After several years during which they provided no money for sidewalk repairs, the City Council and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last year set aside $10 million to begin addressing the backlog of busted sidewalks in Los Angeles, especially those that have led to trip-and-fall claims. But today, the $10 million hasn't been touched.
In January, the city's Bureau of Street Services proposed using one-third of the money to repair broken sidewalks associated with injury claims, one-third to fix those with heavy pedestrian traffic and the final third for a 50/50 program in which property owners would cover half the cost. The City Council's Public Works Committee backed the spending proposal, but it stalled in the Budget and Finance Committee. Councilman Paul Krekorian, who heads the committee, said he wanted to avoid spending money on repairs now because the city is expected in the near future to reach a multimillion-dollar settlement with disabled residents who have sued over the poor conditions of L.A.'s sidewalks. Krekorian wanted to be sure the $10 million pays for repairs that are expected to be included in the settlement.
Enough waiting. Next week, the City Council is expected to reconsider the sidewalk spending plan. The latest proposal dedicates the $10 million to fixing sidewalks next to city properties, such as libraries, parks and offices. But the city should stick with its original plan and spend the money on the highest-priority sidewalk repairs, wherever they may be, and unused funds should not be diverted when the fiscal year ends June 30. Any money left over this year should be spent in addition to the $20 million Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed spending on sidewalks next year.
It is understandable that Krekorian, the council's budget watchdog, is focused on mitigating the impact of the settlement, which could force the city to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on repairs. But $10 million is only a drop in that bucket. Besides, Krekorian's focus misses the bigger picture, which is that the city of Los Angeles took responsibility 40 years ago for fixing sidewalks damaged by street trees, yet it has never budgeted enough money to do the work. That's why 40% of the city's walkways are broken, and why the city spends about $4 million a year (in taxpayer dollars, of course) to settle trip-and-fall claims. It's also why disabled residents sued the city. The sooner Los Angeles begins to address the backlog of broken sidewalks, the better.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun