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Thursday, April 24, 2008

City Parks Suffer Dangerous Budget Cut

The Daily News today reported that a result of the Mayor’s all-out assault on Los Angelenos in the form of budget cuts and fee increases will result in serious losses of vital services in City parks. The paper points to two Rec and Parks losses in particular – less clean restrooms and a 50% cut in Park Rangers.

Most people jump right on the mental image of an unclean restroom, but the reality of this Citywide cut is that the far greater loss of the two is actually the Park Rangers.

Park Rangers are perhaps the most recognizable image of any parks service in the United States. However, LA City Park Rangers are far more than an icon. With the increased gang violence and general unrest throughout the City, more specialized park security is a must. L.A. City Park Rangers are fully qualified, POST-certified peace officers. Perhaps even more importantly, Park Rangers are also firefighters, search and rescue professionals, emergency management specialists, paramedics, wildlife specialists, educators, mediators, and community policing specialists. For those who are unhappy with the generous salaries some City employees pull down, Park Rangers are also underpaid relative to other City jobs requiring full peace officer standing. This, plus the fact that there are tons of open peace officer positions in this City, just about guarantees that being a Park Ranger in Los Angeles isn't just a job, but it must be a vocation.

On any given day in at least one of this City’s 400+ parks, Rangers put their unique combination of specialized skills to use on the public’s behalf. During the Griffith Park fire, every Park Ranger in the City demonstrated extreme dedication to their vocation by working more than 95 hours straight. The Rangers’ intimate knowledge of the park was absolutely vital to controlling the May 8, 2007 inferno. It isn’t discussed much in the wake of the usual, well-deserved accolades given to the LAFD, but those closest to the situation know that it was a heroic stand at Bee Rock by Park Ranger firefighters that halted the northeastward advance of that fire. Park Ranger firefighters used their intimate knowledge of the park to determine that this physical location was absolutely key to stopping the fire, and they made the stand that did it.

So here we are with a summer fire season widely predicted to be one of the worst on record nearly upon us. Cutting almost 50% of a single division that is as important to this City as the Park Rangers are not only makes no sense, but it may seriously endanger the lives of the 20 million people who visit Los Angeles parks annually.

The recent mauling of patrons by a Siberian Tiger at the San Francisco Zoo brings up another point. The Los Angeles Zoo is inside of Griffith Park, and the Zoo is far from impervious to animal escapes. The combination of emergency management and wildlife expertise that Park Rangers possess would make them invaluable if such a thing ever happened here. As an aside, it is interesting to note that current SF Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo, under whose watch the horrific maulings occurred, was a past General Manager of Recreation and Parks in Los Angeles as well as a Director of the Los Angeles Zoo during a time that many of the exhibit enclosures were upgraded, ostensibly to code. Hmmm...

Since they have all the money and resources, I guess the Mayor is assuming the Office of Public Safety will take care of us all. But as was pointed out in an earlier article detailing the creation and performance to-date of OPS, their promise was enticing but their carry-through has been far from optimum, or even adequate for that matter. And Rec and Parks, who is legally mandated to provide security in City parks, has little to no control over OPS which is organized within an entirely different City department.

On May 1st, there will be massive immigration demonstrations in downtown Los Angeles. If they repeat what they did in 2005, 2006, and 2007, the Office of Public Safety will pull every single officer to a man from City parks, libraries, and the Zoo and deploy them all downtown. This means that on May Day, a traditional day to celebrate the coming of Spring, the only peace officers protecting the public in 400+ City parks will be Park Rangers. 50% less Park Rangers, that is, if no one challenges the Mayor’s budget.

It's ironic that also on May 1st, the City's Budget and Finance Committee will hold the hearing on the Mayor's Budget for the Department of Recreation and Parks. So y'all come on downtown May 1 -- skip work, see the protesters and OPS in action firsthand, and give the committee your input on the $cut$ to Rec and Parks while surrounded by a hundred thousand or so of your fellow Angelenos. ...Democracy in action! WooHoo!

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Anonymous Anonymous said:

Antonio is a hypocritical asshole. Where does he think the GOOD kids will have to go if not parks? He sure has money for the gang bangers in the prevention programs but no one is talking about where do the GOOD KIDS go to stay out of gangs? How much is the illegal march on May 1st costing the city??? Everyone is catering and bending over backwards for those illerate morons who refuse to speak English, carry the Mexican flags, illegal vend yet our dumb ass politicans make them think its ok to demand rights they haven't earned. Oh and by the way I'm a Latino and not racist, just hate law breakers.

April 24, 2008 12:42 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Before anyone else says it, yes -- why not have Park Rangers clean the restrooms! Sr level janitors make more than Park Rangers in this City, so why not?

12:42 -- Villaraigosa is great at throwing our money at the problem whether we like it or not. The gentleman has zero idea how to PREVENT the problem, though, which is what he was hired to do.

In the case of kids and gangs, a good parks program that actively engages children in a safe, positive environment goes a long way toward prevention.

April 24, 2008 12:58 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

About the demonstraton mentioned for May 1st, would it be specifically about Illegal Immigration?

Briefly stated, immigration is not the problem.

April 24, 2008 1:53 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Antonio will be closing one of the new animal shelters using it just for evidence animals. There are only 120 evidence animals a year.We need that shelter to do spay neuter, take in other animals. Closing that shelter will cause the animal population to go up which ends up costing more money the next year. Penny wise, dollar foolish.

He's going to get rid of extended shelter hours. Now people won't be able to adopt an animal except on weekends if they work. The lines are so long on weekends that most just say "forget it" and go to a pet store. We need these hours to save more animals. Volunteers offered to do after hours but the union said no. The union won't let the volunteers work for free. The unions caused part of this problem and they won't let volunteers fix it.

He's getting rid of some animal control officers. Who will pick up dangerous stray dogs?

Worse yet he is reducing animal food by 20% but not reducing the population by 20%. As it is they eat cheap food and there's not enough. Dogs fight to the death in their cages over food. Some dogs are starving because their aggressive cage mates won't let them eat their food, just like in prison.

The Mayor needs to find a way to increase revenue. How about increasing tourism, business opportunities, renting out vacant city buildings, selling assets that aren't appreciating or being used, contracting out some departments (like animal services) to private groups who can do it better and for less money... Why just increase taxes and cut services. Let's look outside of the box.

April 24, 2008 2:56 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

NO tourists want to come to LA when all they see on tv is gang violence and the idiot illegals marching and carrying Mexican flags. Since Antonio has made LA a sanctuary city all the toursits who use to come here now go elsewhere.

April 24, 2008 3:07 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I bet that the city regrets spendingt that motherfucking $40 million on a new elephant habitat. They should have sent that poor remaining, lonely elephant to a sanctuary.

Fourty fucking million dollars.

April 24, 2008 3:29 PM  

Anonymous james p. davenport said:

Correction, Petrafried: Budget & Finance meeting is April 28. See the following link:


April 24, 2008 3:53 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

It's spelled "forty"

Anyways, Interesting that the Mayor says this is a santuary city, but is raising so many fees, that most immigrants, legal and illegal will not be able to afford to live here.

Interestingly, the Mayor stated that LA is as safe as in the 1950's, but will sell LA's soul to hire more cops at the expense of...well...everything and everybody else.

Dollars would go alot farther if he realized that giving up on a campaign promise of hiring more cops is the smart thing to do. It's ridiculous when at the same time you want more cops, you're forcing the poor to steal to make ends meet with the fee hikes (taxes).

Without this one stupid campaign promise hinged on a number, services across the board will be cut. There are many City employees who, if forced to furlough days, will cut back on buying in LA when it's LA that's taking money out of their pockets.

We'll see if the Council at the Budget Hearings have a clue on how to prioritize budget dollars toward services rather than campaign promises.

April 24, 2008 3:54 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

This is how the nation is viewing Los Angeles thanks to cholo Mayor and his croonies in city council.

....Los Angeles is currently caught up in a battle against two threats -- the Paparazzi and street gangs. It has chosen to do battle with the paps; it has chosen to duck the problem with street gangs....How did the Los Angeles City council react to the Shaw's? Well, Councilman Bill Rosendahl said it all. “We need to bring some light on this subject," Rosendahl said, adding he is talking with colleagues about the best way to approach the issue.” That’s right, a study. They want to study the issue to determine the detrimental effects of actually questioning, reporting and deporting illegals, especially illegal gang members who kill our American born kids.

Councilman Rosendahl’s procrastination and spinelessness was only outdone by Council President Eric Garcetti, who blamed the controversy on: talk radio. President Garcetti would have you believe that the talk show hosts of Los Angeles have invented this problem and that there aren’t record numbers of gang murders being perpetrated by the street gangs of Los Angeles and that a large number of those members are illegal aliens. Sure, Eric, talk radio cooked the whole thing up. They also invented Al Qaeda, and the Tibetan Torch protests. Can the pols in a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles be this spineless, this careless, and this dumb? -- Yes they can, they are, that dumb.

But, before you write the LA City Council off completely, as a do nothing institution, understand this; Councilman Dennis Zine remains hard at work at a bill that will protect celebrities from the throngs of marauding paparazzi, desperate to shoot, er, photograph celebrities as they wonder vapidly on the streets of Los Angeles. Why? Priorities! While in recent days Zine has expressed a desire to help the Shaw family, Los Angeles’ kids remain vulnerable while the celebs remain protected. The comfort of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears is more important than the life of a football star and good son of Los Angeles.

April 24, 2008 3:58 PM  

Blogger Joseph Mailander said:

As usual, great post, Petra.

April 24, 2008 4:21 PM  

Blogger Joe B. said:

Nicely done Petrafried!

April 24, 2008 5:43 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

James P., check the agenda. The budget hearing starts the 28th but lasts days and days and days and days...

Rec and Parks is listed for May 1.

April 24, 2008 6:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

3:58: Who are you quoting? What's the alleged foreign source?

They got Eric Garcetti mixed up with Richard Alarcon -- he's the one who stood up to denounce the Shaws as dupes of radio talk show hosts (like Kevin James, who spoke) and of those who want to sow racial division. Eric is a self-styled left of center "progressive," but it's Alarcon who's the all-out cholo apologist, and wears that badge proudly.

April 24, 2008 9:22 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Exactly 3:29!! It was stupid Tom La Bong who just HAD to fight to bring more elephants to the zoo when every friggin zoo in the country is going elephant free after realizing how cruel it is to keep these large creatures penned up. And for what? Because he is nothing more than a sound bite whore and has no ounce of integrity in him. $40 million could have done so much, but this city builds a glorified prison for elephants that should be going to the sanctuaries. Go to www.elephants.com to see how elephants should be treated. Yes Tom you ass, I mean YOU!

April 26, 2008 11:05 AM  

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