Pet Projects Added to City Budget

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It reminded some Los Angeles City Hall regulars of those heady budget sessions of the 1980s, when pet projects were often justified by a robust economy that poured cash into the city treasury.

The City Council on Tuesday voted to add to Mayor Richard Riordan's budget everything from a new elevator for the Southwest Museum in Mt. Washington to a study of whether the Pussycat adult theater in Canoga Park can be converted into a venue for legitimate live theater.

In the most hotly contested issue of the day, the council rejected Riordan's proposal for a special $5-million appropriation for the Hope in Youth gang program. The council directed that the fledgling organization compete with other groups for the money.

A third day of budget deliberations is scheduled for today, with council members expected to offer dozens of amendments for projects in their districts and around the city.

Riordan will have five days after the council is done with the budget to veto any additions he does not like, and the city lawmakers will have five days after that to override any vetoes.

The new sources of funds that the mayor rooted out in the city's $4.3-billion budget had been targeted to beef up the police force and create a $37-million reserve fund, which the council continued to whittle away Tuesday. "The mayor gave everybody the impression through his budget we have a lot of money," said one council aide, "even though that's probably not true."

In nearly seven hours of debate and voting, the council agreed to:

* Hire 10 more animal control officers to retrieve stray pets. The service has been reduced substantially because of a three-year hiring freeze. Cost: $346,000.

* Add another three-person team to repair vandalized street lights. About 26,000 lights need repair, said Councilwoman Rita Walters, who proposed the plan. Cost: $311,000.

* Increase street sweeping to once a week, instead of once a month, along 100 "curb miles" of streets in the city. The extra streets to be cleaned would be posted with once-a-week no parking signs. Cost: $307,000.

* Maintain the staff and supplies of the William Grant Still Art Center in Southwest Los Angeles, which provides classes and other programs seven days a week. Cost: $124,000.

* Add two calligraphers who draw proclamations, construct plaques and inscribe keys to the city, which council members present to citizens and visiting dignitaries. Cost: $99,000.

* Expand the Fire Department unit that specializes in rescuing victims caught in flood channels during storms. Cost: $79,000.

* Grant $35,000 to the California Afro-American Museum in Exposition Park to replace lost state funding and to study possible consolidation with the African-American Museum of Art.

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To study the remaking of the Pussycat Theater, as proposed by Councilman Laura Chick, would cost $30,000. Councilman Mike Hernandez's funding for an elevator to take visitors up Mt. Washington to the Southwest Museum would cost $75,000.

Not faring so well was Riordan's proposal for special funding for the Hope in Youth program. It was defeated, despite a compromise plan by Councilman Richard Alatorre that would have guaranteed the program $2.5 million and forced it to compete with other organizations to get more funding.

A majority of eight of the 15 council members said the program should not be given special treatment and should be forced to compete for all of the $5 million to be set aside for gang prevention programs.

Alatorre and Councilman Joel Wachs said they will ask Riordan to veto the council's action. A veto would restore the $5 million to the church-sponsored counseling program, unless 10 council members vote to override.

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