It’s a little too Grinch-like to complain about tapping a special community amenities fund to pay for a Christmas parade. But the northeast San Fernando Valley residents who criticized City Councilman Alex Padilla for doing just that do have a point: The community should have some say in how the money is used.
The fund came into existence in 1991 when the city expanded the now-closed Lopez Canyon Landfill’s operating permit for five years. Landfills are never popular, so the city sought to sooth disgruntled neighbors by setting aside $5 million for neighborhood projects.
Just what is an appropriate neighborhood project is subject to interpretation. Over the years, the money has been spent for police anti-gang programs, college scholarships, fireworks shows, a traffic signal and park security lighting. About $1.3 million remains.
Former City Councilman Richard Alarcon, now a state senator representing the area, relied on the advice of a citizens group, which was disbanded when Padilla took office last year. Padilla, who says he has been selective in his use of the fund, has no intention of naming new advisors.
It should be noted that Alarcon, when asked by The Times, saw no problem with using $10,000 in landfill money for the annual Pacoima Christmas parade. And we have no problem with the only other project Padilla has approved so far--an $89,000 concrete landing pad for Fire Department helicopters built at the top of the landfill.
Still, it’s hard to fathom why he wouldn’t appoint an advisory panel. A fund intended to boost the community’s spirits needs the community’s input.