NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-What was implicit in Mayor Garcetti’s moving State of the City speech (photo above) on Sunday was that for the City to make money, its stakeholders need to stay well and continue to make money.
To rebuild the economy in the wake of the COVID crisis, Angelenos must have the incomes and the confidence to start buying again.
The Los Angeles Economic & Workforce Development Department (EWDD) has two distinct but related functions. One is to attract the businesses and improve the local economic environment to generate the good jobs Angelenos need.
The other is to stimulate job creation through skills training and retraining to open career opportunities to new and displaced workers, and thereby develop a strong and committed workforce, sustainable neighborhoods, and profitable communities throughout Los Angeles.
Both are addressed in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established earlier this month by the City and County to assist small businesses in the face of the current economic collapse.
The Mayor followed this up last Friday by announcing the formation of the CARES Corps, a proposed alliance of the federal government, local public officials, and healthcare professionals to provide immediate resources and services to incentivize careers in high-need fields, cross-train workers, protect health recovery especially for the most vulnerable, and transition everyone to a new and better normal.
So far costs for dealing with the COVID crisis have come out of the City’s Reserve Fund but that will only last so long, and there is no guarantee that these will be reimbursed by the state and federal governments. The City must work on developing alternate funding solutions now.
And, given the current precariousness of jobs in the City and around the world, the Mayor and City Council must also prioritize plans to get people back to work and into well-paying jobs as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions start to be rolled back.
Since it is doubtful the City can fund everything directly since it has been living beyond its means, the Mayor and City Council need to work with EWDD and its partners to backstop grant money to make this happen.
There was a rush to the bottom in the years that followed the Great Recession when unemployment soared to 13.4% and companies paid less and less due to the competition for fewer and fewer jobs. Today’s unemployment figures have surpassed that figure and are still rising.
In those years the City suffered from its shrinking tax base which then rolled over into fewer and poorer services. This we don’t need.
We need more services, especially in the areas of public health.
A city with too many minimum-wage jobs and under-employed workers de facto has too many families without the means to purchase new products and services, or the wherewithal to pay their rent and taxes. This was a direct cause of the current homelessness problem. Do we really want more of the same?
To make money you need to spend money but there also needs to be a system of metrics set up to expeditiously track the return on investment. Given the paperwork expertise the EWDD has developed over their years dealing with federal agencies; that should be a no-brainer.
The City has always found ample funds for corporate welfare for developers; now is the time to divert this money into investing in its people.
The Mayor and City Council should be committing every minute of every day they save by telecommuting during this crisis to address the root issue of ensuring that every Angeleno who wants to work has a good job paying, at a minimum, a living wage for Los Angeles.
As well as pressuring the feds to bail out America’s cities, items to consider might include how to:
- Solicit additional funds locally, regionally and at the state level to replace federal monies if and when needed, including tapping philanthropic sources;
- Look around the world for innovative ways to successfully get people back to work.
- Join with mayors and city governments across the USA to pressure the Trump government to fund the infrastructure programs as originally called for by the President early in his reign and reiterated last week to put the country back to work and upgrade public services but without the giveaways to banks and multi-nationals that drained our taxes into a sort of corporate welfare;
- Develop community partnering to find additional funds to provide programs targeting at-need segments of Los Angeles’ workforce while fulfilling specific requirements of employers;
- Fund region-specific representatives to address targeted needs of local communities including publicizing their mandate so as to actively encourage neighborhood involvement;
- Identify companies and sectors where there have been lay-offs to have staff educated about the skills of those who have been displaced to immediately and more appropriately direct their job searches, as well as to actively solicit enterprises most likely to benefit from such pools of employees;
- Ensure staff is available in the evening and on weekends when people in transition are more likely have time to discuss options;
- Mitigate gentrification to maintain the existing City workforce in situ, preserving the flavor of existing neighborhoods with their sense of community, improving quality of life and reducing commute times/global warming;
- Ensure affordable housing and quality schools for executives and specialized personnel needed by start-ups and companies relocating to Los Angeles;
- Adopt programs to help with the relocation process, not only for people coming from out of state but also displaced Angelenos.
We don’t need to get back to normal; we need to use the Mayor’s blueprint for the future to inspire America and create a new and vastly improved normal.
The City Council needs to take swift action and seize this opportunity to finally take Los Angeles all the way back to the basics Garcetti promised when he was first elected.
(The Budget Advocates are an elected, all volunteer, independent advisory body charged with making constructive recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council regarding the Budget, and to City Departments on ways to improve their operations, and with obtaining input, updating and educating all Angelenos on the City’s fiscal management.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.