By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Mukri expresses confidence in both kinds of rangers but now says, "Was it a bad decision [to create two kinds of rangers]? Probably. I'm going to have to resolve that issue going forward."
A take-charge type who doesn't mince words, Mukri was hired by former Mayor James Hahn to head the city's Rec and Parks Department after running the city's General Services Department.
Although Mukri has been largely lauded, he has faced some thorny criticisms, such as when Rec and Parks was blamed for failing to prevent the bewildering, sudden death of the city's fabled, perennial lotus garden, which grew in the waters of Echo Park Lake and at one time was North America's largest lotus bed.
The lotus bed suddenly died in 2008, and Rec and Parks pledged to replace it. But now, that promise can't be fulfilled until a bigger project to refurbish the lake is undertaken. Voters approved bond money for parks, but the Echo Park refurbishing is moving slowly as the bond money becomes available.
In essence, the long-unresolved city budget crunch is creating a mismatch between infrastructure projects funded by voters, for which bond money is available, and the City Council's targeting of jobs and workers who would oversee or staff those infrastructure projects.
In the northeast San Fernando Valley, for example, voters approved the money for a new ranger station — way back in 1996 — but the City Council now plans to slash the rangers who might work there.
The long-awaited ranger station would serve the mostly low-income families who flock to Hansen Dam recreation areas in Sylmar. The construction project has been slowly snaking through the city's permitting process.
The money will come from Proposition K, passed by voters 14 years ago, which generates $25 million a year through 2026 for park infrastructure and acquisition.
Now, the Hansen Dam Ranger Station, which could be ready as early as next year, may not have the bodies needed — rangers — to open.
To some, there's a disconnect here. Mayor Villaraigosa, La Opinión newspaper recently reported, employs 173 personal staffers, including 12 deputy mayors, far more than Hahn or Richard Riordan ever did. The Los Angeles City Council, the Weekly has reported, employs a vast body of 320 personal staffers.
No serious cuts are being contemplated in these large political staffs, yet elected leaders have begun to press Mukri not only to cut rangers but also to look into possible privatization of public park facilities.
Mukri is trying to hold onto long-term goals. Nobody knows if he will succeed. Says Mukri: "Should we still be thinking in terms of new structures, new parkland, new ways to recreate? Absolutely."
In this budget crisis, The mayor and City Council haven't trimmed their huge personal staffs of 173 and 320, respectively.