Mixer: Crumbling sidewalks and rising gas prices

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MixerBannerEmily Alpert Reyes is a reporter with the Los Angeles Times and Kevin Smith is business editor for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group. Both joined us for the Mixer.

We got word this week that money for sidewalk repairs in Los Angeles has gone unspent by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration – and City Hall still wants a new tax to pay for sidewalks.

In many of those cases, these sidewalks are buckling because of tree roots below. Yet, interestingly, with all the complaints, and even lawsuits from disabled people who say they can’t get around, none of the money that was budgeted for this year to fix sidewalks has been spent so far.

Turns out, city officials say it’s because of pending lawsuits that the money hasn’t been spent. The city council wants to pay for repairs in areas they know the city’s responsible for, including near city offices and buildings. Also, in areas they say they know will make the biggest difference to avoid future lawsuits.

If the money continues to be unused before the budget year comes to an end on June 30, the funds will go back into the city’s general fund.

Meanwhile, Mayor Garcetti unveiled his first budget this week, and proudly announced that he was doubling funding to fix broken sidewalks from $10 to $20 million. And he’s talking about this as a permanent increase, not a one-time raise.

Shifting from sidewalks to roads, Angelenos are paying an average of $4.30 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. That leaves area prices only dwarfed by Hawaii gas prices.

The recipe for rising prices is complicated, but involves a couple of oil refineries that are shut down – the Chevron refinery in El Segundo and the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance.

Then add a serving of corn. Or, don’t. Because there isn’t as much of the crop for ethanol these days because of the state’s historic drought, and dry weather in other corn-producing states.

There’s also the switchover in LA to a lower sulfur blend of fuel for warmer summer months.

Top it with whipped bluster from Ukraine and Russia, and there’s your sour dish that will make your trip to the pump less pleasant.