A while in the coming, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy may actually receive state funding for its operations. Last week’s vote by the State Assembly Budget Committee on Resources included $750,000 for operating expenses for the conservancy this year.
However, more than one panel must approve the figure in order for it to stick. “We’re going before the Senate Budget Committee March 22,” said the conservancy’s Deputy Director Belinda Faustinos. “We would hope that they would do the same as the assembly has done.”
“It’s a hopeful first step”, said state Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl. “The major problem for the conservancy is that the acquisition fund allocated by the state never includes operating expenses.”
“The essence of it is that historically the conservancy had received general operating funds from the state and that had been dramatically reduced,” Faustinos said, attributing the drop to the prior, more conservative administration and legislature. “We were under 20 percent of our overall budget being funded by the state.”
While the state has encouraged the conservancy to look for more local resources for its operating funds, Faustinos said reliance on local funding is not realistic. “I think there is a role for local funding. The city and county of Los Angeles have done an excellent job doing that.” Faustinos said that while the political climate allowed the state to recognize the needs, there was no move to put money behind the sentiment until recently. “Until you really get into what is needed to preserve things like viewsheds you don’t realize the costs.”
One way to get the decision makers’ attention to realize the costs is to show them the goods. In this case the goods are the Santa Monica Mountains themselves. And that’s exactly what assembly member Kuehl did prior to the committee vote last week. Kuehl took Virginia Strom-Martin, chair of the budget subcommittee, on a helicopter ride. “I think the ability of Assembly Member Strom-Martin to see for herself the near wilderness nature and the threatened areas of our Santa Monica Mountains was critical to her support of this money.”