Can Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new $9.2 billion budget solve homelessness, fix crumbling sidewalks and ease jammed freeway traffic?

There were no definitive answers Thursday as Garcetti cited “values that are under attack” as he signed into law the new spending plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year. But he praised the document as a responsible effort that tries to address the concerns of the community.

Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo by John Schreiber.

The budget, bolstered by a series of voter-approved measures, features major increases for homelessness initiatives, traffic safety improvements and street upgrades.

“I feel especially honored to be here today, because it’s a moment that calls on us to seize some unprecedented opportunities, to stand up for values that are under attack, but also to show people that this is still a place where things get done and where people do the right thing,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti signed the budget at a news conference at City Hall, flanked by some members of the City Council, including Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

The mayor, elected in 2013, said that due to flat revenue projections and increasing costs, the budget provided more challenges than in his previous years as mayor.

Krekorian agreed and called it a “difficult budget year,” but said the end result was “fiscally responsible and pursues the most important priorities that Angelenos share.”

The budget, which was unanimously approved by the City Council, has a $456 million increase in revenue over the 2016-17 budget, a 5.2 percent bump made possible in part by a series of city and county measures and a state bill.

The voter measures include a county sales tax increase for transportation projects through Measure M; a county sales tax increase for homeless services through Measure H; bond funding for homeless housing though Measure HHH; a cannabis tax through Proposition M; and a state legislative measure for transit through Senate Bill 1.

Councilman Mike Bonin said he was excited about the budget’s $27 million investment in Vision Zero, a traffic safety program that identifies a 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.

“Because of this budget, there are people who will be alive at the end of this fiscal year that otherwise might not be,” Bonin said.

The Vision Zero program only received $3 million for the current fiscal year, and had been one of the Budget and Finance Committee’s most contested debates due to the fact that part of funding for the program will come from Measure M, a November ballot expected to raise $120 billion in the county over 40 years for public transit.

Some council members had expressed concern that Measure M was pitched to voters as a street improvement program that would be used to fix streets, and not for safety improvements.

But a late deal was struck between Bonin and Krekorian which cleared direct funding for Vision Zero by focusing on where the two ideas overlapped and where money that could be used for street repairs could be done as part of a Vision Zero effort.

Garcetti said the question of how to exactly spend Measure M money stills need to be worked out.

“I think the council has not settled that, and we need to settle that together,” he said.

The budget also includes $30 million to fix roads outside of the Vision Zero program, which Councilman Joe Buscaino said was the city’s biggest commitment in nearly a decade

“I’ve always said, smooth streets are safe streets. The fact that we, as you heard from Mr. Bonin, worked with a number of our key partners in the Vision Zero alliance and came to a resolution and some compromise in both, in ensuring that our streets are safe and also our streets are smooth,” Buscaino said.

The budget includes $176 million in funding for programs for the homeless, a significant $38 million increase over the 2016-17 budget. It also includes $31 million for sidewalk repairs, which is the first down payment on a $1 billion program to fix all of the city’s sidewalks over the next 30 years.

The budget also maintains a 5 percent reserve and includes $10.5 million to add 75 firefighters positions to the ranks, $2 million for 24-hour graffiti removal, $7 million for tree trimming, a $91 million increase for the police department and a $24 million increase for the fire department.

— City News Service

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