Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar is in the middle of a politi-blog shitstorm set off by his unwillingness to disclose the spending history of a fund he oversees called CLARTS. It's a $1 million-per-year piggy bank designated to offset the downsides of the giant, foul-smelling Central Los Angeles Recycling & Transfer Station dump located in his district.
Citywatchers are accusing him of pumping hundreds of thousands of those dollars into projects that don't directly benefit the community. Many line items on the CLARTS report, which everyone finally located, say "Transfer to Council" or "Transfer to General City Purposes."
None of the charges are blatantly dishonorable, but a few really can't be argued into the category of physical neighborhood improvement to offset the garbage dump (Casa0101? Really?), and almost all transfers to the city's general fund can't be tracked much further than intent to go toward District 14 community amenities in the City Clerk records.
All the technical allocations are there in city paperwork, but the final hands into which the millions have fallen over the last couple years is completely unclear. The whole thing is vastly worsened by Huizar's inability to handle the criticism and his shady evasions of local press.
Anyway, it's ironic that Huizar is begging the City Administrative Office for pothole and street-repair money when, by our calculations, the CLARTS fund appears to have tons of money left over. Huizar's put the cash toward Street Services, Public Works and CalTrans before, so why not now? And if it's not supposed to go toward road work in the first place, he's got a heap more explaining to do.
According to Tracie Morales, union spokeswoman for the Street Services workers, Huizar's motion today will "direct the Administrative Office to how we can allocate special funding in order to be able to provide crucial street services."
Robertson, head of Street Services, says there are plenty of funds -- just not enough employees on city contract to utilize them. However, he rules out the hiring of outside workers as an option.
"How do you do a contract with potholes?" he says. "It's something you just can't do. It needs to be managed in-house because it fluctuates so much."
L.A. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana -- the guy Huizar hopes will bolster the Street Services worker pool -- is unavailable to talk at the moment, but we'll keep you updated as per his response.
Meanwhile, Operation Pothole is still in full swing. To be honest, complaining about L.A.'s pothole wasteland and getting air on the really juicy ones have always been some of our favorite ways to pass the winter months. However, Garcetti's user-friendly Operation leaves us little choice but to shut our whiny traps and report the devils to 311.
"What's really disturbing is people will hit a pothole for weeks and not call it in," says Robertson. "Just pick up the phone."
Update: Those potholes couldn't have known what was comin' to them. Councilman Jose Huizar made the big announcement this morning: Street Services filled 16,100 potholes last weekend.
Of course, even a snazzy number like that isn't enough for these perfectionists. Huizar uses to opportunity to tell ABC7,
"We used to fill potholes within 48 hours. Now, we do it probably within two to three weeks," said Huizar. "Why is that? Because we put some of our street workers on furloughs. They take less days off and less potholes are getting filled."
In the article, he cites a $630 million pot of federal stimulus money that the L.A. City Council "received to create jobs" as a possible source for paying more Street Services personnel. And how 'bout that CLARTS fund, eh?
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