Mon, Apr

Greuel’s $160 Million Claim Don’t Mean Diddley … Without Verification

PERSPECTIVE - You will hear it at every candidate forum:  City Controller and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel claims she has uncovered $160 million in savings during her term as Los Angeles City Controller.
Can you believe her?
Only if the results speak for themselves.
It should be a one-stop process to confirm the claim, but there is no such thing as a one-stop process in Los Angeles.
Greuel’s audit scorecard and division performance reports on the City Controller web site would be a logical place to find the answer.  They cover audits conducted since September 2009 (shortly after she took office) and what the status is of each; the performance reports summarize potential lost revenue or avoidable costs associated with the recommendations.
But none of these reports indicate if actual savings have been realized. Nor are they clear as to whether potential savings are annual or one-time. 
Greuel’s reports would not cut the ice in the real world.  Any CEO would ask what the proven bottom-line impact is and the latest projection for the rest.  Unless you have too much time on your hands and can read each and every report, your chances of even estimating the potential benefits of implementing the audit recommendations are slim and none.
I have a feeling Greuel likes it that way.  She, like other career politicians with no practical business operations experience (despite her claims to the contrary), does not want to deal with proven facts.  Like a poorly refereed football game, she awards points or possession without verification that the ball was in play or crossed the goal line.
Given that the city has faced an unbroken series of deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars, I have serious doubts as to whether any meaningful savings have been realized.
More so than any other elected position, the mayor of a city is a business manager.  Feel-good measures, avoiding long-term solutions and paying homage to public unions are a disservice to the residents.  A mayor has to lay out the facts in a way the public can understand the significance – good and bad.  The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is issued way too late and in a format that does not lend itself to general consumption.
There is no attempt by the mayor or controller to educate the public about the real financial condition of the city.  To be fair, there never has been.
Don’t expect any improvement in transparency if you vote for Greuel (or, for that matter, Zine for controller).  Neither is technically qualified to manage any operation…and our city needs a CEO to guide us to a sustainable path.
You are better off considering new blood.  Candidates such as Cary Brazeman (Controller) or Kevin James (Mayor) are worth a look.  They have been on the outside looking in and are in a better position to view matters through unfiltered lenses. You may find other candidates to your liking – rest assured, almost anyone would be a better choice over Greuel and Zine.
Going into the March elections, the most important step you can take is to discount the puffery of the established politicians.  They have had at least eight years to deal with the serious financial deficits facing the city and can show no results.
Go with me on this.
For the record, I am a registered Democrat – a Blue Dog who believes officials must manage finances responsibly, especially at the local level.  That has not been the case in Los Angeles. You are the only ones who can force a change. March is your opportunity.
(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as Treasurer for the Neighborhood Council Valley Village.  He blogs at Village to Village, contributes to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) –cw
Vol 11 Issue 2
Pub: Jan 4, 2013

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