SHERMAN OAKS/GRIFFITH PARK—David Ryu, the newly elected councilmember overseeing Los Angeles’ District 4, began his term in office on July 1 by putting a temporary halt on the spending of discretionary money.
Discretionary money is the term given to funds allocated to councilmembers to use in ways they see fit to benefit the community. Tom LaBonge, David Ryu’s predecessor, allocated discretionary money for various projects before he left office, including $25,000 to remove dead trees in Griffith Park that pose a fire hazard, another $25,000 to fix sidewalks, and over $240,000 distributed to schools and community organizations.
Ryu called to take back the money that LaBonge distributed, not to completely cancel these projects, but to re-evaluate the importance of each one and prioritize those that are most pressing.
Before he left office, LaBonge was criticized for spending $100,000 on holiday lights for the Los Angeles Zoo and increasing his office’s budget. Ryu referred to the discretionary money as “slush funds” due to the lack of oversight, and campaigned for councilmembers to be held more accountable for their spending.
District 4 has slightly more than $1 million in its discretionary accounts. Ryu wants to use this money wisely, and plans to include community members in the decision making process by creating a community task force to review projects. On deciding how to spend the money, he commented to City News Service, “Should it be that stop sign? Should it be cleaning up trash? How can I give one agency some money, and why is this agency more important than this one?”