Monday, October 22, 2001
Council Turns Away $3.5 Million Civic Center Security Enhancement Plan
From staff and wire service reports
The Los Angeles City Council on Friday rejected a $3.5 million package of Civic Center security upgrades amid complaints that added guards already in place are poorly deployed and that enhancements for City Hall would come at the expense of the rest of the city.
The next phase of the Security Needs Assessment Plan, or SNAP, would have provided funding for more guards at building entrances; relocation of the General Services Division’s security staff to a central office location; and installation of an upgraded, integrated security and fire alarm system.
Two council committees recommended approving the proposal, which was first crafted long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington spurred officials here to close downtown streets, install metal detectors and demand photo identification of everyone entering city buildings. The latest version of the plan called for a comprehensive electronic security system and 40 new officers.
But the Budget and Finance Committee supported only the part of the plan that would pay for added personnel.
In a split vote, the smaller proposal failed with seven votes in favor, three against; and the larger proposal had six in favor, four against. Eight votes are needed to carry a motion.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas had argued that security should be the city’s first priority.
“We can simply not afford not to do it. We must do this,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Why? Because if we want to send a clear message that we are serious about security in a constituent-friendly manner, we must act preventively and protectively.”
Councilwoman Janice Hahn, the council’s toughest critic of City Hall security after the attacks, urged her colleagues to adopt the proposal.
“City employees, security people, have come up to thank me” for insisting earlier this month that metal detectors be installed at the entrance of City Hall, Hahn said. Beefed up security is not for the elected officials, she said.
“It’s for those who work here in the Civic Center, day in and day out,” she said. “It’s for members of the public who take a day off of work to come down here and testify. They want to feel safe.”
Councilman Ed Reyes cautioned against leaving what he called the heart of Los Angeles unsecured due to “hysteria of secessionists” who oppose spending downtown and not on other areas of the city.
“Let’s not vote to policy by press,” he said.
But Councilman Nate Holden said the plan was too costly.
“I’m not going to throw good money after bad,” Holden told his colleagues, adding that he was concerned with the efficiency of the security measures in place now. “I want to see a more streamlined operation.”
“You’re not deploying the [security staff] proficiently. You’re not getting the big bang for your buck. And I should give you more money? I’m going to assume that you’re going to waste that,” Holden told General Services representatives.
Earlier in the month, the council approved the $3.3 million first phase of SNAP, which provided funding for metal detectors at City Hall’s main entrance and security cameras throughout the Civic Center.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company