SHERMAN OAKS/LOS FELIZ—On Tuesday,  July 28, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a motion to return over $600,000 in discretionary money.

The discretionary money came from a fund which is given to councilmembers to spend on community projects. Former councilman Tom LaBonge allocated the $600,000 to various projects and organizations during his last days in office.

LaBonge’s successor, current Council District 4 representative David Ryu, spearheaded the campaign to rescind such funding. Ryu has consistently called for more oversight on such discretionary funds, describing the money as “secret slush funds” due to their lack of transparency.

On his first day in office, Ryu formally submitted a motion to curb discretionary fund spending in favor of a more transparent process. In his words, the motion is meant to “work to identify, review, and prioritize projects and expenditures that would benefit the [Council District 4] in the longer term.”

Tom LaBonge spoke at the July 28 City Council meeting to defend his funding of local projects.
Tom LaBonge spoke at the July 28 City Council meeting to defend his funding of local projects.

Before the motion was voted on, LaBonge spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. He defended the projects he had set aside the money for, including extending summer pool hours at Griffith Park, repairing sidewalks in the Larchmont district, and giving money to LACMA and the Ford Theater. “We’ve got money to do something right now, and all I did is what you should always do, think of the people and put money where the people are,” said LaBonge.

Ryu responded by saying, “Some of these projects are good projects, and with the proper review, we will fund them.” But he also expressed his disapproval of certain projects. He criticized a $50,000 plan to build a new trail to the Hollywood sign, because it had been funded without proper analysis on what the impact on residents or wildlife would be. Ryu is currently working on setting up a “Discretionary Use Task Force,” which will include community members in the decision making process of what the funds will be spent on.

Council District 4 stretches from Sherman Oaks to Griffith Park, and contains a variety of neighborhoods, including Los Feliz, the Fairfax district, and the Hollywood Hills.