Thursday, February 7, 2002
City Controller Urges Hahn, Council to Remove Civic Center Barricades
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
City Controller Laura Chick yesterday called on Mayor James Hahn and the City Council to reopen the streets around City Hall to all traffic by immediately removing the concrete barricades that currently block vehicular access.
Chick backed the removal of the Civic Center barricades and identification checkpoints, which screen vehicles entering the closed streets of Main, Los Angeles, and Judge John Aiso between First Street and Temple Street.
At a news conference yesterday, Chick said she recognized the importance of taking “common-sense measures” to protect the safety of city employees and the public, but said “the barricades are not the solution.”
“The barricades do not, by any means, provide a foolproof measure of security,” Chick said in a letter sent yesterday to Hahn and council members. “In addition, 24-hour staffing of the barricades/identification checkpoints is a painful drain on scarce public safety resources needed in our neighborhoods.”
With a $250 million budget shortfall facing the city this year, the round-the-clock security patrols of the streets are straining public resources that need be spent in neighborhoods outside downtown, Chick said.
Since the cost for broad security enhancements in the city have been lumped together, Chick said she could only speculate that the cost of keeping the guards enforcing the barricades was now close to $1 million.
Chick said she hopes to see the barricades, which were erected early October last year, to be taken down by next week.
Council President Alex Padilla has the authority to remove the barricades, upon the recommendations of Hahn and Chief Bernard Parks, who heads the city’s Emergency Operations Board.
The council had asked the board to reassess the need for the street closures and barricades. That report is now in the hands of Hahn’s deputy mayor for public safety, Roberta Yang, Hahn spokeswoman Julie Wong said.
Wong said the mayor supports “greater accessibility to City Hall as long as we maintain safety and security.”
She added that he favors the removal of the barricades and supports creating large “flatter planters” in front of City Hall like the concrete ones in front of the Parker Center, which prevent vehicles from hitting the building.
A recommendation from the mayor should come in the next week, Wong said.
Padilla will act swiftly in accordance with the recommendations, his spokesman David Gershwin said.
Chick added that she came out on the issue because no other public official had.
“Someone needed to come out on the issue and say, ‘This is very costly, it is a false sense of security, and the barricades need to come down,’” Chick said.
“Public safety and security measures must remain in place,” she added. “But it’s time to follow the advice of our president: Be careful be sensible, but resume normal life.”
She added that the newly renovated City Hall is a symbolic building that should send a positive message to the rest of the city.
“We are not in a state of siege in Los Angeles,” Chick said. “The city building is symbolic and must send a message to the rest of the city: We have resumed life as normal. We are being wise and safe.”
The barricades have also deterred the public from enjoying and accessing the building, which cost $300 million in taxpayer funds for renovation, she said.
“Instead of welcoming people [to the reopened City Hall], we have created a fortress,” Chick said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company