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Amid Budget Crisis, Garcetti Wants to Spend $6,700 on Christmas Tree Lights

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Photo by [cipher] via Flickr

Photo by [cipher] via Flickr
Perhaps you could file this under the list of the many symptoms contributing to Los Angeles' budget crisis, now hovering around $218 million with 1,000 jobs to be eliminated. On Today's City Council agenda, Council President Eric Garcetti has a motion requesting $6,766 for the "Glendale Boulevard and Brunswick Avenue Urban Forestry Christmas Light Installation" in Atwater Village. In the motion, Garcetti writes that there is a "great need for funding to cover the cost" of the event, which took place during the last holiday season. "Our office stepped in to help the Chamber and Neighborhood Council this year when the event was in jeopardy," explained Garcetti Spokesperson Julie Wong, who explained how the night of the lighting spurs economic activity.

"People come out to Glendale Blvd (Atwater Village's main drag) and end up eating in the restaurants and shopping in the stores," she said. "In addition, it draws people to this shopping/dining community throughout the holidays."

The costs include $4,000 for overtime and $2,766 for supplies. Garcetti is using money from the city's Street Furniture Revenue Fund, which is generated from half of all advertising placed on street furniture like bus benches and kiosks. Some people would call this the City Council's slush fund for pet projects and its something Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would like to go towards fixing the budget.

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"Revenues deposited into the Fund shall be divided equally among the Council Districts," the city charter states, which says the money can only be spent on mainly transportation related improvements such as charter buses, sidewalk improvements, speed humps and street resurfacing. However, there is one clause that allows for money to go towards "public amenities to improve the quality of life for public transit patrons, residents and businesses, including but not limited to, public safety, community and cultural awareness programs." The Christmas lights fall under the "community" programs part, says Wong.

Garcetti also has a motion on today's agenda to spend $25,000 "for consulting work associated with the creation a new streetscape design along Hollywood Boulevard to enhance the amenities for pedestrians and create continuity in the general appearance of the area."

Admittedly, $6,700 is pocket change in the big picture of L.A.'s multil-billion budget and there's no doubt spurring economic activity is important. In fact, the lack of it has at least partly caused the city's budget crisis--taxes projected to be collected by the city weren't just there because the economy was down and people weren't spending money. However, in a crisis, when every little penny is being examined by the city's budget officers, is it really the right time to bail out other groups?

As one observer noted to LAist... "He couldn't get some deal with like the 99-cents store? she said. "That's crazy--$4,000 in overtime salary? How about some volunteers? Operating supplies? How about donations?"

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