The Los Angeles City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee finalized its adjustments to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposed $9.2 billion budget Friday.
The committee first convened on April 26 and met daily in what is technically one long meeting to examine the budget, hear testimony from department officials and ask questions.
While the committee found itself in agreement on most of the adjustments that were contained in a report from the chief legislative analyst’s office, funding for the Vision Zero traffic safety program proved to be a major sticking point.
Over the objections of Councilman Mike Bonin and Councilwoman Nury Martinez, the committee moved to put all of the potential money for Vision Zero, which is $23 million, into the unappropriated balance.
Bonin said his problem with the plan is that the unappropriated money isn’t just for Vision Zero and could also be spent for street paving and other needs, which could end up drastically reducing the amount for the project.
Bonin said the plan is essentially “worse for Vision Zero than what the mayor proposed.”
Garcetti had proposed $17 million for Vision Zero this fiscal year, up from $3 million last year.
The Vision Zero plan centers around an identified series of streets, called the High Injury Network, which have a higher incidence of severe and fatal collisions and prioritizes those streets for safety improvements.
The program began in 2015 through an executive directive and aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2025.
“The budget we are sending to council is worse for pedestrians and safety,” Bonin told City News Service.
The reason some council members hesitated in the funding of Vision Zero is that part of the money will come from Measure M, which county voters passed in November and is expected to raise $120 billion over 40 years for public transit.
Part of the measure includes a “local return” for jurisdictions to spend on their own projects.
Some council members have expressed concern that Measure M was pitched to voters as a street improvement program that would be used to fix streets and sidewalks, and not for safety improvements.
Bonin said the Transportation Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee will likely have a joint meeting before July 1 to decide how to spend the $23 million in the unappropriated balance for Vision Zero.
Matt Szabo, Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff, endorsed the committee’s Vision Zero allocation because he said Garcetti believed a significant portion of Measure M money should go toward fixing streets.
“Fixing the roads and making them safer is not an either/or proposition… if it is the committee’s decision to add dollars to Vision Zero, the mayor would certainly support that,” Szabo said.
“If it’s the committee’s decision to take the Vision Zero allocation and put that in the (Department of Transportation’s) budget, and not have it in the UB, we would certainly support that. We want to support these projects and move forward as quickly as possible. We just want to do it in a coordinated way.”
City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the committee, said he put the proposal on the Vision Zero money forward because he believed it was the best way to bridge the gap between council members who wanted to maximize Vision Zero and those who wanted to maximize street reconstruction.
“My observation is that those two goals are not inconsistent. And we needed to find a way that we could facilitate both goals in the most cost effective and logical and strategic way,” Krekorian said.
–City News Service
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