L.A. lawmakers tweak Garcetti's proposed budget, parking ticket plans

L.A. politicians want to reverse plans by Mayor Eric Garcetti to add 50 part-time parking enforcement officers

Los Angeles lawmakers want to reverse plans set out by Mayor Eric Garcetti to add dozens more part-time officers to write parking tickets, one in a string of proposed changes to the mayor's budget.

When Garcetti set forth his budget, he proposed adding 50 part-time parking enforcement officers to bring in an estimated $3 million in revenue from parking tickets. The increase would bring the total number of part-time traffic officers to 200.

The idea upset parking activists who want Los Angeles to stop relying on tickets for city revenue. It also riled union members because part-time workers aren't paid pensions and benefits.

"At a time where the city is being accused of using illegal quotas for ticket writing, do we really want to bring in part-time traffic officers whose sole responsibility is to write tickets and who depend on
writing tickets to keep their jobs?" asked Michael Hunt, a transportation engineer and union steward. If the officers are needed, Hunt argued, they should be hired as full-time employees.

Under a new budget plan being considered by City Council members, the city would not add the 50 positions. Instead, it would fill 17 existing part-time traffic positions that are vacant, to bring in an estimated $2.3 million from tickets, according to a report by the chief legislative analyst.

The new plan would also add money to fill five full-time positions for traffic control that have been vacant, using some of the savings from not hiring the part-time workers. Councilman Mike Bonin said full-time officers were also trained to do traffic control, unlike those working part-time.

"Hiring part-time officers is really kind of a scam," Councilman Paul Koretz said. "We're just finding a way around all the protections we give our full-time employees to save a little money."

At a budget committee meeting Tuesday, council members also decided to tweak the proposed budget to provide an added $6.5 million for more firefighter hiring and ambulance augmentation, $2.1 million to keep street medians in good shape, $1 million to clean up graffiti, $331,000 for more staff in the planning department to help preserve historic neighborhoods and stop "mansionization," and to provide eight more employees for the city attorney’s office to pursue cases against medical marijuana shops and focus on neighborhood issues, among a host of other changes.

Much of the increased spending was made possible by an added $22 million in expected revenue, much of it from added taxes as property values rise, according to a report released by the chief legislative analyst. The analyst, who acts as the top policy aide to the council, also noted that other city costs would be lower than predicted, including employee health benefits. 

The revised budget will go to the entire council for a public hearing next week.

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