Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Even Casino Heists Need a Plan

Last month, Investing in Place analyzed the Tier 1 recommendations from the City of Los Angeles FUSE report. This post analyzes the report’s remaining Tier 2 and 3 recommendations. And contains movie spoilers.


When Danny Ocean decided it was a great idea to simultaneously rob three Las Vegas casinos in the film Ocean’s Eleven, he had a vision. He knew what he wanted to do, but more importantly he knew how to make that vision a reality. His first step? Find an implementer. His friend Rusty Ryan was the guy who got things done and who helped form the rest of the team of eleven “contractors” that would eventually pull off a triple heist totaling $150 million cash. (Sorry but you have had many years to watch multiple versions of this movie.)

Let’s take the Ocean’s Eleven method and apply it to the Tier 2 and 3 recommendations from the FUSE report released last fall by the City of Los Angeles City Administrative Officer (CAO). (These recommendations are listed at the end of this post.)

The recommendations are all visions of a better coordinated City where agencies seamlessly work together and residents have no complaints about city services. Many of the recommendations are common sense, such as enhancing customer service options on LA311 or encouraging knowledge transfer between veteran staff and new hires. They are much more logical than robbing several vaulted and secure casinos. So why haven’t they happened?


Not our First Rodeo
While heavily-researched, the FUSE report recommendations are not the first time strong ideas have surfaced for how to improve the City’s infrastructure operations.

In 2013 Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced a motion directing the City to create a Capital Infrastructure Strategic Plan. The motion directed the City to prioritize projects, identify funding, create mapping tools, and facilitate public transparency. As part of the motion, the CAO committed to an interdepartmental working group to develop this plan.

Also starting in 2013, Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander championed “Save Our Streets LA”, a $3 billion bond-turned-sales tax ballot measure to fund emergency street repairs. This proposal didn’t gain enough traction for a 2014 vote, but brought renewed awareness to the dire conditions of so many Los Angeles streets.

The puzzle remains in Los Angeles: it is not the “what” but the “how” to make this City better. As we discussed in our Tier 1 recommendations analysis, we can all agree on the problems. The City struggles with interdepartmental coordination while information and decision-making remains very decentralized. This leads to a City with considerable need to improve the public right-of-way (leads nation in traffic deaths, 4,600 miles of inaccessible sidewalks, 8,200 miles of roadway in disrepair, etc.) with little proof it is ready to implement projects and services to address this need.


So…What’s the Plan?
Los Angeles has the vision: a safe and thriving City where the public right-of-way serves people of all ages, abilities, and modes of travel. We have the team: talented infrastructure agency leadership and a seasoned workforce of project managers and engineers. Where do we go from here?

The FUSE report recommendation we are most excited about is the reinstitution of a citywide Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), Rec 2.5. Los Angeles is the only major City in the country that currently lacks a citywide capital plan. While a capital plan for all City assets could include other public facilities, including parks, libraries, or City-owned vacant lots, we can start with a multi-year plan and budget for our public right-of-way.

Currently, infrastructure management and repairs are handled totally separately from transportation and mobility planning. A CIP for streets and sidewalks would be able to coordinate resources from multiple departments, avoid project sticker shocks, and increase transparency for residents to understand what improvements they might expect in their neighborhoods.

But we all know this. How do we get there?

We don’t have the final answers on that. But we are ready to get to work on a solution. And we see many partners who want to dig into this issue: community leaders, policymakers, and public agency staff. The City of Los Angeles has great ideas already, we just need to come together with a plan to rob the casino implement them and build the better City we all envision.


LA City Council Public Works & Gang Reduction Committee will be discussing the Tier 2 and 3 recommendations today (agenda item #2): Wednesday February 7 at 1p in the Board of Public Works Room 350 at City Hall. Listen online to the meeting audio here.

For a full list of Tier 2 and 3 recommendations, please see below or view pages 128-129 of the FUSE report.


Tier 2 Recommendations: Improvements to Infrastructure Support Systems
– Rec 2.1: Strengthen oversight over underground activities, optimize time-related street activities, strengthen City paving plans, preserve City street investments, and provide transparency to City partners, utility providers and the public by converting utility coordination from a manual process to an electronic system
– Rec 2.2: Address lack of asset data, timing of maintenance activities, selection of appropriate preventative and deferred maintenance lifecycle activities and scheduling for asset upgrades by prioritizing strategic asset management activities across asset classes
– Rec 2.3: Resolve consistent customer issues with closed status messaging, streamline intake process and ease of use, and provide better transparency tools by making enhancements to the LA311 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
– Rec 2.4: Presen/e taxpayer investments in the City’s street network by updating policies affecting street protections that could include establishment of a moratorium for newly reconstructed streets and a new Concrete Street Damage Restoration Fee
– Rec 2.5: Establish guidelines for large, critical infrastructure investments by reinstituting a citywide Capital Improvement Plan
– Rec 2.6: Bolster proper oversight and direct better allocation of resources to prevent multiple agencies from maintaining the same asset or program by clarifying Bureau and department roles in overlapping programs
Tier 3 Recommendations: Improvements to Specific Infrastructure Programs
– Rec 3.1: Strengthen the city’s overall street network by updating the methodology for resurfacing and slurry seal programs to employ factors beyond the PCI score to prioritize paving and maintenance projects
– Rec 3.2: Support succession planning, skills development, effective program management and best in class customer service by encouraging knowledge transfer and cross-pollination of process expertise across Bureaus/departments and offering regular training regimens to employees and leaders
– Rec 3.3: Promote transparency with utility partners and the public by posting the entire projected annual resurfacing plan online with monthly updates of work completion in a user friendly format
– Rec 3.4: Support timely and quality project delivery within Department of Public Works by streamlining contract processing time and strengthening contract language to consistently include performance metrics
– Rec 3.5: : Improve quality trench work by supporting permittees in assessing the performance of their subcontractors, educating them on city standards, noncompliant work and timeliness of repairs as indicated on the permit
Source: “Evaluation of the State of Street Related Infrastructure Programs in Los Angeles” written by FUSE fellow Laila Alequresh and released by the office of Los Angeles City Administrative Officer (CAO).

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