When City Council Member David Ryu rescinded almost $600,000 in discretionary funds expenditures his predecessor Council Member Tom LaBonge made before leaving office, he proposed to form a task force that would hereafter review and provide advice on both those and future allocations made during his tenure. Promising transparency and greater community involvement, Ryu convened the first meeting of his Discretionary Funds Task Force, Thursday evening at the Council District 4 Hollywood Field Office.
“I want you to think globally, not just look at specific projects,” Council member Ryu told his appointees. “Help us develop priorities. We don’t have to get it right the first time, saving is an option since the money rolls over.” The council office has about $1.2 million in discretionary funds to allocate annually.
At its first meeting, the group reviewed and voted to support the Council office’s proposal to approve a $50,000 grant to LACMA for on a traffic consultant and wayfinding efforts, as well as a $25,000 grant to the Independent Shakespeare Co. for last summer’s program, since both organizations had already spent the money. The group agreed to table a vote on whether or not to support payment of $2,500 to the Petersen Museum, to get more information about how those funds were spent.
In addition, the Council office advised Task Force members of its intention to file motions to spend $100,000 for a CD 4 Clean Streets Program, which would execute a six month contract with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to provide street cleanup throughout the district. The Council office also plans to spend between $80,000 and $160,000 to hire more staff.
“The district is used to a high level of constituent service,” explained Nicholas Greif, Ryu’s Director of Policy and Legislation and and a Task Force staff member. “Our current funding allocation is not able to meet the need.” Greif said he expected they could add as many as 6 new positions, mostly field staff, to the current 15 positions. Most Council offices have between 18-22 staff members.
These two matters were presented to the task force for review only.
“You deserved to know how we are prioritizing our spending,” explained Greif. “The elected official makes the final choice, as he as been empowered by the voters to do.”
The Task Force is made up of community leaders from around the district and is charged with reviewing and providing advice on the use of the discretionary funds, crafting policies and guidelines to determine appropriate uses of the funds, soliciting community opinion and providing recommendations for long term discretionary fund projects, review and recommendations for the previously rescinded funds, and providing the Council office with advice on discretionary funding allocations as requested.
The nine appointed members are Owen Smith, president of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council; Cindy Chvatal, president of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association; Chris Laib, co-president of the Los Feliz Improvement Association and a board member of Friends of the Griffith Observatory; Anastasia Mann, president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council; Krista Michaels, president of the Cahuenga Pass Property Owners Association; Lucy Gonzalez, of the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association; Bob Anderson, a board member of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association; Ron Ziff, first vice president of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council; and Richard Bogy, vice president of the Toluca Lake Homeowners Association. Nicolas Greif, Director of Policy and Legislation for Council Member Ryu serves as the staff representative.
The group’s meetings are all open to the public and governed by the Brown Act.
[10/9/15, 12:58 p.m. – After confirmation with the City Council District 4 office, this story has been corrected to note that the committee voted to support the Council Office’s proposal – presented at the meeting – to approve the $50,000 grant to LACMA, and to strengthen the information that the committee is advisory only; it does not make funding decisions.]