LA Councilman Alarcon wants to divert funding to save parks

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon called today for exploring whether funding for infrastructure projects and storm water cleanup can be diverted to help keep cash-strapped parks and recreation centers open.

He wants the City Attorney's Office to look into the feasibility of putting such a proposal on the November ballot.

"During these tough budget times, we need to look at all possible funding sources that could help preserve vital city services, including asking voters to consider alternative uses of special fund money,'' Alarcon said.

"My motion will look at the possibility of having our residents decide if we should use Prop. O and Prop. K dollars, which are set aside for parks, recreation and water infrastructure, and use these dollars -- for a short time -- to close the Recreation and Parks budget gap, so we can ensure that our
children will continue to have access to safe and educational opportunities are our local parks,'' he said.

Proposition K was passed by voters in 1996 and generates $25 million annually for the acquisition, improvement, construction and maintenance of city parks, recreation facilities and other projects through an annual real property tax assessment on city residents over 30 years, according to Alarcon's office.

Proposition O, otherwise known as the Clean Water and Beaches bond measure, was approved in 2004, according to Alarcon's office. The $500 million general bond measure was passed by voters to help the city clean up polluted storm water.

About 300 parents, children, child care providers, librarians, recreation workers and parks advocates marched from Pershing Square to City Hall this morning to protest recreational budget cuts.

They then listened as Recreation and Parks General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri told the council how his department has been forced to reduce operating hours at several facilities.

To be fully staffed, Mukri said, the department needs about 10,000 personnel. Currently, it has about half that number -- and more layoffs are planned.

"First, (the budget cuts) were going into muscle, then they were in the bone,'' Mukri said. "They're in the bone marrow now, but my pledge is to maintain that core level of services. We will restructure this department around what is its core mission.''

Councilmen Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz proposed entering into more partnerships with the private sector, particularly the entertainment industry.

"I say to the viewers out there, anyone in the entertainment industry, any of the moguls: this is a great opportunity to support the Library Foundation and the Parks Foundation, as an opportunity for intervention and prevention,'' Rosendahl said. "We could do a two-year program of various events that could raise money that could go to (the department).''

Mukri said the corporation that operates the Greek Theater has already offered to provide the venue at no cost for any fundraisers aimed at helping the department.