THE EASTSIDER - It wasn’t all that long ago that the LA City establishment was calling for an over the hill 15-0 believing Councilmember named Paul Koretz as the next L:A City Controller. For example, our own LA Watchdog, Jack Humphreville, wrote:
“Controller: Paul Koretz. While not my first choice in the primary, Controller Ron Galperin and former Controller Laura Chick have endorsed him. He also has an excellent understanding of the City, having served three terms on the City Council. His opponent, Kenneth Mejia, lacks relevant experience and was a leader of the recent chaos at City Hall where protesters stormed the City Council.“
And my favorite Neanderthal ex Councilmember Dennis P. Zine went even further:
“Controller: Paul Koretz, Experienced elected official. I have had my differences with Koretz over the years. In this case, he is the only hope to have the Controller’s office run in and efficient manner.”
I on the other hand, along with the LA Times, enthusiastically endorsed Kenneth Mejia early on, as an outsider who promised to be truly independent of the Council and would work for all Angelenos, instead of the usual insiders:
“Vote for Kenneth Mejia!
We need more young technologically smart people who want to make the LA City Controller a partner who can educate the public on how to interact with Audit data and hold officials’ feet to the fire when it comes to recommendations from a departmental audit.
The LA Times got this one right.”
Mejia’s First Year
It’s been well under a year since Mejia took office, and he’s already done over 6 audits. My favorite three are:
1) LAAS Shelter Operations & Animal Care Transparency Report
I’ve been a dog person all my life, and the report is a must read, even though it is heartbreaking. The system is overwhelmed, underfunded, and all too many of our four-footed friends actually get euthanized.
In a breaking news moment, as I am writing this article, no less than Daniel Guss broke the news that the department is under scrutiny for severe animal cruelty and financial misconduct. You can find the link to his Twitter post here.
From the tweet, Gascon’s animal cruelty unit has for months been investigating Los Angeles Animal Services, LAAS, for continuously severe, inhumane conditions, financial misconduct and how some city officials, including Larry Gross, a Democratic Party operative who is Mayor Karen Bass’s LAAS commission president, allegedly enabled corrupt practices by using multiple clandestine email accounts from his job as Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival to conduct city business and dodge public records requests made by this column. Each of those stories was exclusively broken by this column.
3) Another good one is Tree Trimming & Maintenance Follow-up Audit:
“Step 1 of growing LA’s urban forest: Plant 90K new trees by the end of 2021.
A year after their target date, the City is still approximately 20K short of their 90K goal.
The City’s long-term goal:
Increase the tree canopy in areas of greatest need by 50%+ by 2028.
A more equitable urban forest will reduce pollution & provide cooling, public health, habitat, energy savings, & other benefits.”
It also goes over a series of recommendations, as the Controller dose for virtually all of his Audits. Interesting reading.
4) Tying it all up, just a few days ago he pointed out one reason the City is having a hard time responding to issues - there are HUGE vacancies within the City:
This one is a followup to a 2019 Audit by Mejia’s predecessor, and it analyzes:
“City of LA services virtually across the board are suffering from chronic and rampant staffing vacancies.
The Controller’s Office compiled data from all City Departments and Offices from the final pay period of Fiscal Year 22-23 budget this June. Citywide, 17% of positions were vacant, meaning one out of every six jobs was unfilled.
Major departments that provide vital services to city residents and businesses had even higher vacancies. These departments include: Airports; Building and Safety; Housing; Planning; Public Works; Recreation and Parks; and Water & Power.
One department, Economic and Workforce Development had nearly a 60% vacancy tally.
Crucial support functions like Finance, General Services and Information Technology are all running above the city average in unfilled jobs. Even the Personnel Department, the one under the most stress in trying to address this crisis, had a 14.7% vacancy rate”
Even better, Mejia has provided a cool Vacancy Data Tool and Analysis and it’s interactive!
I think our new Controller has exceeded expectations since he took office. I encourage everyone to check out the website. He has done just what he promised to do if elected - provide Here are his promises, and it seems to me that he has done exactly what he promised to do in my endorsement article.
“First, instead of simply doing audits where we have to file a California Public Records Act case to even see the data, he intends to implement a database for the Controller which is accessible, easy to use, and simple to understand. By you and me.
The idea is that you and I should be able to simply go to the Controller’s website, choose the audit, and access the database. Seriously cool, and Kenneth says he’s got the database ready to go.
The second issue he talked about is that a Controller should logically audit the Departments who account for the biggest part of the LA City Budget. That means the Fire Department and the Police Department. WOW! Makes perfect sense, and no wonder the City establishment is in a panic over the idea that he can win.
The third rail of his proposed actions is that there should be a way to hold the bureaucracies feet to the fire. So when an Audit is complete, and there are recommendations, a tracking system should attach to the data so that we can all see whether or not the recommendations are actually implemented. Accessible by the public.
Finally, he has the temerity to think the Controller should audit the City’s public web sites for utility and accessibility. Anybody want to make a bet how many of them would get an F? ”
So stay tuned, and periodically check the Controller’s website. It’s worth the look.
(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.)\