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Mike Turko of KUSI-TV calculated that the $165,000 of misappropriated park funds, that the Mayor’s Office is now proposing to repay to parks out of gas tax monies, could instead be spent to fill 6,000 potholes. (See the segment from March 1)

The city attorney’s report documents repeated efforts to keep adding funds for the unapproved road project, when the project itself has never had a public hearing before either the Planning Commission or the City Council. After reading the city attorney’s report, I now believe that even more public funds than the misspent park funds were squandered on the unapproved road project.

Last fall, members of Friends of Fox Canyon Neighborhood Park found that $250,000 in TransNet (half-cent sales tax) funds for the same road-through-the-park had mysteriously turned up for approval at SANDAG. How did this little road rate funding on the city’s TransNet project list?

It didn’t seem a coincidence that Jim Madaffer represents the city on this regional board, responsible for regional transportation planning and spending billions in state and federal transportation funding.

Brought to the attention of council when the whole list did come for approval in a public hearing, no one seemed to know what the ranking process was to get on the list, and Madaffer denied knowing anything about putting it on the list. City Engineer Patty Beaucamp later told the Budget and Finance Committee of the council that she had asked the Park & Recreation Department if they had any road projects that needed funding.

At this point this explanation seems too coincidental. With real traffic problems, a backlog of street improvements and potholes throughout the city, why were transportation-related funds not being used up by the streets division? How is it that city staff just happened to find “extra funds” for this project wanted by the city’s SANDAG board rep?

Can any council member recruit city staff and call down for “extra” funds for pet projects? While any council member certainly could make such calls, giving such direction to city staff — and staff taking such direction — is a violation of City Charter Section 22 that states,

…except for the purpose of inquiry, the Council and its members shall deal with that part of the administrative service for which the City Manager (now Mayor) is responsible solely through the City Manager or his designated representative and not through his subordinates.

This is to insulate city staff from undue influence of a council member pushing one thing or another without due process. Every council district has projects they would like to see funded — each ahead of others. If a council member can find staff people who will bend to their will without due process, well it appears that’s how Fox Canyon Neighborhood Park has been threatened from the outset.

While some members of Park & Rec who were involved were reorganized out of their jobs — as opposed to actually being held accountable publicly — the mayor has inexplicably continued to back Madaffer’s desires to kill Fox Canyon Park and creek restoration. Friends of Fox Canyon Neighborhood Park are still asking everyone to contact the Mayor’s Office and ask him to make a good faith effort to implement the park grant.

CAROLYN CHASE

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