LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles has very ambitious plans for the Civic Center, the area surrounding City Hall. According to the City’s Information Statement, the City is “considering major improvements to its Civic Center, with estimates ranging from $730 million to $760 million for the first of multiple phases of its Civic Center Master Development Plan.” 

LA WATCHDOG--On June 5, 57% of the California’s voters approved Proposition 68, a measure that authorized the issuance of $4.1 billion of bonds to fund “parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply, and flood protection.” 

LA WATCHDOG--Anschutz Entertainment Group’s proposal to invest $1.25 billion in the expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center and the development of a convention hotel will create significant controversy. 

LA WATCHDOG--Despite a 36%, $1.6 billion increase in revenues since Eric Garcetti was elected the Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013, the City still has an unbalanced budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2018 and a Structural Deficit that will total more than $4 billion over the following four years. 

LA WATCHDOG--When the political establishment, the public sector unions, the environmental community, the building trade unions, and the business community support a ballot measure that involves our money, rest assured that the ballot measure is not in our best interests as this cabal, once again, wants to pick our pockets clean of our hard earned cash.    

LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the Herb Wesson led City Council are less than transparent as they continue to duck questions that may expose their lack of respect for the taxpayers and their failure to manage the financial affairs of the City in a prudent manner. 

LA WATCHDOG--The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“Metro”) is considering retaining CH2M Hill, a full-service design, construction, and program management firm with close ties to City Hall, as the prime contractor for environmental and design work for an eight mile bike path along the Los Angeles River. 

LA WATCHDOG--While the State of California is rolling in the dough with an $8 billion surplus as a result of increases in the State Budget to $200 billion, the spendthrift politicians in Sacramento are asking us to approve a $4.1 billion ballot measure that will help the State “protect our water, parks, and natural resources” from the impact of “severe droughts, wildfires, and climate change.”  

LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Paul Krekorian, the chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, have touted the strength of the City’s Reserve Fund and its Budget Stabilization Fund as an example of their prudent management of the City’s finances.

LA WATCHDOG--Proposition 68 (Authorizes bonds funding parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply, and flood protection) represents an excellent opportunity to send our less than transparent Elected Elite a loud and clear message that we are not their ATM.  And furthermore, a NO vote will also send the message that we do not trust our State, County, and City officials to be prudent stewards of our hard earned money. 

LA WATCHDOG--Despite record tax revenues, Mayor Eric Garcetti and his budget team are planning to increase the Street Damage Restoration Fee by over eight times, from a budgeted amount of $8.3 million this year to $70 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. 

LA WATCHDOG--Many knowledgeable people believe that the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) will declare bankruptcy within three years unless it takes drastic action to restructure its finances.

LA WATCHDOG--Despite a very healthy $340 million (5.6%) increase in General Fund revenues, the proposed $6.2 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018 is not balanced or fiscally responsible, contrary to pronouncements by Mayor Eric Garcetti.  

LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 60 minute, 8,000 word State of the City address was long on the City’s accomplishments, ranging from being selected to host the 2028 Olympics, the expansion of our subway system, the authorization of the $5 billion people mover system at LAX, lower crime rates, the taking of guns off our streets, the paving of 11,000 miles of streets, and the creation of over 150,000 jobs. 

LA WATCHDOG--“As long as I’m your Mayor, I won’t duck bad news.  I am going to own it and I’m going to attack it.” – Mayor Eric Garcetti, April 2015

LA WATCHDOG-APRIL 1, 2018--According to a secret memo prepared by the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Amazon has reached a preliminary agreement with the City, the County, and the State to locate its second corporate headquarters (“HQ2”) in the city of Los Angeles, primarily in the area surrounding the Union Station transportation hub and the nearby Los Angeles River.   

LA WATCHDOG--“Resilience is a value that guides everything we do in Los Angeles, because we know that the decisions we make today will shape the future our children and grandchildren will inherit. The Resilient Los Angeles plan will help us strengthen our infrastructure, protect our economy, make our institutions more inclusive, and create safer neighborhoods.” - Mayor Eric Garcetti 

LA WATCHDOG -“What you find is there’s never just one cockroach in the kitchen when your start looking around.”- Warren Buffett

LA WATCHDOG BRIEFLY PUT--You have to wonder how our City survives given all the shenanigans and mismanagement by the Mayor and the members of the City Council, whether it be bribery (excuse me, campaign contributions), the Exclusive Trash Franchise (the “Trashopoly”), the City’s $15 billion unfunded pension liability, or sexual harassment. 

Today, we will comment briefly on each of these subjects in an attempt to ruin your weekend.

LA WATCHDOG--As a result of an excellent investigative report by Los Angeles Times reporters David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes (A $72 Million Apartment Project.  Top Politicians.  Unlikely Donors) in October 2016, District Attorney Jackie Lacey has filed felony charges against real estate developer Samuel Leong for laundering campaign contributions and attempted bribery in connection with the successful “up zoning” of his five acre industrial property to accommodate a $72 million development of a 352 unit apartment complex in the Harbor Gateway area of the City of Los Angeles. 

LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is hemorrhaging cash.  So why are Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council entering into deals that are providing almost $1 billion of tax breaks for projects that already have excellent rates of return for their deep pocketed investors? 

LA WATCHDOG--One of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Back to Basics Priority Outcomes was the repair our streets.  But after almost five years as Mayor, very little progress has been made as “nearly 40% of our City streets have a D or F rating and more than 8,700 miles of streets in the City need rehabilitation” according to a recent motion filed by Councilmen Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino. 

LA WATCHDOG--At the conclusion of a six hour meeting of the City Council’s Energy, Climate Change, and Environment Committee (formerly known as the Energy and Environment Committee) to discuss the City’s botched rollout of the monopolistic Exclusive Trash Franchise system, most came away with the impression that little had been accomplished other than letting the Committee members blow off a lot steam.  

LA WATCHDOG--The five members of the City Council’s Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee will have the opportunity on Tuesday afternoon at City Hall to unload their frustrations on the seven waste haulers over the 28,000 service complaints received by the City in connection with the botched rollout of the City’s monopolistic Commercial Waste Exclusive Franchise System. 

LA WATCHDOG--While America gears up for Super Sunday where the Philadelphia Eagles are looking to upset the England Patriots, few realize that the National Football League and the four television networks (CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC/ESPN/Disney) are the primary culprits in the rapid rise in our cable bills. 

LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Garcetti and the City Council are in crisis mode because the botched rollout of the City’s monopolistic Commercial Waste Exclusive Franchise System is now front page news and generating unfavorable publicity.   

LA WATCHDOG--One of the major arguments that the proponents of establishing the municipally owned Bank of Los Angeles is that this new financial institution will service the pot industry by taking deposits and facilitating credit card transactions.  But it seems that their judgment has been clouded by smoking too much dope. 

LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is proposing a $103 million tax break to subsidize the development of a $454 million, 1,130 room hotel complex at the corner of Figueroa and Pico, strategically located in the booming South Park area of DTLA, directly across the street from Gilbert Lindsey Plaza and the Los Angeles Convention Center. 

LA WATCHDOG--Alexander Nazaryan’s Op-Ed column in the Los Angeles Times, Let’s Compare Eric Garcetti and Bill de Blasio, paints a positive image of Mayor Eric Garcetti, an “embodiment of pragmatic politics,” compared to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, an “ideologue driven by a self-serving fervor who easts his pizza with a knife and fork.”

LA WATCHDOG—(Editor’s note: Jack Humphreville is currently snowed in on the east coast. LA’s Watchdog will return on Thursday. In the interim, here’s a replay of Jack’s most read column of 2017.) Why are Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, and Paul Koretz, the Chair of the Personnel Committee, and Mayor Eric Garcetti unwilling to be transparent about the City’s pension crisis that contributes to its never ending Structural Deficit and is crowding out basic services to Angelenos?  

LA WATCHDOG--It has been over a year since Miguel Santana announced that he was resigning as the City Administrative Officer to become the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Fair Association.  And despite the call for a nationwide search for the most important job in the City of Los Angeles, we still do not have a permanent City Administrative Officer which makes you wonder why.

LA WATCHDOG--Hollywood is for sale! 

LA WATCHDOG--The unfunded liability for the Department of Water and Power’s retirement liabilities improved as a result of the 12.7% return on invested assets for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. As a result, the shortfall decreased from $2.8 billion (81% funded) to $1.8 billion (88% funded). 

LA WATCHDOG--As a result of Raul Bocanegra’s resignation from the State Assembly, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a special election to fill his seat.  This will more than likely include two trips to the polls, a primary and then a runoff, costing taxpayers an estimated $2 million, if not more.  And this does not take into consideration the distraction caused by this special election or the campaign dollars spent by the aspiring candidates. (Photos above: State Senators Kevin de Leon, left and Ricardo Lara) 

LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, November 28, the politically appointed Board of Water and Power Commissioners rubber stamped the transfer of $242 million of Ratepayer money from the DWP’s debt burdened Power System to City Hall without any meaningful discussion. 

LA WATCHDOG--As a result of an expose in the Los Angeles Times that disclosed numerous incidents of groping and sexual harassment, State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) announced that he will not seek reelection and that he will resign from the California State Assembly on September 1, the end of the legislative session.  

LA WATCHDOG--Why are Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, and Paul Koretz, the Chair of the Personnel Committee, and Mayor Eric Garcetti unwilling to be transparent about the City’s pension crisis that contributes to its never ending Structural Deficit and is crowding out basic services to Angelenos?  

LA WATCHDOG--For the last four seasons, three million Southern California households have been unable to watch the Dodgers in the comfort of their own homes because of a business dispute between two media giants, Charter Communications, the owner of Time Warner Cable now doing business as Spectrum, and Direct TV, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company with a market capitalization exceeding $200 billion. 

LA WATCHDOG--Ever since The New York Times broke the story on October 4th about the sexual harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, numerous other victims have surfaced, naming not only Harvey Weinstein, but other Hollywood predators, including filmmaker Brett Ratner, actor Kevin Spacey, and director James Toback. And no doubt there will be others who have used their power and status to prey on those lower down on the food chain.  

LA WATCHDOG--On April 20, 2018, Mayor Eric Garcetti will submit his Proposed Budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2018 to the City Council.  Between now and then, the Mayor and the City Council will develop the budget behind closed doors without any input from the public, including the charter authorized Neighborhood Councils. 

LA WATCHDOG--The establishment of the municipally owned Bank of Los Angeles is an idea that is enthusiastically supported by City Council President Herb Wesson and the other members of the Council.   

LA WATCHDOG--On Monday, The Weinstein Company (the “Company”) “announced that it has entered into a preliminary agreement with Colony Capital (“Colony”) to provide an immediate capital infusion into the Company. In addition, the Company has entered a negotiating period with Colony Capital for a potential sale of all or a significant portion of the Company's assets.” 

The Weinstein Company Announces Investment from Colony Capital. 

The Weinstein Company has been under siege since early October when The New York Times revealed sexual harassment and rape allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the Company’s founder, co-chairman, and celebrated rainmaker. 

As a result of Harvey Weinstein’s rampant sexual misconduct, the Company in its current form is essentially out of business.  After all, what self-respecting member of the Hollywood community, whether it be the talent or their agents, would work with (or even talk to) this sexual predator. 

LA WATCHDOG--The four Garcetti appointed trustees of the Board of Administration of the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (“LACERS”) have demonstrated that they have placed their personal interests ahead of those of the almost 43,000 members who are dependent on LACERS for their retirement benefits.

LA WATCHDOG--On April 20, slightly less than seven months from now, Mayor Eric Garcetti will submit his proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018 to the City Council for its consideration.  While the Budget and Finance Committee will hold hearings over the following weeks, the budget is already a done deal, having been negotiated behind closed doors between the Mayor and City Council with input from the leaders of the City’s unions. 

LA WATCHDOG--On September 13, Controller Ron Galperin released a first ever Report Card for our Department of Recreation and Parks. It was based on interviews by consultants with over 3,700 park using Angelenos and onsite reviews of 40 of our 95 community parks.  (Photo above: Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin announces Rec & Parks Report Card.) 

Overall, these 40 community parks received a grade of B (an 86) based on the equal weighting of 12 measurements.  But this hides the fact that many Angelenos are concerned about their safety in the parks (46%) and the poorly maintained bathrooms (37%), especially in three of the five surveyed areas. 

Of the 40 parks that were surveyed, 16 (40%) received a D on the restroom maintenance.  But that percentage leaped to 57% (16 of the 28 parks) for the East San Fernando Valley, Metropolitan, and South LA / Harbor Areas.  On the other hand, the West San Fernando and Westside Areas had no failing restrooms and had an overall of grade of a B on restrooms. 

One the underlying reasons for the lack of safety and the foul restrooms is that the Department’s budget has been decimated by City Hall. 

Under the City’s “full cost recovery” program that was instituted in 2010 by Mayor Villaraigosa and then City Council President Eric Garcetti, $410 million has been diverted from the operating budget of the Department of Recreation and Parks.  

This year alone, Recreation & Parks is being hit up for $71 million, including $25 million for utilities (water and power), $2 million for refuse collection, and $44 million for “General Fund Reimbursement” to cover pension contributions, human resource benefits, and other related expenses. This represents 38% of the charter mandated appropriation of $186 million.  

As a result, the Department’s headcount has been reduced by almost a third, resulting in less maintenance and even fewer programs and activities. 

But the “full cost recovery” program does not apply to any City department other than the Library, whose appropriations, like those of Recreation and Parks, are mandated by the City Charter.  However, in 2011, 63% of the voters approved Measure L which increased the Library’s charter mandated appropriation by 71%.