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Friday, February 7, 2014

Tell City Hall: "Optimum Investment" Park Ranger option is the only reasonable option

Update 2/10/14:  At the APHAR Committee meeting, Recreation and Parks reported that they are putting just four new Rangers into the 2014-15 budget and no mention of a Chief Ranger.  Three positions are already open due to retirements so Rec and Parks is in reality adding just one new Park Ranger in their 2014-15 budget if nothing changes.

Meanwhile, the preponderance of the public comment both sent in via email and in person requested that the APHAR Committee choose the Optimum Investment option. The APHAR Committee made no recommendation but asked for a report-back from the CAO (who just loves Rec and Parks) on the cost of each option in 60 days, which is only a week or so before Recreation and Parks submits their budget for 2014-15.

The Dept of Recreation and Parks has released their final report on the current status of the Park Ranger Division.  The City Council's Arts Parks Health Aging and River Committee will be discussing this report Monday at 2pm in Room 1060 at City Hall.  (agenda item 7)
If you've kept up with any of the information about our City of Los Angeles Park Rangers published here and at Mayor Sam over the years, you won't be surprised that the situation is bleak.  Citywide, just twenty-one Park Rangers are left in the City, and more than half of them are grandfathered-in as non-peace officers -- an artifact left over from a crippling union agreement more than a decade ago.  There is no Chief Ranger in spite of the position being required by California POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training), who oversees peace officer agencies and training in this state.

The final Park Ranger status report being presented on Monday provides three different tiers of investment that City Council could select that would bring the Park Ranger Division back to a level of health and effectiveness:  
  • Optimum Investment
  • Modest Investment
  • Minimum Investment
Only the Optimum Investment will cover all of our larger Regional parks including Hansen Dam Recreational Area, which has a new Ranger Station and no Rangers. The cost of the Optimum Investment is just four times the current barely-breathing cost of the Park Ranger Division.

Is the Optimum Investment Option worth it?

When initially created in 2005, the Office of Public Safety had a budget of $21-$25 million, the vast majority of which (they often whined) was devoted directly to parks.  Meaning - as Park Ranger replacements.

Hansen Dam Ranger Station - nobody home.
Creating OPS saved the City $200,000 - $900,000, said the CAO. Within a few years, OPS had already added $7 million more to their budget, and I wrote about in my first article for the Mayor Sam blog. More additional funding demands followed and were granted.

Again, OPS's budget was mostly for patrolling parks, as they constantly reminded anyone listening. 

The Park Ranger position historically grew directly from the day-to-day needs in our parks. Park Rangers do 80% more job duties than Office of Public Safety officers.

Park Rangers are professional peace officers, fire fighters, wildlife managers, naturalists, and environmental managers. There is a reason that LA Park Rangers are often hired out of the department to become Emergency Management coordinators all across the City:  Rangers are professional multi-disciplinarians, giving them a broad world view other single-disciplined professionals do not have.

So in comparison, OPS at it's peak (optimum?) had a budget of over $34 million* , most of which was for parks.  Their officers did only 20% of the job duties Parks Rangers do for our parks.  Our City Council and Mayor felt this was worth investing in.

Park Rangers do 80% more for parks and the Optimum Investment option is $17 million** -- half the cost of OPS.

The analysis is pretty clear.

City Council should do the right thing: choose the Optimum Investment option.

Make your voice heard!

You can demand the Optimum Investment option by attending the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee meeting this Monday at 2pm in Room 1060, or by emailing the City Clerk with your public comment before Monday.

Be certain you write on your comment that it is for two different files:

1. APHAR Committee meeting 2/10/14 - Agenda Item 7, and
2. Council File 12-0899-S1

* = not including indirect costs. Indirect costs are roughly an additional 45%
** = including indirect costs.