Published with the Valley News Group on April 22, 2021
This week, Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled his draft budget for the next year and I wanted to share what it proposes for our city, and more specifically the West Valley. A budget is a statement of priorities and from expanding public works projects, bridging the digital divide, empowering local businesses and allocating unprecedented resources to address homelessness, this annual budget lays out a bold agenda.
With the help of President Joe Biden and the American Rescue Plan (ARP), much of the fiscal pain our city government has gone through over the past year has been alleviated, but we are not out of the woods yet. Soon the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, in which I serve as Vice Chair, will begin deliberations with every department head as well as the Mayor’s top finance staff. I’ll go over every line item with a fine tooth comb, but before that process begins, here are some of the highlights of Mayor Garcetti’s proposal.
The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a steep decline in City revenues, which forced the City to make deep cuts in basic services such as street paving, street sweeping and upkeep of trees. Much of the ARP funding is budgeted for restoring City services to pre-pandemic levels.
Homelessness is the crisis of our time and must remain top of the list for available funding for services, housing, and to preserve public health and safety. The Mayor has proposed $800 million toward homeless efforts, including funds from new state and federal aid and HHH funds. This includes funds for six new Project Roomkey hotels which will swiftly open over 500 new rooms. He also has proposed $60 million for storage and clean ups. As I have written here before, we need a better plan to store the belongings of someone who moves off the sidewalk and into housing, and my hope is that this investment in storage will help provide solutions.
To stop the increase in homelessness, we also need to focus on keeping people in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Right now, LA’s Emergency Rental Assistance program is putting $235 million more into helping pay the rent for 100,000 of the Angelenos most in need. With President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we will potentially add an additional $300 million to growing this critical safety net to help cover rent, mortgages and utilities for those who need it most.
One of the boldest proposals in the Mayor’s draft budget is allocating $24 million for the largest Guaranteed Basic Income pilot in the country. It would give $1,000 monthly to 2,000 vulnerable households to meet basic needs and could have huge benefits for children and families to reduce hunger and poverty in Los Angeles.
Helping families bridge the digital divide has been a longtime priority of mine, and we have seen in the pandemic that success in everything from remote school to getting vaccine appointments relies on access to the internet and skills with computers. The Mayor’s draft budget includes funding for WiFi access points in 300 underserved neighborhoods that will act as giant hotspots, allowing entire neighborhoods to have dependable, fast internet connections. In his State of the City address, the Mayor credited me as his partner in this exciting bold expansion of access, and I look forward to forging the plan to make it a reality.
And, I’m pleased to report that, per my strong urging, many of my district-specific project funding requests were included in his budget blueprint. These build on existing projects and enable new ones. They include:
- Reseda Boulevard (Victory to Parthenia): $3.8 million for a safety and mobility improvement project
- Winnetka Stormwater projects: $1.8 million for two projects to address local flooding and clean water before it is discharged into LA River
- “Dirt Mulholland” in Woodland Hills: $1.3 million for an innovative materials pilot project to stabilize (not pave!) a portion of this road
- Reseda Skate Rink - $1 million (on top of the $26 million already secured) to ensure this long awaited project is built ASAP
- Runnymede Park: $1 million Community Development Block Grant for improvements for families to enjoy this park
- More district specific funding for speed humps and other measures to improve street safety in the 3rd district.
- Madrid Theater and Taxco Theater in Canoga Park: $200,000 in supplemental funds for the major renovation projects that are already underway
- PALS Programs at West Valley and Topanga Divisions: $250,00 for youth activities
- $2 million for district-wide neighborhood investment projects including public works improvements, jobs and community investment programs, city services and programming, cleaning and beautification, and homeless services
- LA River Path Completion (Vanalden to Balboa): funding to award construction contract for safe recreational access
- Winnetka Park Improvements for local families to enjoy this park
I was thrilled that my specific budget requests were granted in his budget proposal. However, this proposed budget is just the beginning of the process, and some items could change based on the priorities of the entire City Council. Today we are in a much better fiscal position than projected even a few months ago. As more Angelenos get vaccinated and more of our city opens up, there is hope on the horizon. I’ll continue to update constituents on the budget process over the next few weeks through social media and my newsletter and if you have any questions about this or any other city business, never hesitate to send me an email at Councilmember.Blume[email protected].
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