COUNCIL CALLS FOR DISABILITY WATCHDOG.
Saying they needed an independent agency to hold them responsible, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday urged creation of a department on disability.
The new agency would be charged with coordinating the city efforts dealing with the disabled and compliance of the Americans with Disability Act and would be staffed by workers from the Personnel Department's Office of Disability.
``By creating a department and by giving it additional resources, we're beginning to live up to our moral and legal obligations,'' said Councilman Mike Feuer, who proposed the department.
The action requires the approval from Mayor Richard Riordan, who said he wants to review the proposal's financial impact.
``The mayor is inclined to support this, but he wants to look into the costs that would be involved,'' spokeswoman Noelia Rodriguez said. ``Any time you create a separate department, there are additional costs. We could have duplicative functions and we need to make sure it is created in the most efficient manner.''
Initially, the agency would have the 11 staff members now assigned to the Office of Disability and the nine-member commission. Costs for the remainder of the year were estimated at $297,000.
However, the council's proposal would give the new department authority to hire up to 25 additional staff members, which would result in an estimated annual budget of between $650,000 and $700,000.
But council members said the department was needed to emphasize issues involving the disabled.
``We have done much but there is room for improvement,'' Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said. ``With the American with Disabilities Act comes a number of responsibilities. There ought to be a way we do more than we do.''
And, he said, the benefits could be for more than the disabled.
``If we improve the sidewalks for the disabled, we are improving the sidewalks for us all,'' Ridley-Thomas said.
Councilwoman Ruth Galanter said she supported the new department, but was worried it would defer other programs.
``We ought to make sure we are not taking money away from programs helping the disabled by creating this department,'' Galanter said.
``As we go into the budget season and we look at fixing the curb cuts, fixing the sidewalks and fixing elevators, I don't want to see us have a department that just eats up money.''