EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m reminded that City Controller Laura Chick released an audit in March that included the golf range concession at Rancho Park. She concluded broadly that the audit, and previous audits, of the Recreation and Parks Department “calls into question the Department’s success in meeting” its goals for concessionaires of providing good services and maximizing city revenue. The City Council audits committee has yet to hold a hearing on the audit.
I have played golf at city courses for years and noticed time and again how many of the carts are in poor condition, and how by 11:30 on busy weekend days they have run out and guys are standing around waiting for carts to be returned so they can play.
And then I start hearing from guys like Ted Winship who have been involved with the men’s clubs at the local courses for years that something is rotten in Recreation and Parks, something worse than just not being competent about managing facilities.
What Ted and his pals have figured out is that there is some kind of insiders’ game going on with golf carts just like there is in everything else the city does. The result as always is a loss of revenue for the city treasury and poor services to the public.
The golf cart issue is expected to come to a head Wednesday when the Rec and Parks commissioners sign off on a new contract to continue to waste money and provide poor service, according to Ted.
It appears the commissioners know people are watching because they have put off final action on this deal month after month. Based on past experience, my guess is that the powers that be have been huddling to make sure they have developed a sufficiently plausible alibi to fend off all accusations of mismanagement.
But Ted is no fool. He’s a retired real estate broker who lives in Studio City and was president of the Hansen Dam Senior Men’s Golf Club for years. He’s studied the city’s records on golf carts thoroughly and come to the conclusion that the city could have more golf carts, newer golf carts and rake in $1.2 million a year more than it does now if it managed the service itself instead of contracting it out.
If the commissioners will give Ted 10 minutes when they meet at Griffith Park Wednesday, they just might see the wisdom of Winship and come to the same conclusion he does.
His conclusion is that instead of giving away the lucrative concession for golf carts — 16 bucks a round for tens of thousands of rounds a year — the city could run the service itself and make more money. His calculation is $1.2 million a year more.
And if the bidding process for new carts was truly open and above board, the deal could get even sweeter.
What really irks Ted is that the whole deal gets no honest scrutiny.
For instance, if the cart business is going to a concessionaire why does the city need to hire a golf cart manager and several mechanics that will add half a million dollars in costs for payroll, benefits and perks.
The answer, of course, is that’s how the city works, or rather doesn’t work.
I’m no accountant and I can’t honestly say Ted Winship is right about all this. But I’m betting he is. He’s done his homework and talked to a lot of the people on the Rec and Parks staff who have insights into the finagling that goes on behind the scenes.
Let’s hope the commission takes his advice and puts off its decision for another month and actually asks some tough questions about what is going on.
And let’s hope City Controller Laura Chick frees up one of her auditors during those 30 days to go over the books at Rec and Parks and ask some tough questions about the whole process.
And since I’m indulging my fantasy of an open and honest government that serves the people, let’s hope that the City Council picks up her findings and holds a public hearing to get to the bottom of what’s going on in Rec and Parks by calling as witnesses all the people on the inside that Ted has talked to.