Prop Q: A Bad Way to Spend Good Taxpayer Money Guest Column – Walter N. Prince On March 5, Valley voters will be asked to pass Proposition Q, a $600 million pork barrel masquerading as a “public safety” construction bond. Nobody denies that it would be nice to provide roomier facilities and new desks for our overworked police force, but construction of 11 buildings certainly is not a “public safety” issue. And a financial peek at Proposition Q reveals that it definitely is not the way to get new police facilities built in the most efficient manner. First, the $600 million bond issue will actually cost taxpayers $1.2 billion by the time interest is paid over the 24-year life of the bonds. The average yearly cost thus will be $50 million. Next, only $195 million is actually earmarked for construction of the two new police stations and nine replacement buildings. The rest of the bond funds will be spent for land ($78 million), architects ($37 million), new furniture and equipment ($46 million), city administration and oversight ($65 million), and the inevitable city slush fund for unforeseen contingencies and inflation ($140 million). There is also the matter of long-term additional charges against the city’s General Fund. The city will have to find $4.5 million in its current operating budget to pay up-front costs not eligible for bond reimbursement. In addition, the implementation of Mayor James Hahn’s compressed work week for police officers will cost the city a minimum of $16 million more next year. And if the bonds pass, it will cost the city an additional $30 million each year to operate and maintain the new facilities. This in a time when the city has already admitted it will be $250 million in the red during the coming year. If the city is really concerned about “public safety” issues, it makes a lot more sense to spend the $30 million per year for more police officers. At the current annual cost of $91,000 each, the city could add 330 more officers instead of spending $30 million to maintain the new buildings. As for the Valley’s piece of the bond pie, the city says it will tear down and replace the West Valley station, will move some administrative and traffic functions to the old General Motors site in Van Nuys, will give us a bomb squad facility with an explosives-testing range, and will build us a new police station. The city has not identified the locations for the bomb-testing range or the new police station, and those of us with long memories will recall that we passed a 1989 bond measure (Proposition 2, for $176 million) that promised us a new North Valley station that has never been built. Total Valley construction under Proposition Q will be only $45 million of the $1.2 billion payback. Since Valley property owners pay 36.56 percent of all the city’s bond issues, they will wind up spending $439 million for the $45 million worth of buildings promised to us, which is not the way most of us invest our money. Proposition Q is an insult to the taxpayers, and Valley voters should make that fact very clear to City Hall on March 5. Walter N. Prince is a director of the Northridge/Porter Ranch Chamber of Commerce and chairman of its government affairs division.