City Considers Billion-Dollar Bond Measure
Hoping to capitalize on what they believe is a contented public, city officials are contemplating a massive bond measure that would pay for a new police headquarters, new fire stations, a fiber-optic network, more libraries and improved sidewalks, among other things.
If approved by city voters, the bond, estimated at more than $1.4 billion, could help pay for a variety of long-neglected city facilities and projects. Some City Hall aides who are pushing the idea believe that the time is right, with polls generally indicating an electorate with growing confidence in the national and local economies.
Others, however, warn against asking city voters to pay higher taxes at a time when some San Fernando Valley residents are already working to split the region from the rest of the city.
Curiously, the proposed bond measure is winding its way through City Hall with little evidence of leadership: Neither the mayor’s office nor key council members have voiced much enthusiasm for the proposal so far, but officials in the Fire Department and elsewhere in the bureaucracy nevertheless are forging ahead.
Noelia Rodriguez, press secretary to Mayor Richard Riordan, said the mayor has yet to decide whether to support a bond measure of any size. The mayor and City Council ultimately will decide what, if anything, will be submitted to voters.
Although officials putting together the bond package have used the figure of $1.4 billion, some confidential estimates run significantly higher. In fact, the $1.4-billion figure is the lowest of three alternatives being weighed. The highest is $1.8 billion. And if the proposals submitted by various agencies for their bond needs were adopted as submitted, the total would exceed $2.5 billion.
The cheapest of the options, labeled in confidential city documents as “Alternative A,” would cost homeowners $1 for every $2,000 of assessed property value. For example, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay $75 a year for the 30-year length of the bond.
The bond discussions reflect the depth of the city’s needs as well as the unusual evolution of this package. The bond measure originated with the city library system, whose proposal has the support of Riordan and others. The Fire Department later developed a proposal for new fire stations.
As the discussion has evolved over the last two or three months, however, other city departments have come forward with their own proposals--assuming that the Fire Department’s popularity might help them win money for their projects. One department proposed spending nearly $700 million to repair more than 4,000 miles of city sidewalks, as well as bus stops, curb ramps and other amenities.
Budget planners have scaled that proposal back dramatically under all three alternatives now being considered. Of them, the most expensive would allocate $372 million for sidewalks.
Even at that, the sidewalk proposal remains controversial within City Hall, where some officials believe it would offend voters by its size and doom the rest of the measure at the polls.
At the Police Department, officials proposed using the bond to replace four stations, build a police headquarters, construct six police stations, build a bomb squad facility and construct two parking structures. That proposal also has been cut back.
Many of the Police Department proposals grow out of a set of consultant analyses that examined the LAPD in recent years and found that its facilities have fallen far behind its size. The Kosmont study in particular highlighted the dilapidated state of the LAPD’s historic headquarters, Parker Center, and recommended demolishing it in favor of a new building. If approved, the proposed bond measure would pay for that new center.
Looming behind the entire bond debate is the question of whether it makes sense to ask city voters to approve large projects even as some Valley residents are rumbling about secession. Presumably, secession advocates would be unwilling to fund large new city structures, many of which would not serve their area.
On the other hand, one top city official said the bond needs to be evaluated on its own merits, not held hostage by the threat of secession.