LA City Council bails out ailing Transportation Department

The Los Angeles City Council today issued its own bailout for an ailing city department that is supposed to keep traffic flowing at special events.

The city Transportation Department, whose duties include traffic control at sporting events, festivals and demonstrations, depleted its budget for that service only three months into the fiscal year, which began July 1.

To avoid gridlock, the City Council unanimously approved loans that are to be reimbursed by the sponsors of the special events.

Some venues, like Dodger Stadium, agreed to cover the costs themselves, although they may deploy fewer traffic officers -- who are paid $40.92 an hour for their services.

AEG, which operates Staples Center, has yet to make the same concession.

"Venues have agreed to pay whatever we say is the bill for that particular policing activity," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, chair of the City Council's Transportation Committee. "Will they have the same amount of officers? It depends on the venue, on how they feel they need to move the

Because of the city's dire financial situation, the Transportation Department's budget for managing traffic at special events was cut from $6 million to $2 million.

When the funds ran out, except for $500,000 slated for the Los Angeles Marathon and the Los Angeles Triathlon, the department demanded that sponsors pay in full for traffic officers' services 72 hours ahead of their respective special events.

Rosendahl called that an "extreme hardship" for sponsors and called for alternative solutions. Lynne Ozawa, assistant chief legislative analyst for the city, proposed creating a $410,000 cash flow loan to the department that must be reimbursed by sponsors once their special events are over.

The loan will also be repaid through fees the department will collect from special events sponsors starting Oct. 26.

Since 1995, the city has covered the cost of managing traffic for events at the Greek Theatre, Hollywood Bowl, Coliseum, Sports Area and former Olympic Auditorium. It also absorbs a portion of similar costs at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

When the city began helping with special event traffic control, it cost the city only $200,000. Now, it costs $1.4 million.

The city also pays for traffic control at political demonstrations, festivals and parades, whose fees are often waived by City Council members.