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Trust in district not concrete

With one building under litigation and a subpar track record, the LACCD is not in a good position to ask for more money.

Valley Star Staff Editorial

A construction crew works outside the Valley Academic and Cultural Center on an asphalt driveway and a concrete sidewalk at Los Angeles Valley College on Oct.18. (Griffin O'Rourke/Valley Star)

Following years of reported mismanagement within the district’s major construction projects, the LACCD is asking for its biggest bond request to date this election. Before constituents fork out billions of dollars, the district owes taxpayers an explanation for the recurring delays and waste in its major construction projects.

Voters can easily read reports about the wrongful allocation of funds, and they can see the slow progress on the Valley Academic and Cultural Center, a building which has already been delayed four years.

The building’s unfinished facade, which had to be reinstalled at the district’s request for reasons that are unclear to contractors and administrators alike, is on full display on Oxnard Street. While the dollar amount for reinstalling the exterior paneling is up for debate, the decision caused a projected delay of 200 days.

Prior to the facade fiasco, district representatives went to war with third-party contractors over the construction of the tall walls in the main stage theater. An independent arbitrator found the district primarily at fault for the multi-year delay that ensued, in addition to the over $3 million in unnecessary costs.

The district’s response to the arbitration leaves much to be desired, as a district representative downplayed the delays, claiming that this was the first of all district construction projects to go into litigation.

Valley’s issues do not lie solely on the long awaited VACC. Allied Health and Sciences, the three-story behemoth of a building adjacent to Ethel Avenue, had an original guaranteed maximum price of $48 million to build, but needed an additional $3.5 million to fix construction issues.

If asking for more money is proven to be the rule and not the exception, then taxpayers should not trust a district with projects that come in over budget.

In a July district board meeting discussing Measure LA, Trustee Earnest Moreno feared that in renovating the colleges, the district would build “ghost towns.”

Valley’s headcount has declined by 1,742 students from the 2020-21 school year to the 2021-22 year, an overarching theme seen throughout the nine colleges.

Since 2001, the year the first bond measure was passed, the LACCD promised demolition and renovations of pre-1970’s buildings. About $9.6 billion later, renovations are still a priority for all nine colleges. Shiny but shoddy new buildings were erected on campuses, while prehistoric buildings remained in place. If voters pass the bond, Valley could receive close to $2 million in order to renovate those buildings.

The LACCD’s oversight system, District Citizens’ Oversight Committee, was formed months after the first bond measure passed in 2001. The group, consisting of different organizations including business, labor, taxpayer, college foundation and senior citizen, confers with an independent audit team that presents reviews of bond measure implementation and progress reports.

Although these internal presentations are necessary, the district must be forthright with construction and renovation issues. Taxpayers are still indebted to 2008 and 2016 bond measures, giving them the right to know the progress on the buildings meant to educate the future of Los Angeles.

While the editorial staff agrees that money spent on education is money well spent. To request additional funds, the district needs to implement a harsher watchdog system to prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars.


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