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Tomas O'Grady, District 4 City Council Challenger Calls Shuttering Libraries "Biggest Scam"

On Tom LaBonge's watch: the $875 thou median known as Vermont Triangle Park
On Tom LaBonge's watch: the $875 thou median known as Vermont Triangle Park
L.A. Curbed

Tomas O'Grady, the L.A. Times endorsed City Council District 4 challenger, told LA Weekly that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council's decision to shutter L.A. Libraries two days a week "was the biggest scam."

We couldn't agree more. If passed in the Municipal Elections March 8, Measure L will re-open libraries seven days a week at no extra cost to taxpayers by guaranteeing the Library Department a higher percentage of property tax revenue -- an issue that the Times out of character endorsement of a non-incumbent (O'Grady) to City Hall focuses on.

The L.A. Times endorsmement points out the obvious: City Council District 4 incumbent Tom LaBonge endorses Measure L, yet was among those who voted to take money from the libraries in the first place.

Typical is LaBonge's handling of city libraries: Like other council members, he accepted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's tough but necessary cut in their funding; now he supports a ballot measure to protect them from people like himself.

O'Grady told LA Weekly today: "I think it's pathetic that we have to have it [Measure L] on the ballot in the first place. I'm supporting L and when elected, l'll be finding the waste so as to pay for L."

In response to a letter that O'Grady wrote, calling B.S. on shuttering libraries, LaBonge answered in this way, through an aide, after voting to support the Sunday and Monday darkened libraries.

Councilmember LaBonge asked me to reply on his behalf. Tom is as unhappy as you are that many Los Angeles libraries are now closed two days a week. That is why he worked with Council member [Bernard] Parks to place a measure on the March ballot that asks voters to increase the portion of the city's general fund allocated each year for libraries.

Another budget allocation issue O'Grady takes with LaBonge is what any astute observer might describe as a glorified street median. Officially it is known as Vermont Triangle Park and is located where Vermont Ave., Prospect Ave. and Hollywood Blvd. meet. It was re-landscaped under LaBonge's watch, for not the thriftiest of prices.

"There is a park that Tom LaBonge is blowin' about, spent $875,000," O'Grady

says. "I cost it out and could not find more than 40 grand. It's a joke, they never

should have spent it. I could have gone in there with a truck, a couple of shovels, a

couple of native plants and a bench and we'd be done. It's just his attitude, if the city

is awash with money, they are going to keep wasting money."

A spokesman for LaBonge wasn't eager to take credit. He tells L.A. Weekly, "I believe your 875-thousand dollar figure is accurate for the Vermont Triangle, but that is a

CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency] LA project, not a Council District 4 project, so you'll need to get exact figures from them. Thanks for your interest."

LaBonge himself, along with City Council President Eric Garcetti, were all smiles at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the "park," a project that could have easily been shot down by LaBonge if he had wanted to do so.

O'Grady credits his L.A. Times endorsement to his "no-nonsense approach to fiscal matters."

Getting back to the Library issue: O'Grady is in plenty of company supporting measure L.

A press conference that was held this morning outside the closed Angeles Mesa Branch

Library was attended by students, City Librarian Martín Gómez, librarians and Bernard

Parks, the City Council District 8 incumbent who authored Measure L.

"Libraries democratize access to information, allowing all residents, no matter what their age, where they live, or how much money they make an equal opportunity to learn and enrich their education, " Parks said at the event. "Our libraries today are much more than a place to check out books, they run after school programs, provide meeting space for community groups and allow thousands access to the global resources of the internet."

Contact Mars Melnicoff at mmelnicoff@laweekly.com / follow @marsmelnicoff


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