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I have received numerous calls, letters and e-mails asking about the Governor's budget proposal and its impact on local government. I wanted to share my thoughts with you at this very early stage in the budget debate.

California finds itself in today's financial mess because for the past several years, state government has been spending more than it was taking in. While Gov. Schwarzenegger bears no direct responsibility for creating this debacle, as the state's Chief Executive he bears a large responsibility for fixing it.

I share the Governor's assessment of the situation that the state must learn to live within its means. Failure to do so will only push the deficits higher and threaten California with bankruptcy. Moreover, I agree with the Governor that the state needs a long-term policy that insures fiscal solvency and stability. California's failure to engage this issue has driven down the state's bond ratings to a notch above "junk" status, burdening taxpayers with billions of dollars in added interest costs just to borrow money for legitimate purposes.

However, it's simply wrong for the Governor to balance the state budget by robbing cities and counties of hundreds of millions of dollars in local property taxes to meet the state's own spending obligations. We pay our local taxes to our local jurisdictions for police, fire, paramedic, library and other vital municipal services. For the State of California to reach into local governments' treasuries in order to cover its expenses is nothing more than an old fashioned heist. It's not the state's money; it's your City and County's money. Taking local property taxes threatens our ability to provide these vital services.

Those of us in local government are required annually not only to present balanced budgets, but also to implement them. Deficit spending is strictly forbidden. Here in the County of Los Angeles, we routinely make difficult and politically painful decisions to cut spending, and even to raise revenues when necessary. In so doing, the County - which stood on the brink of fiscal oblivion barely eight short years ago - has turned its fortunes around. We have adopted responsible budgets and established a prudent reserve. We have been able to meet most of our critical obligations and respond periodically to massive emergencies such as earthquakes, brush fires or floods. Most cities and counties around the state can say the same.

It appears to me that our County and other local governments statewide are essentially being punished for their prudence by a state government eager to plug a $15 billion dollar state deficit caused by the carelessness of the state itself. That's why Mayors, County Supervisors, Sheriffs and District Attorneys throughout the state have responded so angrily to the Governor's proposed budget.

I am committed to fighting this property tax shift. It strikes at the heart of the most basic services Los Angeles County and City government provide. State officials say that local government should "share in the pain" of the State's deficit solutions, but we have already borne the pain of balancing our budget as the law requires. We're living within our means; we must not be pressed into service so that the state can live beyond its means.

There is a great deal at stake in the pending budget battle. On the local level, our budget uncertainties are challenging enough without continually jeopardizing our local property taxes. Please let the Governor and your state representatives know how you feel, and show them that you're paying attention. Remind them that taking our money does nothing to solve their budget problems; it just allows them to continue their profligate spending at our expense.


Board Moves to Shore Up Troubled Hospital Facility - Following a series of negative reports and increasing concerns expressed by state and federal health officials about conditions and medical care at County-operated Martin Luther King-Drew Medical Center in South Los Angeles, the Board of Supervisors is moving aggressively to implement recommendations contained in a Task Force Report produced by a team headed by Dr. David Satcher, U.S. Surgeon General from 1998-2001.

Hollywood Bowl Band Shell Nears Completion - On January 15, 2004, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky joined Board colleagues Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Gloria Molina, along with representatives from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, for a beam-signing and steel-topping party to celebrate completion of the steel frame for the brand new Hollywood Bowl band shell, a larger and dramatically improved version of the beloved Hollywood icon. Hearkening back to the clean and classic lines of its 1929 design, the new shell boasts a cleaner look and superior acoustics for orchestra and audience alike. Concert goers will experience the new shell for themselves when it makes its debut for the 2004 Summer Bowl season. Click Hollywood Bowl Shell to learn more about this exciting project.

SFV MetroRapid Busway Designated "Orange Line" - The San Fernando Valley MetroRapid Busway, a 14-mile long cross-Valley transit project currently under construction to link North Hollywood to Warner Center, will be known as the "Orange Line" under a motion adopted by the MTA Board on January 22, 2004. Sponsored by MTA Board Chairman and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the designation pays tribute to the region's rich history of citrus production in the early 20th century before the post-war housing boom replaced acres of fruit orchards with miles of suburban tract homes.

Yaroslavsky Funds Topanga Ballfield Restoration - Thanks to a $70,000 County grant, it'll soon be "Play Ball!" on the Topanga Community House baseball field once the replanted and restored ballfield is ready for Memorial Day and the community's annual celebration, "Topanga Days." The grant completed a fundraising effort that included a $37,000 grant from the Amateur Athletic Foundation and $30,000 in private donations. Yarolslavsky and the County have previously assisted Topanga with grants for the Topanga Symphony, the Community House Improvement project, and seed money to launch a local emergency-preparedness effort.

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Hails "Exceptional" County Compliance With Comprehensive Plan - The County of Los Angeles has earned high marks from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for its "exceptional" compliance with the Santa Monica Mountains Comprehensive Plan, a regional planning document adopted in 1979 by the State Legislature aimed at protecting the land and guiding responsible development in the environmentally sensitive area. In its recently-released Annual Report for 2002-2003, the Conservancy noted that the County's planning staff "increasingly understands and anticipates the planning principles represented in the Plan," and credited Regional Planning Department biologists for improvements in the quality of the County's environmental impact analyses.

Topanga Library Project Advances - On Friday, January 16, 2004, the County of Los Angeles officially applied to the State Library Board for its funding grant to complete the Topanga Library Project. The 11,000 sq. ft. library would be built on property owned by the County Waterworks District. Pending state approval, construction would begin in May 2006, with the completed project scheduled to open in September 2007. Click Messenger library clip for a local perspective on the project in the Topanga community newsletter.

County Seeks State Funding for Sylmar's El Cariso Park Playground - The County of Los Angeles has also applied for state grant funding to build a universal playground at El Cariso Community Regional Park in the Sylmar portion of Supervisor Yaroslavsky's District. The playground would be in full compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing children using wheelchairs, leg braces and walkers to play safely in at least 70% of the play area. The new playground project would join four other play areas in the 79-acre park, which serves nearly 13,000 residents in the surrounding community.

UCLA Names Yaroslavsky "Local Legislator of the Year" - On January 12, 2004, capping a day dedicated to local government outreach and advocacy, UCLA names Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky as the recipient of the inaugural UCLA Local Legislator of the Year Award. UCLA officials said that the new award is intended to recognize the contributions of an elected official to local government, the community and UCLA. A donation will be made in his name to the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research to help support a summer internship for a student whose specific interest is public service.

Third District Transit Projects Moving Along - On January 29, 2004, MTA Board Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky rode a virtual whirlwind of transit events around his Third Supervisorial District:

At 9:30 a.m., Yaroslavsky joined Mayor James Hahn, Councilmember Tom LaBonge and other officials to celebrate a groundbreaking for the new $43 million NoHo Tower project in North Hollywood. Located in the burgeoning NoHo Arts District at the corner of Lankershim Blvd. and Cumpston St. across the street from the North Hollywood Metro Red Line Subway station, the 15-story, 191-unit building will be the San Fernando Valley's tallest residential tower. The project is being developed by Santa Monica-based JSM Construction.
At 11:00 a.m., Yaroslavsky joined Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Councilmember Bernard Parks on the inaugural ride of the Crenshaw Metro Rapid Bus, the newest addition to the MTA's expanding grid of special bus lines offering more frequent service, fewer stops, and traffic signal priority that has reduced passenger travel times as much as 25% over conventional bus routes. The 18.5 mile Crenshaw Metro Rapid Line 710 serves one of the County's busiest transit corridors, and runs from Hollywood/Vine Metro Red Line Station all the way to the South Bay Galleria.
At 3:00 p.m., Yaroslavsky paid tribute to the legendary Lakers announcer Chick Hearn at a special ceremony to rename the Metro Blue Line Station at Pico and Flower in honor of Hearn, who passed away in August 2002. Joining Yaroslavsky for the occasion were Hearn's widow, Marge, and other officials.

County Health Department Launches New On-Line Database for Apartment Building "Housing Violations" - To assist apartment hunters and condo buyers in evaluating housing units for prospective sale or rent, the County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services has launched a new on-line database of apartment building inspection reports from November, 1, 2001 - present. Like its restaurant inspection program, the Department's Environmental Health Division routinely inspects all apartment buildings and condominiums with 5 units or more to ensure that residential housing within Los Angeles County is safe, sanitary, and fit for human habitation. Click housing inspection reports and enter loc! ation data to access the information.

Animal Care and Control Department Offers Amnesty Program for Pet Licenses - The County's Animal Care and Control Department is now offering a special six-week animal licensing amnesty program from January 1 - February 15, 2004 for residents served by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. Department officials are reminding residents that a license tag is the surest way to reunite stray pets with their owners, and in the event that a dog bites someone, allows proper follow-up for appropriate medical treatment. For license fees and locations of the nearest shelter, please call (562) 728-4706 for assistance. In the Third District, the County's Agoura Shelter is located at 29525 Agoura Rd. in Agoura, and is open Monday - Tuesday and Thursday - Saturday from 9 am - 5 pm, and Wednesday 9 am - 7 pm; the number there is (818) 991-0071. Click County Animal Care and Control for the Department's informative Website.