Expense Watch

The purpose of this page is to highlight some of the ways in which the Torrance City Council has allocated taxpayer dollars.  This list is by no means exhaustive.

2016 Expenses

$143K – Relocate Digital Sign at Civic Center and Purchase Two Additional Signs

See post here for more information on this subject

$194K – Construct a Gazebo at Wilson Park

$283K – Add 3 Staff Members to Support the Torrance Alerts System

This decision was made after a power outage caused significant flaring at the refinery that resulted in Shelter-In-Place notifications being sent to residents.

$64K – Installation of 8 electric vehicle charging stations

These will be installed at the Torrance Transit Park and Ride Regional Terminal.

$955K – Further Implement the Optimized Street Sweeping Program

See commentary expressed here for more information on this subject.

$333K – Purchase of a Bus Operator Training Simulator

$53K – Hire a Historic Preservation Consultant

$217K – Bocce Courts at Columbia Park

The Council had initially allotted $80K for this project.

$893K – Agreement to Provide Unarmed Security Services

Why do we need an unarmed security guard patrolling the Katy Geissert Library, random bus routes, and the Farmer’s market?

$25K – Implementation of Coyote Management Plan

$145K – Torrance City Employee Rideshare Program

See commentary expressed here for why I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars.

$1.3K – Annual Library Staff Recognition

These funds are utilized to hold a employee recognition event and provide $10 Starbucks gift cards to library staff.

$3.7 Million – Expansion of Torrance Transit Line 4 Express Bus Service

Line 4 serves passengers from Torrance to Downtown LA.  It is currently one-directional going North in the morning and South in the afternoon.  These funds will double the number of vehicles in service by making the line bi-directional.

$2.8 Million – Contract for Pass Through Fees for Compressed Natural Gas

This contract was awarded sole source without soliciting competitive bids.

$150K – Donation to Torrance Rose Float Association

$410K – Legal fees to Defend Lawsuit Over Parking Space

In this case the plaintiff, who suffers from cerebral palsy, sued the City under the ADA to obtain a handicapped parking space in front of her apartment complex.  The plaintiff was successful in her suit forcing the City to paint the curb blue.

$635K – Purchase of 1716 Data Avenue to Expand Fire Station #1 Parking Lot

$347K – Police Department Women’s Locker Room Expansion

$200K – Exhibits and Interpretive Panels at Madrona Marsh

$571K – Legal Costs to Defend Wrongful Death Lawsuit

This lawsuit stems from an incident where James Dolak was shot to death on a school campus after an alcohol fueled crime spree.

$75K – Fireworks Show at the Torrance Civic Center

$2.6 Million – Two Year Expense for Senior Taxi and Disabled Dial-A-Taxi Program

This program allows seniors 65 years of age or older to purchase ride credits for $5, $3, or $1 depending on their income level.  Disabled persons can purchase ride credits for $1 regardless of their income.  Each credit can be used to pay $13 in taxi fare.

2015 Expenses

$Unknown – Costs to Defend Lawsuit Alleging TPD Unduly Froze Bank Account

$510K – Build Splash Pad at Wilson Park

More information on this proposal can be found here.

$60K – Install Decorative Lighting on Sartori Avenue

$416K – Legal Services to Defend Lawsuit of Child Injured in Crosswalk

More information on this lawsuit can be found here.

$100K – Services to Provide Photographs of the City

These photos will be used in the forthcoming City website and other media.

$380K – Legal Services to Defend Bus Operator Lawsuit

More information on this lawsuit can be found here.

$301K – Landscape Maintenance Services at 3 Stormwater Basins 

$165K – Legal Fees Associated with Defending Tattoo/Massage Ordinances

A 2010 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a ban on tattoo parlors similar to the Torrance ordinance at issue in this case.  See article here for more information.

$800K – Expense Associated with Switching Utility Service Provider

Please see the article located here for more information about this subject. This contract is $800K for the first year plus an annual cost of at least $600K for future years.

$97K – Consulting Agreement for Water Rate Study

This action was taken as a preliminary step in order to raise water rates on the residents. Residents are already sacrificing to cut water usage due to the drought conditions.  I wonder if now is the best time to impose further hardships on the residents by increasing their water rates.

$750K – Consulting Agreement for Plan Review Services

This fee is paid by the applicant when they submit their building plans to the City. The contract was awarded to California Code Check without soliciting competitive bids.  Ever wondered why there are so many fees in Torrance to have your plans reviewed?  I guess this is one possible explanation.

$500K – Shade Canopy at Torino Plaza

The stated justification for this expense is that would provide more opportunity for rental during summer months by providing sun and wind protection.

$150K – Donation to Torrance Rose Float Association

This donation will go toward creating the Torrance 2016 Rose Parade float entry “A Purr-fectly Paw-ful Adventure” depicting a kitten in a tree being rescued by the fire department.

$169K – Annual Donation to Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation

This donation is to help foster the cultural enrichment and education of the community. Dan Ashcraft (husband of Councilmember Ashcraft) serves on the Foundation’s Executive Committee. The Advisory Board includes several current and former Councilmembers and many other City luminaries.

$145K – Torrance City Employee Rideshare Program

See commentary expressed here for why I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars.

$195K – Unarmed Security Guard Services 

This agreement with World Private Security is for unarmed security guard services for a period of one year. Why do we need an unarmed security guard patrolling the Katy Geissert Library, random bus routes, and the Farmer’s market?

$200K –  Retile Fountain at City Hall

Considering that residents are getting squeezed due to drought related water restrictions, one wonders if now is the best time to spend such a large sum upgrading the fountain.

$80K – Bocce Ball Courts at Columbia Park

The Council allocated this money to build 3 Bocce Ball courts at Columbia Park.  The project was aided by $21K in donations the City received from interested community members.

$150K – Grant Writing Services

The City contracted with an outside firm to provide these services at a rate of $100 per hour. Why can’t these services be provided in house?

$20K a year (plus increased pension costs) – Raise for City Attorney 

This expense raised the City Attorney salary from $259K to $280K a year.  It increased what was already one of the most generous compensation packages in the entire state for a City Attorney.  Ironically, raises for 4 legal secretaries that support fellows were denied in the most recent budget despite a salary survey showing the secretaries made 12.8% less than their peers.  The pay range for the legal secretaries is approximately $50 to $60K a year.

$30K Plus Legal Fees – Costs to Settle Lawsuit Brought by Individual After TPD Illegally Destroyed His Guns 

$506K – Furnish and Install HD Field and Studio Equipment for Torrance CitiCable

How many people watch Torrance CitiCable programming?  How critical is it that such programming is offered in HD or would the current SD suffice?

~$2.5 Million – Costs to Settle Lawsuit Brought by Police Officer Who Claims He Suffered Permanent Injuries after He was Tasered by His Superior Officer During a Police Department Briefing

This payout was actually approved by Council in a closed door session in early 2014.  The public, however, was not made aware of it until February 2015 after an inquiry led by the Daily Breeze.  The supervising officer remains an employee with the Police Department and records indicate he was paid $165K for his services in 2012.

$20K – Non-Profit Social Services Grant

During discussion on this item concerns were raised that these non-profit organizations had not been scrutinized closely enough as donations made to their organizations went almost entirely to salaries for directors and officers of the organization and not to the intended social services.

$194K – Uniform Rental Services 

According to the staff report, approximately 270 city employees are provided with 11 sets of uniforms with laundry expenses provided by the city.  The staff reports notes that some of these uniforms are for executive attire (shirts and pants).  Are taxpayers really paying for dress slacks, shirts, and laundry expenses for city executives?

$40K – LivingWise Education Program

This was used to implement the subject program in Torrance middle schools.  Do we really want the City Council involved in school curriculum?  If the City Council is going to spend money on the schools, is this Program really the highest priority?

$44K – Two Mowers 

This purchase was made sole source (i.e. no competitive bids).  One wonders if maybe the City could have received a better deal had it solicited bids from other vendors.

2014 Expenses 

~$580K – Legal costs spent to keep former Police Officer John Brumbaugh from presenting evidence before the Council that he believes would demonstrate that a background investigation conducted by the TPD on his behalf was not done in good faith

Wouldn’t it have been a lot more cost effective to allow the evidentiary hearing Brumbaugh had requested?  What harm was there in allowing Brumbaugh the chance to present his evidence and was it worth a small fortune of taxpayer money to have that evidence suppressed?

~$800K – Installation of approximately 6,000 no parking for street sweeping signs

The Council asserted this was necessary to avert state fines of up to $10K a day.  Questions remain as to whether that assertion is factually correct.  See more information here.

~$800K – Renovation of the homes of State Senator Ted Lieu, former Councilmember Hope Witkowsky, and another resident due to damage caused by a plugged municipal sewer main

According to the Daily Breeze, this was the second time this has occurred in seven years and was due to aging pipes and tree roots. How come the problem wasn’t fixed the first time it happened? Shouldn’t the City be replacing pipes before they pose a risk of plugging and damaging residents homes?

$140K – Agreement to Broadcast CitiCABLE to greater Los Angeles Area

In approving this item Councilmember Goodrich cited his communications background and commended City Staff on securing such a good deal for the City.  The question I really wanted addressed at the meeting was how many people does this actually serve? I would like to know how many people outside of Torrance actually watch Torrance City Council meetings that do not have access to the live stream over the Internet.  My point is that if very few people utilize the service, then it’s not a good deal no matter how cheap the product may seem.

$560K – Installation of 16 electric vehicle charging stations

I am not opposed to charging stations or electric vehicles that use them.  I again just question how many people will utilize this service.  I would wager that most, if not all, people that own electric cars are able to charge them from their homes.  How many of those people will pay to have them charged at various locations throughout the City instead of just charging them at home?  Advocates for this believe these charging stations will make Torrance a destination location for electric car owners to come eat, shop, and spend money. I understand the argument, but it just seems like a lot of money to spend in the hope that it will come to pass.

$145K – Contract for consultants to manage and market employee Rideshare Program

See commentary expressed here for why I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars.

$67K – Lighting of Pacific Electric Railway El Prado Bridge for the Holidays

This doesn’t even include the costs to keep the lights turned on or the costs associated with the lighting ceremony (i.e. broadcasting on City Cable and making arrangements so the Mayor can flip the switch at City Hall).

$10K – Membership Fee to Join the U.S. Conference of Mayors 

This amount doesn’t include travel costs required to attend conferences associated with group.

$33K – Annual Fee to Retain Voting Position on Discover Torrance Board

Does the City really need a voting position on the 15 member Discover Torrance Board? The Torrance Chamber of Commerce, for example, only holds an advisory position on the Board. See commentary expressed here for more information on Discover Torrance.

$202K – Bus Stop Benches

It appears from the staff report that these benches were purchased not necessarily because new benches were needed, but in order to coincide with an updated Torrance Transit logo and marketing scheme.  The benches were also purchased sole source (i.e. no competitive bids were solicited).

$369K – DC and Sacramento Lobbyists

It’s unclear to me from the staff report what value these lobbyists bring to the City.

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