By Jack Humphreville.

If the City cannot figure out how to fix our potholes efficiently, how can we expect the City to manage a 20 year, $4.5 billion program to repair and maintain our lunar cratered streets?

Are we willing to give City Hall a blank check for $4.5 billion to repair our streets without a well thought plan executed by experienced management?

On Tuesday night, CBS 2 News investigative reporter David Goldstein aired an explosive televised report which documented City repair crews – charged with fixing dangerous potholes and broken sidewalks – hardly working, goofing off, leaving hours before their shifts ended, and falsifying their work logs.

On Friday, the “shocked” City Council requested a thorough investigation of this “waste of taxpayer dollars” that “reinforces the stereotype that government workers are lazy and dishonest.” The City Council also wants a report on Street Services’ procedures and work practices and a review of its management information systems and recommended improvements.

The City Council’s real concern is that this CBS 2 News expose comes at an inopportune time as the City Council is rushing to place a half cent increase in our already regressive sales tax on the November ballot to fund the repair of our streets.

But this is just another episode that further erodes the voters’ trust and confidence in City Hall.

We have experienced a dramatic deterioration in our streets and sidewalks.  The City’s two pension funds are seriously underfunded.  Massive increases in salaries, pensions, and benefits are responsible for drastic cutbacks in core services such as Recreation and Parks.  And DWP Ratepayers continue to be fleeced by City Hall for over $1 billion a year.

The City Council will go to great lengths to tell us that this incident is not typical.  But this argument flies in the face of our daily and weekly observations of multiple City trucks and numerous City workers just hanging around a job site counting time and blocking traffic.

Overall, the Bureau of Streets Services and the control of its $288 million budget appear to be relying on outdated management information systems and control procedures, where the fully loaded compensation package for each of its 704 positions averages more than $161,000 a year.

While there are serious questions about the efficiency of Street Services, the City’s Save Our Streets program will a establish a Citizens Oversight Advisory Committee to alleviate our fears of mismanagement.  But will the nine political appointees have the experience and expertise to oversee a complex 20 year, $4.5 billion street repair program?

Will this Oversight Committee have the authorization and resources to hire independent consultants to review the status of this massive infrastructure project with a critical eye?

And will this Oversight Committee have the authority to force needed change if the Save Our Streets program is over budget and behind schedule?

The concept of independent oversight is a gimmick used by our elected officials to convince voters to approve the issuance of new bonds and related taxes.  But the promise of independent oversight is nothing but a lot of hot air.

Just last week, the Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District refused to reappoint Stuart Magruder to its Bond Oversight Committee because he rightfully objected to financing the purchase of iPads with a three-year life with 30-year bonds.

We have also seen the impact of failed “independent” oversight of the Los Angeles Community College District’s $5.7 billion construction budget.

And quite frankly, the oversight of the $500 million authorized by Proposition O (Clean Water, Ocean, River, Beach, Bay Storm Water Cleanup Measure) that was approved by over 75% of the City’s voters in 2004 is less than transparent and was the subject of another critical report by David Goldstein of CBS 2 News.

Before the City places the Street Tax on the November ballot, it needs to have a better understanding of the operational and managerial capabilities of the Bureau of Street Services and its ability to complete this 20 year, $4.5 billion infrastructure project on budget and on time.

It also needs to develop a long term plan that provides adequate funding for the maintenance of our streets so that at the end of 20 years, all of our streets will be in “good to excellent” condition.

Otherwise, we will be looking at an absolute disaster which is just another reason why two-thirds of the voters will not approve the Save Our Streets – LA tax.

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Originally posted at City Watch LA.