Will the City Council's raids on Street Furniture Revenue Funds ever stop?
Item 18 at tomorrow's City Council meeting is a motion to transfer $100,000 from the Street Furniture Revenue Fund to Council District 4's (Councilmember Tom Labonge) general salaries account to pay for Council Office staff salaries (Council File 10-0011-S37).
Per the motion (.pdf) "there is a great need for additional Council staff to focus on transit related projects, sidewalk projects, curb / sidewalk improvements, beautification projects needed to improve conditions for public transit patrons, and all expenses relating or incidental thereto in Council District 4." The motion is asking that these funds "be transferred to the Council District 4 portion of the Council Fund No. 100-28, Account No. 1010 (Salaries - General) to provide funding for any aspect of efforts involving transit related projects...as well as for general services to the community in Council District 4."
Not so fast Councilmember.
As previously discussed here (over and over again), Street Furniture Revenue Funds must be used for the specific purposes identified in Los Angeles Administrative Code Section 5.121.7, which includes improvements to public streets, public transit systems, and the beautification of public right-of-ways. These purposes do not include the funding of general staff salaries nor funding for "general services" to the community.
Now, if Council District 4's staff is actually working on Street Furniture Revenue Funds eligible issues than this transfer of funding would be kosher. But the only way to know would be if Council District 4 is keeping a detailed record (and timesheets) for each and every employee whose salary is funded, in whole or in part, by Street Furniture Revenue Funds. If Council District 4 is not keeping such records (and I'd bet they are not) than there is no auditable way to know if those staffers are in fact spending their time on transit related projects. And that wouldn't be good.
Oh, and one more thing. If the $100,000 in Street Furniture Revenue Funds are transferred into the Council District 4's general salary account then they absolutely cannot be used "for any aspect of efforts" as the Motion says as these funds will be only be available to pay for Council staff salaries. Once in Council District 4's general salary account these funds will be unavailable to fund transit related services and equipment (e.g. bus rentals, transit shelters and street furniture) or to fund capital improvements (e.g. speed humps, sidewalk and curb improvements, traffic calming devices). If the Council Office's goal is to develop street and sidewalk improvements than its hard to understand the logic behind transferring the funds to their general salary account. Why identify (and allocate) funds for the (Council Office) staff but not for any necessary design work, technical studies, or capital improvement costs? It just doesn't add up.
UPDATE: Hey, wow, somebody is paying attention. Stephen Box, a candidate in the 2011 Los Angeles City Election running for City Council District No. 4, provided public comment at the Council meeting against this motion. The City Council ignored his comments and approved this item -- as was expected -- but points to Mr. Box for speaking up. Video below: