Mitch O'Farrell is a candidate in the election for the City Council District 13 to be held March 5, 2013.
The proposal for a survey to evaluate the condition of all our city sidewalks is a great idea. What better way to get an accurate baseline from where to begin repairs in a methodical, prioritized way?
While serving on behalf of City Councilmember Eric Garcetti from 2002 to 2012, I handled sidewalk repairs and street resurfacing for the 13th City Council District. I quickly learned which streets needed sidewalk replacement the most and met with the bureau of Street Services (BSS) on a regular basis to prioritize and schedule those repairs. Up until fiscal 2007-2008 we had funding for sidewalk replacement and were making real progress. That progress came to a halt across the city due to budget shortfalls and the good people at BSS understandably now want to address this serious issue.
However, the idea for the city to spend $10 million to contract out for a professional survey over a 3-year period is the wrong way to go, considering our perpetual budget deficits. There is a better way to do this assessment with existing resources while perhaps spending the $10 million to actually replace some broken sidewalks!
There are 15 City Councilmembers with an average of about 20 staffers. The Mayor has over 100 on staff. There are 95 Neighborhood Councils, and dozens of Improvement Associations, Homeowners groups, and local Chambers of Commerce. If each Council Office utilizes 5 staffers and the Mayor directed 15 staffers to do this evaluation, that would be 90 existing staff members that could be trained, along with a cadre of committed volunteers from neighborhood organizations. The bureau of Street Services could develop the criteria for the survey; conduct one or more mandatory training sessions and send teams of trained people out to do the survey. This process would be utilizing existing staff and volunteers in neighborhoods they are already deeply familiar with and the evaluation could be conducted within weeks or months, not three years.
This would be a community building opportunity to bring people together for the common good, and not cost the city an extra dime. If done this way, city officials could get to work almost immediately on how to fund the ambitious but very important objective of citywide sidewalk replacement. Whether it be through a bond proposal, the creation of assessment districts, or another mechanism, the public would be more vested in finding a solution to the problem because they would now be directly involved in every step of the process.
It is incumbent on city leadership at all times to maximize existing resources in all decision making. Wrong spending decisions from city leaders in the past are largely responsible for the financial crises we constantly find ourselves in. Now is the time to think very differently about how we move this city toward financial health and a better quality of life. We can start by making this common sense decision about repairing our sidewalks.
FB: Mitch O'Farrell