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A Time for Truth … AND for Solutions!

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LA WATCHDOG-“Los Angeles is barely treading water while the rest of the world is moving forward.  We risk falling farther behind in adapting to the realities of the 21st Century and becoming a City in decline.” –LA2020 Commission 

At a Wednesday morning press conference at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, Mickey Kantor and Austin Beutner presented “A Time for Truth,” a well-researched, hard hitting report  that the LA Times called a “stark reality check” that outlines the afflictions impacting our City: “weak job growth, high poverty; bad traffic; underperforming schools; weak, inactive government; red tape that stifles economic development; crumbling infrastructure; unfunded pensions; budget gimmicks; and a dissatisfied electorate.” 

While many of these afflictions are impacted by third parties such as the State of California and other political and regulatory bodies, the blame for the City’s financial plight goes no farther than City Hall, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti led City Council authorized increases in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions that exceeded the growth in revenues by an estimated $600 million during the profligate Villaraigosa era.  To fund this shortfall, the City shortchanged our streets and the rest of our infrastructure, underfunded the two pension plans, and made drastic cuts in many departments, including investments in the Police and Fire Departments. 

As a result, despite record revenues, the City is projecting a $250 million budget deficit next year.  And over the next four years, the cumulative deficit is expected to exceed $700 million.  The City also has to wrestle with over $25 billion of unfunded pension liabilities, deferred maintenance, and long term debt. 

According to Mickey Kantor, the LA2020 Commission will issue its second report within 90 days.  It intends to propose “concrete measures” on how to put the City “on a path to a sustainable financial position and a truly balanced budget” while providing Angelenos with the services they need in a transparent, accountable and effective manner.  

We have several recommendations for the LA2020 Commission, including one that follows the advice of Mark Lacter, the late columnist for LA Observed, that the City focus its efforts on the basics such as public safety, parks, and libraries, and the business climate will take care of itself. 

To help restore the trust of the voters in our fiscally irresponsible Elected Elite, the City Council must place a LIVE WITHIN ITS MEANS charter amendment on the ballot.  This would require the City to develop and adhere to a detailed Five Year Financial Plan, pass two year balanced budgets based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and over the next 15 years, fully fund the City’s two pension plans and fix our streets, sidewalks, curbs and the rest of our failing infrastructure. 

At the same time, the City should establish a well-funded, independent Financial Control Board to review, analyze, and monitor on a continuing basis the City’s budget and finances and the efficiency of its operations.  This Board would issue quarterly reports to the public and conduct frequent public forums to discuss issues of concern with all Angelenos. 

Finally, the City must establish knowledgeable, professional management at the City’s three proprietary departments, the Department of Water and Power, the Port of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles International Airport.  These economic engines that create over a million jobs throughout Southern California must also have qualified commissioners that have specific areas of expertise that will add value to these vital enterprises.  The City also needs to establish rigorous protocols to limit interference from the political operatives that occupy City Hall. 

Finally, the City must defer any consideration of the $4.5 billion Street Tax until the City Council starts to earn the trust and confidence of the voters by endorsing and implementing the recommendations of LA2020 Commission. 

The voters of Los Angeles are eager to support serious reform.  They rejected Proposition A, the permanent half cent increase in our sales tax, despite its support by Mayor Villaraigosa and Herb Wesson’s multimillion dollar slush fund.  The voters also rejected Wendy Greuel, in large part because of her support by IBEW Union Bo$$ d’Arcy, and endorsed Eric Garcetti and his promises to reform DWP and the less than transparent City Hall. 

Our City has the resources, the people, and the will power to be a world class city.  But we need a City that will help us realize that dream by being part of the solution (like NYC, Boston and San Francisco), not part of the problem. 

Mickey and Austin, thank you for A Time of Truth.  We are eager to support your upcoming recommendations to reform the City’s finances, to jump start our economy and its ability to create rewarding jobs, and to achieve our goal and dream of having OUR City being the envy of the world. 

 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee,  The Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:  [email protected]. Hear Jack every Tuesday morning at 6:20 on McIntyre in the Morning, KABC Radio 790.) 
-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 12 Issue 3

Pub: Jan 10, 2014

 

 

 

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