Measure A Gone Astray – No Changes in Funding Allocations After Voter Approval

NO 30% Carve Out Off the Top in Competitive Grant Category
OPPOSE Agenda Item 1P – Policies and Grants Administration Manual for Measure A, the Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks and Beaches Measure of 2016

I/we strongly urge you to vote NO on the Steering Committee’s recommendation to go off-Measure, and Change the Funding Allocations to carve out 30% off the top in the Competitive Grant Categories 3 and 4 and re-direct those dollars ONLY to High and Very High Need assessed Study Areas.

Funding must be allocated and expended as specified in the Measure — ‘what was sold to the voters, and what the voters voted for’. Most importantly, there is already a direct funding mechanism specified in the Measure – Category 2 – slated only for our “High and Very High Need” assessed Study Areas.

Urban parks and open space parkland are not competitors! They offer two very different and unique recreational opportunities and experiences to county residents. From the mountains to the sea, the Santa Monica Mountains are a rare treasure — a nearby escape from the urban landscape with easy access into wild places with more than 500 miles of trails for hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians. The park abounds with historical and cultural sites, from old movie ranches to Native American centers with an opportunity to see wildlife — like bobcats, quail, coyotes, dolphins, and maybe even the elusive mountain lion — that cannot be replicated in our urban neighborhood parks. It’s a step back in time to discover what Southern California looked like before major urban development.

Except that, the Woolsey fire changed all that. It has devastated the Santa Monica Mountains. The worst fire in recorded history burned 88% of the public’s parkland, 100,000 acres of precious habitat, further threatening threatened wildlife, decimated the public’s historical and cultural sites — Paramount Ranch burned to the ground and so many others — and it destroyed 23,000 trees, severely damaged trails, creeks and the watershed.

The Competitive Grant Funding in Measure A is designated for exactly this — for Natural Lands, Water Conservation & Protection, Regional Recreation Facilities, Multi Use Trails and Path Projects — with special emphasis on those that provide hiking and equestrian opportunities; acquisition, multi benefit park projects; habitat improvements, public access, wildlife corridors; watershed protection and regional parks, etc.

A 30% off-Measure carve-out from these categories would amount to commandeering and re-directing funds away to the tune of more than $120 million over just a 20 year span. Never mind a loss of this magnitude, it further translates into an unfathomable loss of potential funding over time — removing hundreds of millions of dollars from this Competitive Grant pot over the course of perpetuity because the Measure has no sunset date. And, it is magnified by the fact that the Board can and will raise the tax annually without going back to the voters.

By leaving the Measure intact, and following the Measure stipulated funding allocations it doesn’t preclude any urban, suburban, rural, or open space area in the county from competing for any of the funds in Category 3 and 4. That’s what the Measure says. It is a no-brainer. No carve-out.

Furthermore, the metrics used to establish park need were skewed to benefit urban parks which are very different that what the criteria is for establishing need in non-urban parks. LA County Parks and Rec factored into the equation ONLY local resident use to determine Level of Need in the Santa Monica Mountains. That is absurd. It is biased and very wrong. It impacts the ability of agencies and organizations to qualify and compete for badly needed funding. The fact is the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area hosts more than 35 million annual visitors, and 55 million to the beaches. There is no park area in the entire county that serves a greater number of residents from high and very high need urban areas.

Add there is the never ending pressure and push from well heeled developers to develop our last open spaces — which the Measure promises to fund — yet the Steering Committee recommends taking acquisition money away from the competitive pot. We need with all urgency today and for the future to continue to prioritize investing in our Natural Lands, Water Conservation & Protection, Regional Recreation Facilities, Multi Use Trails and Path Projects and to fund Measure A as allocated and ratified by the taxpayers.

To reiterate, we are not asking for more money — we are asking to simply compete for money that is already Measure allocated, voter approved for funding in the Competitive Grant Categories 3 and 4.

The Steering Committee recommendations have gone astray. Hijacking and re-arranging what is voter mandated category funding should be wholeheartedly rejected.

We implore you — please do not vote for this 30% carve out.