Saturday, May 23, 2015

Where is Torrance Money Going?

Official seal of Torrance, California
Torrance, CA

I have spoken with individual members of the city council, and asked them why they don't cut or turn down spending on environmental, or green projects.

One councilmember told me that cutting $40,000 here or $20,000 there would not save the city much money, and would contribute very little toward repairing the city's broken-down infrastructure.

When totaling up the following costs on mass transit, "going green" projects, or other investments,  one finds a considerable amount of money.

Living Wise (40K)

I had asked about this item, which provided kits and training to middle school students on conservation. The mayor reported to me that this measure contributed successfully to water reduction. Still, the question does arise: why is the city council spending money on this program? I looked at the materials in the Living Wise kits, and found that many of the questions have little or nothing to with academic training. Why are these books providing all these questions about

Electric Charging Stations (560K) 
This time received more vetting from me, and some of the city council members informed me that the city was not paying for these stations.
Other residents in the city have informed me that no one uses them, but the stations take up space and prevent people from parking in key places. Another resident discovered that some of the private companies, like Costco, have removed their electric charging stations since no one was using them.
What a waste of time, space, and money.

Torrance, CA -- scene from Madrona Marsh
Transit Center (21 Million)
I have no issues with a transit center per se. I missed the one that residents could use next to Del Amo Mall. I have relied on local, public transit in the past when I did not have a car.
However, I would start asking questions about how many more employees the city will be hiring, or whether the city will contract with a private firm to staff the growing transit services.
Here's the answer:
New Transit Positions (1.6 Million, 850K of that just to man transit center) 
By the way, with the Torrance Transit buses have gone green. Has the city saved money with this transfer to "cleaner fuels"?

Alternative Fuel Replacement Buses (2.2Million)

That's a lot for gas. Who knows how much more it will be with the rising fuel costs in the state.
Create and Maintain Tarplant Preserve (Unknown) 
A few of us paying closer attention to decisions from city hall pushed back about the land setback on the Tarplant. City planners explained that state agencies were pressing for more land to preserve the plant, and the city found a half-way mark to proceed with construction of the Transit Center.

One city councilmember explained: "We have to learn to pick our fights."

On the other hand, I think it's time for the city to start picking fights on certain fronts.
Optimized Street Sweeping (2.1 Million, 800K of that just for signs)

I am hearing so much griping and complaining about this measure. Clint Paulson explained to one audience that the street sweeping does nothing to create clean streets or a cleaner environment. Evidence like this would more likely persuade councilmembers to rethink this program, if individual residents and homeowners find it so detestable.
Drought Restrictions (City will do significant outreach - cost unknown)
When will we know the costs? Two reports, including from US Senate candidate Tom Del Beccaro,  emphasize that individual consumption counts for on 20% of water usage in the state of California. Why do cities have to cut their usage? When will Torrance leaders start pushing back at Sacramento on these restrictions? Marc Danzinger of the Southwood Homeowners Association requested and got a hardship reprieve for homes on the Soils District.

With all the lawns getting torn out all over Torrance, I see the growing impact of these harsh restrictions. When will state leaders start making Water Wise decisions of their own?
Urban Farming (not implemented - no cost) 
I spoke with Mayor Furey about this, and even he was surprised at the push for this new program. Another question -- what will happen to quality of life and property values if prospective residents learn that their next-door neighbors have chickens clucking and bees buzzing next door?
Besides, the Mayor commented (correctly) during oral communications on this matter that he was hearing a lot of feelings and happy thoughts about this program, but no facts, not statistics, and certainly none of the unintended consequences of implementing urban farming.
Palos Verdes Road Work (Addition of Bike Lanes not itemized) 

More bike lanes add costs? I was not aware of that. The greater concern rests on whether these bike lanes will make it harder for individual drivers to travel throughout as well as out of the city. Los Angeles was toying with the idea of narrowing main thoroughfare Gaffey street in San Pedro. The public responses was less than enthusiastic, to put it mildly.
High Density Developments (Need to do more research) 
CCA (other than staff time to no costs yet, but if implemented costs will be significant)

CCA is dead on arrival. A number of sources within the city as well as concerned citizens have affirmed that this overblown attempt at alternative energy use is DOA. Councilman Tim Goodrich (who has pushing this pet project)
Market Rideshare to City employees ($150K) 

Who is paying for this? What about the rest of us in the city? Why don't we get a bonus or a perk if we don't rideshare?
Car 2 Go (No cost to City, but did allow company use of public space to operate business at virtually no cost)

More good news: this program has been suspended.

Final Comments.

Many of these programs seem irrelevant or inappropriate to the "Back to Basics" agenda better pursued by Torrance City Council.

The money for these projects and programs could have contributed to more security on our streets. How about the fireworks show? Most importantly of all - let's fix the streets in this town.

Now that's an environmental quality investment I would like to see the city discuss and implement!


  1. This is Clint Paulson Just to clarify. My point, probably not well stated at the meeting as I was in a rush, about the street sweeping was that there is a lack of evidence that the "Optimized" Street Sweeping Program (i.e. increased signage and ticketing) will lead to cleaner environment versus the street sweeping the City was already doing.

    1. Great clarification. Thanks again for sharing this information.