoo
•Griffith Park road improvements
•Griffith Park signage
•Griffith Park Recreation Center play area improvements
•Griffith Park historic pool restoration (proposed)
•Griffith Park Recreation Center soccer field electrical rehabilitation

Report on Griffith Park Land Acquisitions:
•Cahuenga Peak
•Mt. Lee Area
•Forest Lawn
•Lake Hollywood parcels A, B and C

•Other sites:
Report from the Autry National Center
Report from the Los Angeles Zoo
Report from Griffith Observatory
Report on the LADWP Projects
•Aqueduct Centennial Garden at Mulholland Memorial Fountain
•Headworks Reservoir
•Griffith Park South Recycled Water Project
•River Supply ConduitUpdate

Report on the Los Angeles River & Bridge Projects:
•Alternative 20
•Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct Improvement Project
•LaKretz Crossing
•Riverside Drive

Report on Public Works Projects:
•Mt. Lee Drive
Mt. Lee Communications Center

Report on Griffith Park Events
•Special Events
•Holiday Light Festival at Zoo
•Holiday Family Film Night
•Haunted Hayride
•Arts and
Culture
•Symphony at the Glen
•Eek at the Greek
•International Shakespeare

Report on Public Safety
•Park Rangers
•LAPD Report - Lock ItHide It Keep It
•LAFD Report

Report on Griffith Park Office of Councilmember LaBonge’s Volunteer Projects
•PAVA - Weekly
•UCLA Day of Service
•Immaculate Heart Earthcare Day
•CD4 Cleanups in all areas of the park

Adjourn

Friday, October 18, 2013

GP Resources "Board" to meet on Oct 30

Almost hilarious because there is no such board - it does not exist, period. 

But what it is is Tom LaBonge putting City employees through his dog and pony show as he tells you all of his wonderful plans for Griffith Park before time's up.

Want to know what he's up to? See you there.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

LA Commons hosting historic Amir's Garden tour this Sunday

As part of their Found LA series, LA Commons is hosting a historic tour of Amir's Garden this Sunday from 11:30 am to 1pm.

The tour will be led by myself and one of our best Park Rangers. Bring your lunch, expect freebies and a nice fall tour of a very historic Iconic Garden in Griffith Park - Amir's Garden.

See you there. RSVP at this link.

See other Found LA events across the City at this link.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ranger Leadership missing from Arts Parks Health Aging and River report request

Update 10-8-13

Councilmember Fuentes just added a friendly amendment requiring study of the impact of not having a fully-qualified Chief Park Ranger.

The motion passed 14-0.


----
There is clearly something integral missing from the APHAR report requesting a comprehensive update from Recreation and Parks on the challenges currently facing the Park Ranger Division:

CHIEF

PARK

RANGER


This will be voted on in City Council on October 8th.

Do you think any of our City Councilmembers will care enough to catch this major missing piece and correct it? Or will lack of proper qualified leadership continue to threaten the very existence of the Park Ranger Division?



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Name a qualified Acting Chief Ranger now.

It's time.

Mayor Garcetti, GM Mukri, Arts-Parks Chair O'Farrell:  The Park Ranger Division needs proper leadership.

It's time to name a truly qualified Acting Chief Park Ranger now.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Challenges facing Park Rangers, City parks start with the CAO

This past Monday, the City's Arts Parks Health Aging & River Committee had an item (cf# 12-0899-S1) on their agenda asking the Department of Recreation and Parks for an update on the challenges facing the Park Ranger Division.

Tom LaBonge authored the vague-sounding motion and Felipe Fuentes - a new councilman with a new Park Ranger Station in Hansen Dam Recreation Area and zero Park Rangers to operate it - seconded the motion.

The challenges facing the health of our Park Ranger Division have directly impacted the health of our large Regional Parks in Los Angeles.  Read all about why this is the case in the PUBLIC COMMENT below.

Hansen Dam Ranger Station - Nobody Home
So what exactly are those challenges? There are a number of us parks advocates out there who know from years of experience and advocacy that these challenges facing the survival of the Park Ranger Division are substantial. Ever hopeful, this particular advocate was looking for some real discussion of this important parks issue during the committee meeting on Monday.

Alas, it was not to be. After what amounted to a haphazard non-report by Recreation and Parks' AGM Kevin Regan (who is, himself, one of the very challenges in question), the motion was amended to have this report presented in 60 days. 


AGM Regan could easily have produced a report at Monday's meeting on the challenges facing the Park Ranger Division. Easily. After all, he's put himself fully in command of the POST-certified division. That said, one suspects that if any give in hiring new Rangers was likely by the Parks Department-hating CAO, Miguel Santana, it would have happened yesterday since they could hire to fill funded positions that are currently unfilled due to attrition. But the entire hearing on this item was just giving the pretense about doing something concrete to address the serious issues affecting the Park Ranger Division, so Santana must be saying "no".

Not surprising. CAO Santana simply hates the Department of Recreation and Parks. He actually went out of his way to taunt them during their budget hearing, which is utterly shocking behavior for an alleged professional.

Taunting Recreation and Parks as he facilitates the theft of $70 million from the department and balances his budget on the backs of Los Angeles' children goes well beyond amoral. Why is this guy still working as CAO?

OK, so add CAO Miguel Santana to the substantial list of challenges facing the Park Ranger Division. And facing the children of Los Angeles.


As for myself, I took a different approach to this hearing. Rather than adding to the number of simple public comments I've made on the Park Ranger Division, I decided to respond to the motion and write that report from what I know firsthand. And, oddly enough, a number of questions Kevin Regan was asked by the committee and didn't necessarily respond to are factually addressed in my public comment.  Fascinating, that. 

So here for your reading enjoyment is an update on the challenges currently facing the Park Ranger Division. Minus CAO Miguel Santana. I'll be adding him in to my next draft.

Listen to the audio of Monday's committee hearing here (item 2).
---


PUBLIC COMMENT
 

A. Who are the City of Los Angeles Park Rangers?
 

The best way to understand who the Park Rangers are is probably by reading the Draft Park Ranger Division 5-Year Strategic Plan (2009).

The City of Los Angeles Park Rangers are a California POST-certified agency. Park Rangers are highly trained professionals whose job duties evolved directly from the day-to-day needs in our Los Angeles parks. No other agency can or does respond to these needs like Park Rangers.
 

Currently, Park Rangers are the in-the-field managers of our Regional Parks (largest City parks), including Griffith Park, Hansen Dam, Elysian Park, Harbor Regional Park, Sepulveda Basin, Ascot Hills, Augustus Hawkins, Debs Park, O’ Melveny Park, Verdugo Hills park, Angel’s Gate, and others. When allowed to respond, Park Rangers typically answer 26,000* calls for service in parks annually (*2007, 2008).
 

Park Rangers also play a critical and under-appreciated role in the Mass Care portion (Recreation and Park’s responsibility) of the City’s Emergency Plan.


Vital park-specific services provided by Park Rangers -
 

Major job duties:
1. Security and Law Enforcement
2. Firefighting
3. Search and Rescue
4. Community Policing
5. Wildlife Management
6. Education and Interpretive
Park Rangers patrol Recreation and Park facilities by vehicle, foot, horseback and bicycle to prevent unauthorized entry, vandalism, theft or other crimes.
 

Park Rangers provide emergency services, shelter and welfare to persons in emergency conditions.
 

Park Rangers respond to accidents and administer First Aid and/or Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to victims, some may have infectious diseases.
 

Park Rangers carry out search and rescue operations for people who are lost.
 

Park Rangers manage park resources to address wildlife issues, special events, repairs and maintenance, fire safety, patron utilization.
 

Park Rangers present both professional and impromptu educational and interpretive programming to the public to enhance the enjoyment of the community.


B. What are the current challenges facing the Park Ranger Division?

 

A reasonable full deployment of Park Rangers for the Los Angeles Regional Parks we currently have looks essentially like this:
1 Chief Park Ranger
3 Sr. Lead Rangers
28 field Rangers
(Griffith Park Ranger Station) 12-16 full-time Rangers
(Hansen Dam Ranger Station) 8-12 full-time Rangers
Part-time Park Patrol officers and trained volunteers and docents can cover some of duties of these positions but are in no way replacements for full-time Park Rangers.
 

Currently, the sum total of Peace Officer Park Rangers and grandfathered Non-Peace Officer Park Rangers in the field is less than 18, placing the Division and parks services and safety at a very critical tipping point.


Why are we at this point?

During the past decade, the City has allowed non-negotiable hiring freezes, lay-off threats, ersatz “park patrol” entities, managerial neglect and misuse, and attrition to literally decimate the Park Ranger Division.

Peace Officer status is vital to the safe, effective ability of a Park Ranger to efficiently manage their parks in the City of Los Angeles. The current situation is this: a non-POST certified civilian Assistant General Manager acts as the Chief Ranger through a puppet peace officer (typically a Captain) loaned from a different agency. The loaned officer often has little to no understanding of the full scope of the Park Ranger job and most have shown no desire or received no motivation to learn the job.

The linear Command-and-Control structure that is fundamental to POST agencies was removed by the AGM in 2009. When there was a Chief Park Ranger previously, they were answerable to an AGM rather than to a GM.
 

The current type of structure and leadership are fairly unheard of for a California POST agency. Undeniably, it is not healthy, safe or appropriate.
 

Additionally, more than a century (100+ years) of invaluable institutional Ranger knowledge was lost during ERIP due in large part to the alleged hostile work environment created by the AGM in question.

Morale has understandably been low.
 

Non-equal pay (lower) within the City is a factor negatively impacting hiring. 

The college degree requirement impacts hiring but expertise is necessary for this complex position.

Most Peace Officer Park Ranger agencies in California are armed. The current lack of being armed negatively impacts hiring. At face value, this should not be an issue since it is common in California. Los Angles politics remain the main reason for the continuation of this negative hiring impact, sadly.
 

Many of these challenges have been and remain completely unnecessary, specifically where the management of the Division is concerned. The management issue can quickly be corrected by hiring or naming a truly qualified Chief Park Ranger.


C. How do these challenges affect our parks and parks patrons?

During 2004-2008, hundreds of concerned parks patrons and almost 20 neighborhood councils representing more than 800,000 Angelenos passed resolutions or community impact statements that not only supported keeping the Park Rangers in our parks as full peace officers, but with increased staffing to include full coverage of each regional park with Senior Lead Rangers and a Chief Park Ranger. (List is attached)
 

The situation now with few Rangers and no proper Chief Ranger is that no one is home in these parks.
 

When no one is home... Parks users are not safe. Park inhabitants are not safe. Park resources are not safe. When no one is home, our fragile City resources are damaged and abused, costing even more funds to restore. Or they are damaged beyond restoration altogether.


LAPD is not a replacement for Park Rangers.

OPS was not a replacement for Park Rangers, and neither is LAPD. Except for special details, LAPD simply answers radio calls. Most typical park calls are prioritized by LAPD as lower than Code 2 and are placed in the non-emergency call queue (1-877-ASK-LAPD phone line). I have personally been on hold on this line for more than 30 minutes more than once before an operator addressed my call for service.
 

If the call is at a location without a street address such as we have in our Regionals Parks (ex: “Water Crossing” at Hansen Dam), the vast majority of LAPD patrol officers and dispatchers don’t know the location.


LAFD is not a replacement for Park Rangers.

Witness the insane amount of expensive helicopter rescues in Griffith Park by LAFD in the past few years. Rangers contact, educate and inform the public about safe use of the parks before it gets to this point. Park Rangers intimately know their parks. Including locations without addresses.

Peace Officer Park Rangers in the field enforce:

· Alcohol laws
· Trespass laws
· Fire code violations (such as smoking in the brush or attempted arson)
· Handicapped parking violations
· Narcotics violations
· Animal welfare/abuse laws
· Vandalism or graffiti
· Vehicle code violations
 

…and other important quality of life laws and ordinances that LAPD will not bother with.
 

Citing the smaller offenses in parks is proven to prevent escalation of criminality.
 

Both LAPD and LAFD work most effectively and efficiently in and around our parks as needed when they work with a strong Park Ranger Division.


Ranger role goes largely unrecognized in Emergency Preparedness.
 

Park Rangers play a critical role in the Mass Care portion (RAP’s responsibility) of the City’s Emergency Plan. The impact of the “OPS Consolidation” that removed 56 peace officer positions from the Dept. of Recreation and Parks (along with millions of dollars in vital equipment and dispatch positions) on RAP’s specific role in the City Of Los Angeles’s emergency plan has gone unrecognized, with little acknowledgement, and without any real analysis. Due diligence requires that this be addressed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's up with LaBonge?

On Monday the City's Arts Parks Health Aging & River Committee had an item (cf# 12-0899-S1) on their agenda asking the Department of Recreation and Parks for an update on the challenges facing the Park Rangers.

I gotta say before delving any deeper into those issues in another article is that Tom LaBonge is simply ..... .... help me here.  Nuts?  Distracted?   ??




At Monday's hearing, LaBonge insisted not once but three times that the job description of a Park Ranger must include that they gotta pick up the trash. This is tantamount to adding the job of trash collector to someone with a college degree whose job currently encompasses being a peace officer, firefighter, wildlife officer, naturalist, and urban wilderness park manager. Crazy.

Um, wow. If the complete ignorance of who Parks Rangers are and what they do ain't a textbook example of one of the challenges facing the Park Ranger Division, I don't know what is.

Listen to the audio of this hearing here (item 2).


Monday, August 19, 2013

First General Manager the Mayor should retain - Jon Kirk Mukri

This past April, author Bob Gelfand stirred a few people up with his somewhat confusing rant on CityWatch LAWho Should the New Mayor Fire First?  In it, he states that the first person the new mayor should fire is Recreation and Parks General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri.
 
I couldn't disagree more with the author.

The first General Manager the Mayor should absolutely retain is Jon Kirk Mukri.

General Manager Mukri works very well with an extremely passionate and diverse parks community. He's made the Mayor and every City councilmember look really really good over the years with key projects in their districts, and other cities look to his department as a national leader. This in spite of the crippling budget cuts and chargebacks the City Council has levied unfairly on the department. Yes, some of the parks are a mess, but the department hasn't been allowed to keep enough employees or hire to keep up with demand.

The biggest reason to retain Mukri?  The man truly cares about the kids in this city.

I know a little bit about how the Dept of Recreation and Parks works, having been a parks advocate and an operations volunteer with the department for the past decade. I know I am not the only one who found the Gelfand's content a bit nutty. Most people I spoke with read it and went... "what?? huh?"

In actuality, the author's main complaint about Mukri specifically seemed to be that Mukri didn't know who the author was. That isn't exactly a heinous crime.

"Condom Tree" at Harbor Regional Park
The vast majority of the complaint sketched out in Gelfand's article lies squarely on the performance of Assistant GM over Operations, Kevin Regan. That particular administrator is someone with whom much of the community has difficulty. He isn't doing a good job -- witness Gelfand's description of the perpetual operations mess in Harbor Regional Park  -- and the employees he oversees are allegedly abused by this person unless they've been promoted to be one of his "spies". The only thing Regan is supposedly good at is sucking up to politicians.

Keeping Regan in that position in a department that is as public service-oriented as Recreation and Parks is the only thing I can really ding Mukri on.

Regardless of Mukri's performance to date, the rumor mill has been in full swing since it began to look like Garcetti could win the election. "Those in the know" have been saying that Mayor Garcetti will be exacting revenge on Recreation and Parks' general manager  because Mukri's significant other, Claire Bartels, was Wendy Gruel's chief of staff for ages.

I believe that Mayor Garcetti is above such nonsense. Garcetti was raised in a political family where politics is what you do outside the home and couples may have different political ideals when they are at work. Mukri did not campaign for Garcetti's opponent, so why would there be retaliation on an excellent manager? If Garcetti is indeed calling the shots, I can't see this kind of nonsense controlling his decision.


So how do the employees feel?  When then-mayoral candidate Garcetti announced that if elected he would make all of the City's general managers reapply for their jobs, I started taking an informal poll of Recreation and Parks employees I know who have been in the department for a long time. The question:
"Of all the General Managers the Dept (of Recreation and Parks) has had in the last two decades, which one could have managed to keep the department intact given the $155 million taken from the Dept budget over last 5 years?"
The answer could have been one of these four:  
  • Jackie Tatum (1993)
  • Ellie Oppenheim (2000)
  • Manuel Mollinedo (2003)
  • Jon Kirk Mukri (2004)
or none of them at all. All of these general managers were chosen by previous mayors to run the department and could be considered a reasonable example of someone now-Mayor Garcetti might choose. Some of the four were very popular with their employees.

Everyone I asked did spend time thinking about their answers, but ultimately it has been unanimous so far:

Jon Kirk Mukri, 8 - 0


Mukri became GM not very long after I began caring for Amir's Garden following Amir's passing in 2003. He was coming off of experience in straightening out the General Services Department - a true 'managers' department, with very little direct public interaction. Given the mess he corrected there, it was clear this guy was a very good manager in the literal sense of the word.

That said, the Department of Recreation and Parks is a very different beast from General Services. Public interaction at every turn is mandatory.

First time I ran into the gentleman face to face was at an Arts Parks Committee meeting at City Hall in 2004. Every City employee in the room was dutifully spewing the praises of the impending Consolidation and creation of the now-defunct Office of Public Safety. Most of us parks advocates in the room were there to pull the Park Ranger Division out of that consolidation and keep them in our parks where they rightfully belong.

The spewing was thick in there and the whole meeting was pretty ugly - loaded with obscene revisionist history which is something the City specializes in. As the meeting ended, Mukri came over to us parks advocates in the audience and said something that was one of the pro-Consolidation bullshit bullet-point guarantees designed to assuage the fears of the unwashed masses. None of of those guarantees ever later materialized, by the way. Pretty sure I responded with something like "Stop insulting our intelligence!" Because, in all honesty, the entire plan created by Wendy Greuel and James Hahn stunk to high hell. 

That was how new RAP GM Mukri was publicly introduced to "the community" he would have to work with for the next decade. And you know what? The man never insulted our intelligence again. He's been a pretty straight shooter to both politicians and the community alike, even when we vehemently disagreed with him.


So here we are in 2013, and Mukri has had to reapply for his job along with the 30-some odd other City general managers. That process is kind of insulting, really. It's one thing to carefully evaluate current managers, but another to treat them like political and managerial neophytes.

That said, would you recommend that Jon Kirk Muki keep his job?

I absolutely would.

Which GM should be fired first?

Gelfand asked for input on this in his CityWatch piece. I never saw him report out on the feedback, but a great candidate to get the axe first is Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnett. Many reasons why, and LA Weekly details a lot of them, but that's a subject for a different article.




Griffith Park construction projects update

From Lynn Brown, Equine Advisory Committee board member:
NEWS OF TRAIL CONSTRUCTIONS PROJECTS
ZOO DRIVE CONSTRUCTION
For the ongoing pipe laying project that had closed the west bound Zoo Drive, and left only one lane open eastbound on the weekend, is now completed. Zoo Drive is open for traffic, but only briefly.  A new section of pipe is to be laid on the north side of Zoo Drive, running along the road and near the equestrian trail by the freeway.  However, the digging will mostly take place in front of the Recreation and Parks Service Yard and alongside the Spinello Construction lay-down area.  The equestrian trail that passes behind it should not be impacted.  Also, Zoo Drive will be impacted with road closures again.  Rattlesnake trail will be open throughout the construction.
WATER SHUTDOWN IN GRIFFITH PARK
There will be a complete shutdown of water available to Griffith Park tentatively scheduled for the week of October 21st through the 25th.  This shutdown of water will be done to connect and weld the pipes that will carry water to the City of Los Angeles, and also to Griffith Park.
To prepare for this shutdown, all the water storage tanks in the Park will be filled to capacity.  Various businesses in the Park i.e. the Zoo, the Live Steamers, Travel Town and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center have developed contingency plans to deal with the water situation.  Basic water services should be covered, however, Griffith Park businesses will be watering lawns during this time.
The horse water tanks will be kept full by having a water truck bring water to each site to fill the tanks manually.  This shutdown of water is to be completed and the water turned back on within 72 hours, if all goes well.  Concerns were raised about the possibility of fires in the Park during the shutdown.  It was suggest that the work be delayed until early November, however, as of now, the start date is October 21st.
If all goes well, no one will notice the shutdown and there will be adequate water for all during this period.
HEADWORKS PROJECT
As anyone who has ridden by the Headwork’s project knows, the construction of a giant water tank to hold the Silverlake Reservoir is in full gear. So far, it has gone smoothly, with minimum problems with equestrians getting their horses past the activity and noise.  However, soon there will be a very dangerous construction project within a few feet of the trail. First, a retaining wall will be built. Then, there will be trenching for a big ditch to lay pipe along a short stretch between the two tunnels, Tunnel 7 and 8.
New Danger signs will be posted at the entrance to both Tunnels, and flyers will be given to the major barns.  This portion of the Headworks Construction will be close up, with loud noises from cranes, huge backhoes and loads of rebar and metal plates being moved into place. DWP understands that this is a major inconvenience for the equestrian public.  They have worked hard to minimize any problems for the trail.
It is unavoidably dangerous, and impossible to mitigate.  The construction people have agreed to place the main part of the cranes/backhoes off the direct proximity of the trail, when possible.  They also agreed to pause in the work while equestrians pass by, if possible, if they see you. The work is expected to take a month to complete.
The trail between the two tunnels will remain open, with signage directing people with nervous horses to go to Tunnel 6 to access the Park trails from there.  It will be up to the public to decide if their horses can deal with all this noise and challenge.
The good news is that the Construction people say that this is absolutely the worst part of this project, and once it’s over, they will be moving back off the trail to quieter activity.  Construction is expected to last until the end of 2014.
DWP and the City of Los Angeles are under a Federal mandate brought by the terrorism attacks on 9/11.  All potable water now must be completely covered to protect our drinking water sources.  A second huge tank will be constructed to store another lake over by Forest Lawn Cemetery in the future, but will be so far away as to not interfere with the trail use between the two tunnels.

Friday, August 16, 2013

P-22 Still Hangin' in Griffith Park

Our local mountain lion was recently caught in transit by one of the Griffith Park wildlife trail cams: 


Friday, August 9, 2013

Real solution needed for Hollywood Sign nightmare

Interesting meeting scheduled by Councilmember LaBonge on August 14th about access to viewing of the Hollywood Sign.

As the spectre of his departure from City Council grows ever near, LaBonge is frenetically pressuring Recreation and Parks, Public Works, and LADWP right now to complete a number of his boutique pet projects. One of those pet projects is to open up Griffith Park's interior roads again, ostensibly to relieve pressure on the long-suffering communities who are overwhelmed by Hollywood Sign tourist traffic.

Besides the fact that re-opening roads in the park interior is yet another damaging ingress into what remains of a fragile urban wilderness ecosystem, anyone who knows anything about traffic knows that the volume of car trips will simply expand to fill the void. It would be just a matter of weeks before this new viewing area would be highly impacted as well as the traditional viewing neighborhoods. And boy-oh-boy would it be expensive!

Another solution needs to be implemented. Something other than adding to the traffic hell in and around Griffith Park and destroying precious habitat. A solution that stops putting the transitory desires of tourists over the needs of the beings trying to live here. We'd love to hear your suggestions.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Parks management foresight saves two young lives.

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It was a good day yesterday for two teenage boys in Griffith Park.

As teens all too often do, they were driving way too fast on hairpin turns at Mineral Wells and completely blew this ↑ corner and went off the road toward the picnic area, smashing into one of the posts. The car transferred all of the speed and energy it was carrying onto the first post - bending it, then it bounced off another post, flipping the car on its side and back onto the roadway.

Both boys walked away from the crash with minor injuries. The only remaining sign of the accident is a cockeyed post and a small scattering of sand to mop up some oil.

The scene of the accident doesn't look like much. A bend in the road road. Some posts, one post slightly out of step with the rest. These posts haven't been here long. Maybe 5 years, give or take. That's no time at all when talking about a park that has been a valuable place to recreate and relax for Angelenos for more than a century.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-LzjiOn1YP5o/Ufv8jnZfq_I/AAAAAAAAAaA/77mr0jDPXoY/s1600/IMAG0863.jpgI clearly remember the discussion five years ago about installing the posts and gates around Mineral Wells and the Green Recycling facility. This was at the beginning of Villaraigosa's brutal "full-cost recovery" plan and the Department of Recreation and Parks was being aggressively stripped of funding by City Hall. Posts and gates like these are definitely pricy. They were an expensive project that could easily have been short-cutted or blown off completely given the financial situation.

It was actually the General Manager, Jon Mukri, who made the posts and gates happen. He came out to the site himself and walked the location, then made the decision to do the full project.


It's difficult to tell from my lame photography, but beyond the posts there is a pretty steep dropoff into the Mineral Wells picnic area. It's an area that is filled with parents and kids most weekends.

Any vehicle missing the hairpin curve and hitting that dropoff with speed would flip and roll, seriously destroying it. Anything in its path would likely be crushed.

These posts probably saved the lives of those two teenage boys along with the handful of parks users who were at the location yesterday afternoon. And anyone who criticized Mukri's decision to complete this project at the time should be grateful they were just plain-old wrong, and not dead-wrong.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Someone else noticed.

Great article on CityWatch today about the systematic theft of charter-mandated funding from our City parks.

Park notes from July's Griffith Park "Resources Board" meeting

Despite the name, there is no actual board. A lot of information and rumor about the park is disseminated at these meetings, however. Here are the tidbits I picked up after a late arrival:

  • Griffith Park Drive on the north side of the park will reopen at the end of July. Live Steamers aficionados, frustrated commuters and, sadly, lewd conduct creeps will be thrilled to get their turf back.

  • Tom LaBonge has a tour of Headworks scheduled for October - contact his office if interested.

  • Forest Lawn is 'donating' 150(?) acres of unused land back to Griffith Park which should open up new trails on the north side of the park. Guessing up by the fire break, but not sure.

  • Prop K is funding trail improvements at the Girls Camp and signage? at trailheads throughout the park.

  • The draft EIR (environmental impact report) for the proposed new Crystal Springs baseball fields will be released in October. These fields impact the popular and heavily-oversubscribed picnic area. If you use the Crystal Springs picnic area, you will want to be commenting on this EIR. One alternate site for these baseball fields is in North Atwater Park which does not impact Crystal Springs and is therefore likely a better location choice.

  • The Negative Declaration (of any environmental impacts) for a new performance shell at the Old Zoo will be released shortly.

  • An LVNOC (Local Volunteer Neighborhood Oversight Committee) will be forming for $1 million in improvements at the Commonwealth Nursery. I suspect LaBonge's office will be populating that VNOC so if you want to be on it, contact his office. Walk-thru will be in November.

  • LAPD wants a new riding ring for their mounted unit on the Atwater side of the park. The public is supposed to have access to the new arena when PD isn't using it.

  • Apparently there is now a Friends of Vista del Valle group. Why? Who the heck knows. But if they remove graffiti and pick up trash, I'm good with it. Any new development in the interior of the park, and I am definitely not good with it. If you are a 'Friend', drop us a line and enlighten as to this group's purpose.

  • The Riverside Trailhead is being renamed for Mr. Sol Shankman.

  • Anne-Marie Johnson, who played Althea Tibbs on the brilliant In the Heat of the Night series among other roles is now working for LaBonge's office. Strange juxtaposition, the result of which found me almost calling her 'Althea' when I saw her at the meeting.  argh.

Monday, July 22, 2013

At least they're listening

Update: The motion was passed this week. This will be a process, so take every opportunity to get your public comment in.


In June, Wesson, Krekorian, and LaBonge filed a motion to have the Dept. of  Recreation and Parks create a plan to increase its budget to $250 million in five years.

Council File #13-0807 could be good - putting an end to some of the chargebacks that have literally decimated the funding for our City parks.

Or it could be bad - no changes to chargebacks, but a mandate that Rec and Parks charges for every single thing they do in Los Angeles. (new revenue!)

The motion will be heard in City Council tomorrow. Likely it will go through. It's the process that follows passage of the motion that could be the devil in sheep's clothing.  We'll see.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

LA's parks system decimated: Nat'l rankings highlight Mayor and City Council's damaging policy

The Trust for Public Lands' latest ParkScore ranking of the parks systems in major US cities was just released.  While New York  ranks #2, Los Angeles ranks ... 34th.  Detroit for all of its problems ranks considerably higher than Los Angeles.

“You can’t have a great city without great parks,” said Mr. Benepe, who, under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, oversaw 1,700 parks and beaches during a period of expansion and major capital investment.
Black on the bar graph shows the
funding taken from LA's parks since 2007.
(click image to enlarge)

Benepe's statement certainly does not bear any resemblance to Los Angeles' dedication to its parks. LA City leaders have effectively stolen $151 million in mandated park funding from LA's parks department since 2007 and used it to cover holes in other City departments' budgets. This this Los Angeles' version of 'dedication' - a policy of completely decimating LA's parks.

You will hear LA politicos brag about Mayor Villaraigosa's 50-parks initiative... an initiative with funding for the acquisition of 50 postage stamp-sized parks, but no funding -- zero -- for maintenance, programming, or security going forward. Hardly a significant investment in LA's parks, particularly when compared to New York.

Meanwhile it only gets worse for LA's parks this next fiscal year. Although Mayor-elect Garcetti is a signatory on ParksSave's pledge to restore parks funding, Garcetti as councilmember, the Mayor, and City Council unanimously approved taking another $70 million in chargebacks ($64 million) and hidden indirect charges ($7 million) from the Department of Recreation and Parks during the upcoming year alone. Another $70 million in one year!

The compounded result of the Mayor and City Council's policy is that today, the Department of Recreation and Parks is at risk of losing its recreation function completely.  Let me repeat that: Los Angeles is at risk of losing all public recreation programming. Now that's dedication.

Garcetti as Mayor does have the opportunity to change all of this destruction come July 1 when he takes the oath of office, however, and one hopes he realizes what is at stake.


“You can’t have a great city without great parks” is one of those universal knowns, whether here in the states or anywhere else on Planet Earth.  Yet the City of Los Angeles actively steals millions from its parks, dishonoring the foresight Angelenos had when they tried to protect LA's parks by mandating special funding specifically for parks in the City Charter.

Shameful.

Stay tuned for the deflecting, marginalizing, and scapegoating of managers that is sure to follow.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Brian D'Arcy: the Four Million Dollar Kiss-of-Death

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Mayor-elect Garcetti must remember this ↑ and this and this come July 1.

No more obscene pay raises for the LADWP at the on-going expense of every other City service, especially our City parks.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Which Way GLAZA -- the lure of the dollar, or the belief in the mission?

(Update: the MOU between GLAZA and the LA Zoo states that GLAZA will be operating the LA Zoo as an event venue. So much for the Zoo's "mission" (see below).  

That said, since this is a different use that the LA Zoo's mission, an EIR may be required.) 
------------------------

GLAZA, the non-profit support group for the Los Angeles Zoo, has announced it is spending some of it's own bank on Zoo publicity. A lot of bank, actually:

In an effort to introduce more people to the mission, exhibits and wildlife conservation programs of the L.A. Zoo, GLAZA — the organization's longtime non-profit partner — announced Monday it will spend $2 million in marketing and public relations money, beginning in July.
Marketing and public relations...  In practice, marketing and public relations seems to be LA City code-speak for become an event venue, which is why this article caught my attention.

The Los Angeles Zoo is an entity that is using Griffith Park property. The land is zoned Open Space, and used to be under the purview of the Dept of Recreation and Parks until it was spun off as it's own department. 


Myself and the many visitors to Amir's Garden have all had a better view than most of the recent major construction projects across the canyon at the LA Zoo. As well as the expansion lights, noise, and clearing of park land, park users in this area have already had to endure live band music pounding throughout Mineral Wells canyon from a new summer concert series.

Commercialization might be a good thing for the Zoo financially, but one has to question the impact to the urban wilderness areas of the park. When the concerts are in full swing , the racket they make is like your bad neighbor who plays music way too loud keeping the entire neighborhood up all night.
 

Honestly, do you hike through the urban wilderness of the Griffith Park interior expecting an onslaught of loud band music? No one goes hiking or riding in Griffith Park to experience that. It probably goes without saying that this cannot be good for the Zoo animals, too. Beyond that, parks themselves have sound ordinances that should prohibit this kind of noise. 

Prohibited unless the LA Zoo is designated an event venue, that is.

Revenue generation by any means possible is always OK as far as City Hall is concerned, so I guess we're bad neighbors for even suggesting that parties and concerts at the LA Zoo isn't the best use of the facility. So be it - we're bad neighbors. 


What we can hope for is that GLAZA doesn't subscribe to City code-speak and their $2 million worth of publicity will really be all about the Zoo's purported mission
The L.A. Zoo is an important component of the greater Los Angeles region’s quality of life. Citizens need safe places to recreate and decompress from their daily chores. The corporate responsibility of the Zoo to save wildlife and wild places manifests itself in good educational programming, conservation support, and academic research—all of which enhances the Los Angeles community.
            - John R. Lewis, LA Zoo Director    (LA Zoo Annual Report 2011-12)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

If you wonder why your local park looks like crap, read this:

Just some of the services we no longer receive in Los Angeles parks are listed below. These losses are a direct result of the City's "chargeback" policy against the Dept. of Recreation and Parks.

Note: Text in italics and choice of image is ours. Typos are probably ours.
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DEPARTMENT OF RECREATION AND PARKS (RAP)

LIST OF SERVICE REDUCTIONS & IMPACTS DUE TO BUDGET REDUCTIONS AND INCREASED PAYMENT OF INDIRECT COSTS

FISCAL YEAR (FY) 2008-09 TO 2013-14


(RAP has) Paid $151 million to City General Fund in support costs (refuse collection, utility, pension, health care and fleet costs). These funds were previously used to provide RAP services to City of Los Angeles residents.
  • Elimination of all City Public Building Landscape Services (proposed for FY 2013-14).
  • Elimination of Landscape Services provided to the Police Administration Building (proposed for FY 2013-14).
  • Functional Transfer of recreational and maintenance services provided by RAP at seven (7) Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) sites to non-profit or others (RAP proposed the functional transfer of three (3) sites for FY 2013-14).
  • Reduction of Clean and Safe Spaces (CLASS) Parks, recreational programming and maintenance services at seven (7) HACLA sites.
  • Reduction of CLASS Parks programming at all sites (proposed for FY 2013-14).
  • Eliminated Pedal Boat service at Balboa, Echo Park, and MacArthur Lakes.
  • Eliminated Licensed Child Care services at 24 sites.
  • Eliminated Therapeutic specialized services at three (3) sites.
  • Eliminated all Citywide Sports Tournaments.
  • Closed Observatory two (2) days per week.
  • Closed recreation centers & EXPO on Sundays and Holidays.
  • Closed year round pools on Mondays and shortened the summer aquatic season from 10 weeks to eight (8) weeks.
  • Closed 15 year round pools for three weeks during the winter break.
  • Reduced seasonal pool operations by two (2) hours on weekends and by one (l) hour on weekdays.
  • Closed Central Pool.
  • Converted Peck Park, Hubert Humphrey and Glassell Pools from year round to seasonal.
  • Reduced CLASS parks program from 47 to 37.
  • Eliminated special event co-sponsorship (i.e. Salute to Recreation, Lotus Festival, etc).
  • Eliminated staffing at all skate parks except one.
  • Reduced summer bus trips for economically disadvantaged youth and eliminated senior citizen bus trips.
  • Implemented fee increases for recreation programs, facility use, and staff support.
  • Reduced Ranger services to assignment at Griffith Park only.
  • Reduced dedicated staff at Senior Centers (programming conducted by part-time staff).
  • Consolidated and clustered recreational staff at centers (less full-time recreational staff dedicated to each site) which lessens the hours and types of programming offered.
  • Reduced equity programs such as Girls Play LA, and other low cost opportunities for disadvantaged areas.
  • Eliminated RAP Senior Nutrition Program and some social services.
  • Eliminated the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
  • Routed maintenance staff which reduces the "presence" of RAP staff at the park which leads to "dead park" situations.
  • Reduced maintenance cleaning services provided at recreation centers! parks including: cleaning of restrooms from three (3) times per day to one-time per day, less frequent detailing of restrooms and buildings, removal of debris and trash, cleaning of gym floors, walls and other areas.
  • Reduced land maintenance activities at parks including: routine maintenance, cleaning of children's play areas, refurbishment of play fields; and closure of other heavily used areas until they can be made safe and sanitary.
  • Reduced facility repairs including: roofing, lighting, electrical, graffiti removal, broken windows, etc.
  • Reduced hours of operation at region headquarters by one hour.
  • Eliminated Wonderful Outdoor World (WOW) camping program.
  • Reduced residential summer camp program and boys and girls camps by one day.
  • Reduced hours of operation at Banning Museum and Civil War Drum Barracks by three (3) hours a week each.
  • Reduced summer youth fishing program at Cabrillo Beach during the summer (last one was in 2008. This was offered to day camp youth from recreation centers throughout the City).
  • Cut field supervision (recreation districts by a supervisor) from 13 to 11. Also eliminated the Recreation Supervisor positions that specifically oversaw the services for the Camping Division and the Senior Citizen Division. These responsibilities are now absorbed by field supervisors effective February 28, 2011.
  • Eliminated Public Restroom Enhancement Program (PREP).
  • Restrooms are being cleaned once a day instead of three (3) times a day and detailing of restrooms and buildings has become less frequent.
  • Hiking and equestrian trails do not receive routine maintenance.
  • Recreation facilities (interior) receive minimal maintenance (no detail cleaning).
  • Hardscape stains remain much longer as we are unable to pressure wash on a regular basis.
  • Sandbox maintenance is greatly impacted as sand is screened twice a week instead of three (3) times a week.
  • Picnic areas receive minimal attention (unable to remove coals on a regular basis).
  • Litter debris remain much longer on grounds, and trash cans overflow during the summer.
  • Harvesting of aquatic vegetation at Machado Lake has not been performed in Fiscal Years 2008-09, 2009-10, or 2010-11.
  • Motor sweeping of RAP parking lots has been reduced.
  • List of athletic fields to be refurbished has been reduced by 25%.
  • Line trimming and detailing of planter beds now occur on an as-needed basis instead of weekly.
  • Grading of ball diamonds now takes place on an as-needed basis instead of monthly.
  • Tree work is only being done on demand and on an emergency basis. The Forestry Division has been forced to abandon all preventative tree maintenance. This is exposing both our staff and patrons to an increased risk due to potential tree hazards. Additionally, due to reduced tree care staff, our backlog of tree-related emergencies has grown and our ability to respond in a timely manner has been compromised significantly.
  • Loss of pest control staff has forced us to drastically reduce our preventative gopher and ground squirrel control operations as well as insect and rodent control services at our recreation centers. The result has been an increase in the number of County Health citations received by the Department.
  • RAP's ability to meet its water conservation goals has been compromised due to the reduction in trained staff to make irrigation system repairs and adjustments in a timely manner. The delays result in a waste of water and/or loss of turf and plant material.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The real cost of "chargebacks" as outlined by Rec and Parks

"...although (Recreation and Parks) is one of 30+ City Departments, (Recreation and Parks) alone has contributed $151 million (19%) (almost one-fifth) to reducing the City's projected budget deficit of $800 million over these last several fiscal years through paying the indirect/support costs."

What follows is the cover letter from the Department of Recreation and Parks' formal response to the Mayor's Budget for FY14. The new budget takes another $64 million in chargebacks and $8 million in other required payments away from Recreation and Parks programming.

(typos are probably our fault.)

---
April 23, 2013
Honorable Paul Krekorian, Chair
Budget and Finance Committee
City Clerk, City Hall Room 395
Los Angeles, CA 90012
ATTN: Erika Pulst, Legislative Assistant

Dear Councilmember Krekorian:

The Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) respectfully submits this letter to assist your Committee in providing a deeper explanation of RAP's budget. In order to understand this budget, the Council and your Committee must look at the fundamental structural changes that have occurred to RAP's budget over the past seven years. During this time, a City policy shift occurred that affected both RAP and the Library Departmental budgets. It must be noted all RAP monies are "people dollars" used to enhance quality of life, resident programs helping to keep people active and healthy, and youth programs designed to build strong citizens and, thereby, encouraging youth against gang activities. The Department must be viewed as the most non-threatening public social service agency in the City of Los Angeles and a critical arm of public safety.

Summary

The Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners understands that the City has been in a dire financial crisis since Fiscal Year (FY) 2007-08 and the need exists to effect tactical solutions anually to address the City's structural deficit. While tactical decisions are critical in effecting immediate reductions, these decisions will most assuredly affect all future operations. It should be noted that I was one of the few General Managers that openly supported the Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP). I did this as I had extensive knowledge and practical experience with the Federal Government when the military was faced with drastic cuts in funding which necessitated the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, Also, ERIP provided a more sensible program to reduce personnel costs while maintaining the dignity of the exceptional employees of our City. As an aside, the City benefitted from BRAC with the addition of a long term lease for land associated with the former Air Force Base at both Fort McArthur and Whites Point Nike Site. Over the past few budgets, there have been many questions directed at RAP as to why cuts have had to be made, such as a reduction in pool hours or elimination of year-round pools, program reduction/elimination or fee increases (such as community gardens). A complete list of programs that have been reduced or eliminated is provided as Attachment A. These reductions are a direct result of budget decisions necessitated by the worst recession in our country's history.

Attachment B - click on image to enlarge
Since FY 2007-08, RAP's discretionary budget (that portion of the budget which provides programs and services) has been effectively slashed from 100% to 67% of total funding available (See Attachment B). This occurred through the aggressive application of a new City policy of cost recovery for indirect costs necessary to support the direct costs of providing services to millions of our City residents. This system of cost recovery was introduced benignly to recover taxpayer subsidies to golf operations and parking garages. I agreed with this effort, as the RAP General Fund should not subsidize costs that could be absorbed by the users and program payers. Since FY 2010-11, all of our golf operations and our parking garages are fully funded by users. There is no direct subsidy associated with our golf operations and parking garages. However, once this process began, further cost recovery efforts for indirect costs were directed against RAP's General Fund budgetary accounts. Since FY 2007-08, RAP's cumulative payments toward the City'S stated deficit of approximately $800 million has been $151 million or roughly 19% of the total City deficit (See Attachment C). The Department's annual operating budget from all sources is roughly $189 million or approximately 2.7% of the City's total budget of$7.2 billion. It should be recognized that these funds were "people dollars". These "people dollars" went to offset costs of program participation and to maintain City-owned facilities within our park system. The loss of these "people dollars" meant that RAP's full-time staff plunged from a high of over 2,100 to approximately 1,400 or a 30% drop. Additionally, part-time staff dropped from over 6,900 to approximately 3,500. The attached graphs (Attachments D and E) illustrate the increase in RAP funding indirect costs of operations and the decrease in funding for direct costs of operations or actual program dollars.

Attachment C - click to enlarge
In addition, under another new City policy, RAP was directed to begin "self-funding" a portion of its operational budget. This means RAP has to save a portion of one fiscal year's budget to fund next fiscal year's budget. This amount has grown from $1.25 million (FY 2006-07) to a proposed $7.0 million for FY 2013-14. This forces RAP into a constant "juggling act" and eliminates or reduces programs/services during the fiscal year that were to be provided, as approved during the budget process by the Council and Mayor.

Again, referring to Attachment A, RAP has made efforts to focus on core functions and has been forced to make decisions to reduce or cancel those activities that although felt important and even critical to the community, had to be reduced or eliminated as they did not fall within the core functions of a Charter established department. These cuts were not made willingly nor would have been made had the Department not had to absorb support costs of operations never born by RAP in over 100 years of its history. This list is expected to grow over the next several years as RAP is forced to expend more funds on indirect costs. The increase this next fiscal year alone is $4.0 million dollars for a total of approximately $47.5 million. RAP simply does not have the long term ability to continue to finance this level of indirect cost reimbursement to the City's General Fund nor can we continue to self-fund a portion of our own budget each year.

There is some good news; the proposed FY 2013-14 budget provides RAP some one-time City capital funding to rehabilitate and rebuild Celes King III pool and Lincoln Park pool and to install automated locks in restrooms. Separately from the budget process, RAP was able to identify some one-time funding to perform deferred maintenance to improve safety and reduce liability claims, continue some unbudgeted programs such as aquatics at Hubert Humphrey, G1assell,and Peck pools (for FY 2012-13 only) and continue to develop new parks under the 50 Parks Initiative. 


Staffing 

These last few years have been tough for both the residents and the employees. Reductions in costs have resulted in the ERIP, furloughs and layoffs. Fortunately, these tough reductions have kept our great City solvent. Unfortunately, these reductions have been accomplished without any ability to control the areas where employee reductions occurred. The ERIP took a whole level of experienced and critical managers with no ability to backfill through existing City forces. Currently, through both retirement and transfers to other City agencies, departments are losing another level of critical managers who in normal times would be groomed to take on increasing levels of management responsibilities. The City has also cut almost completely the influx in low cost new employees filling the roles of apprentice or low skilled trainable and valuable future leaders. This was a tactical decision to arrest the spiraling personnel and other employee costs but has had and will have severe detrimental costs in both service delivery and direct costs of doing a unit's work.

I will use only one work group in this discussion, our critical men and women who work as Gardener Caretakers. The Department employs over 370 men and women (from a high of 551) who fill the critical task of keeping our parks clean, green and safe for our patrons. The Department of Recreation and Parks has projected ahead some simple facts. The average age of a Gardener Caretaker is 52 years. Their tasks include but are not limited to: the cleaning of restrooms, children's play pits, bike path maintenance, maintenance of our parks, etc. Using a simple direct formula, the Department can expect to lose over 3-4% of these employees each of the next few years further depleting our workforce who are performing critical maintenance tasks. This not only effects RAP's operations but also has City wide implications. For example, RAP is provided funding ($2.0 million from the City General Fund) to perform landscape maintenance at City public buildings (non-RAP owned) but we can no longer shoulder this burden as we simply do not have the staff to complete this work. This is especially true given that RAP has continued to expand the number of parks, facilities and acreage which needs maintenance.

Additionally, cutting off the influx of new and low cost employees is driving our productive cost per unit of work. With the reduction in workforce and using more costly long term employees our cost per unit of work is up while our unit of work produced is down. More or increased cost per unit of work while decreasing work actually completed results in a productivity cost death spiral. Almost every workforce series and classification is affected by these facts. As we find our economy getting stronger, we need to take a more long term strategic vision on our City workforce and core functions.  

Fleet Equipment Replacement and Maintenance 

I would also like to bring to the attention of your Committee that RAP has been able to make productivity gains in our maintenance of parks and facilities by "routing" our gardeners. RAP established approximately 240 maintenance routes with assigned crews throughout the City. Instead of having stationary assignments, crews utilize large fleet equipment (trucks, large mowers, etc.) and small fleet equipment (small mowers, trimmers, etc.) to move from park/ facility to the next park/facility to perform critical maintenance tasks. These productivity gains are being threatened. Due to fleet reduction mandates, RAP has trimmed its fleet to extremely low levels and the large and small fleet equipment is aging. RAP has been informed that at least 62 pieces of equipment originally designated to be MICLA funded were pulled from the proposed FY 2013-2014 budget. Additionally, due to reductions in Department of General Services Fleet maintenance personnel, our equipment sits un repaired in shops. If this trend continues, eventually staff will not have the equipment it needs to adequately do their job.  

Conclusion 

Like other City Departments, RAP incurred budget reductions (positions cuts, layoffs, ERIP, etc.) over these last several fiscal years to help close the City's budget deficit. But RAP and the Library Department also incurred a new City policy of paying indirect/support costs which historically were paid from the City's General Fund on their behalf. The Library Department was somewhat assisted towards this effort with the passage of a voter approved ballot measure which allocated a larger percentage of the City's property tax dollars to them. However, RAP was not so fortunate and has had to absorb these costs from its operating budget at its same property tax allocation percentage. And although RAP is one of 30+ City Departments, RAP alone has contributed $151 million (19%) (almost one-fifth) to reducing the City's projected budget deficit of $800 million over these last several fiscal years through paying the indirect/support costs.

Another new City policy directed to RAP was to self-fund a portion of its own operating budget which is currently $3.8 million to a proposed $7.0 million in the next fiscal year. Our future ability to self-fund part of our own budget and pay $50+ million annually in indirect/support costs is not sustainable. We also have a large infrastructure of facilities that is continuing to age and the deferred maintenance list of items is continuing to grow. Something must be done to address these myriad of issues, or RAP could be facing tough decisions on whether to continue to provide highly subsidized community programs or to transition to a more passive park system dependent on for-profit or non-profit agencies to provide sports and community programming, which we don't believe any Angeleno wants to occur. We can turn this situation around but we must be treated more fairly in the future. Our budget dollars should be treated as service dollars to be used by our people to service the City's people. We are a critical arm of public safety and must work together to balance community needs against fiscal reality.  

Thank you for your continued support of the Department of Recreation and Parks. Should you have any questions, please contact me or Regina Adams, Executive Officer, at (213) 202-2633. 

JON KIRK MUKRI
General Manager