Monday, November 19, 2001
City Council Puts $600 Million Public Safety Bond Measure on March Ballot
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Voters will decide whether to authorize the sale of $600 million in bonds to pay for building and renovating police and fire stations around the city after a City Council vote Friday put it on the March ballot.
The bond measure would provide funding for new police stations in the San Fernando Valley and Harbor areas, refurbish existing stations and relocate the Fire Department’s dispatch and emergency operations centers.
“I personally have been to many of these stations and the environment and conditions that our officers work in is dismal at best, and this is something I feel should be pushed forward by the city,” City Administrative Officer Bill Fujioka said.
In a Nov. 15 letter to Mayor James Hahn and the City Council, City Controller Laura Chick warned that the public must be assured the bond money will be used wisely before pressing forward with the issue.
Councilman Nate Holden insisted Chick’s letter be read into the record in its entirety so the public would be aware of her concerns over the measure.
“The City’s record of delivering bond-funded projects on time and on budget is, at best, mixed,” Chick wrote. “In previous years, we have not made optimum use of bond dollars—money the public trusts us to expend wisely, efficiently and effectively.”
“The public must know, up front, that if this bond measure passes, we will do things differently and better,” Chick wrote.
Fujioka, along with city Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton, told the council that changes in the way the bond measure will be managed will ensure timely and cost-conscious completion of the project, unlike some city bond projects in the past.
If approved, the entire project would be managed by the city’s Bureau of Engineering instead of the responsibility being shifted from department to department during the construction process, Deaton said.
Monthly progress reports will also be given so the public is informed on how the money is being spent and on project developments, he said.
But Chick cautioned that approving the bond measure will put the city even further in debt at a time of financial uncertainty.
“We are in the midst of what could be a significant economic downturn of unknown duration, with City resources and possibly operations shrinking,” Chick wrote. “We are voluntarily taking on more debt, with uncertainty about the amount of debt we may need to incur voluntarily in the near future.”
But Fujioka said the bond measure—which would increase the city’s debt from voter-approved bonds from 8.45 percent of the general fund to 8.67 percent—would not push the city’s debt over its self-imposed 15 percent cap.
“We clearly have the capacity in our debt to handle the bond measure,” Fujioka said.
Voters will decide on the issue March 5, 2002.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company