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Sun, Jul

LA WATCHDOG--Carmel Partners, a San Francisco based real estate management firm that develops and owns residential real estate, and its 35 story luxury high rise at 520 Mateo Street in the Arts District were prominently mentioned in the FBI’s affidavit filed in connection with the recent arrest of Councilman Jose Huizar.

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LA WATCHDOG--Our cash strapped City is eyeing new sources of revenue to offset the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the City’s seven economically sensitive taxes* that provide over 72% of the City’s General Fund revenue in a normal year.

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LA WATCHDOG--The Mayor and the City Council have once again entered into an arrangement with the politically powerful leaders of the public sector unions that is not in the best interests of the City of Los Angeles and its four million residents. 

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LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday morning, the FBI arrested Councilman Jose Huizar on “a federal racketeering charge that alleges he led a criminal enterprise that used his powerful position at City Hall to solicit and accept lucrative bribes and other financial benefits to enrich himself and his close associates in exchange for Huizar taking official actions favorable to the developers and others who financed and facilitated bribes.”  

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LA WATCHDOG--On Wednesday, the City Council agreed not to place the vacancy tax on the November ballot. 

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LA WATCHDOG--The short term and long term financial outlook for the City of Los Angeles is only getting worse according to the City’s Preliminary Official Statement for the issuance of up to $1.85 billion of Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Without any hearings, the City Council voted to ask the City Attorney to draft a ballot measure to place a vacancy tax on the November ballot.

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LA WATCHDOG--There are sins of commission where politicians and their bagmen get caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  And then there are sins of omission where our politicians ignore corruption, fail to call out or investigate a fellow member of the Council for corruption, or refuse to place a measure on the ballot that would “limit opportunities for corruption.”  

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LA WATCHDOG-According to the Los Angeles Times, “Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged that the city would ‘identify $250 million in cuts so we can invest in jobs, in health, in education, and in healing,’ especially in the city’s black community ‘as well as communities of color and women and people who have been left behind.’” 

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LA WATCHDOG--If a California company and its management were engaged in bribery, money laundering, extortion, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and racketeering,

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LA WATCHDOG--One of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Back to Basic tenets was to “increase transparency and civic engagement.” 

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LA WATCHDOG-Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council were shocked, shocked by the revelation that one of its members, Jose Huizar, (photo above) was the principal player in pay-to-play corruption schemes involving the up zoning of large real estate developments, creating hundreds of millions of dollars in extra profits for unscrupulous developers.

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LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Proposed Budget that was submitted to the City Council on April 20 was essentially dead on arrival because the revenue assumptions assumed that his Safer at Home order would not be extended.

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LA WATCHDOG--The Budget and Finance Committee met on Monday to receive input on the upcoming budget and the impact of the virus on City expenditures and its seven economically sensitive revenue streams.  As a result of this uncertainty, the upcoming budget will be a placeholder that will need to be updated on a periodic basis to reflect the changing economic environment. (Photo above: Budget and Finance committee Chair, Councilman Paul Krekorian.) 

But interestingly, the Committee and its members failed to acknowledge that the new labor agreements that were negotiated behind closed doors and that they approved blew a massive a $1.4 billion hole in the City’s budget over the next four years and required the City to raid its Reserve Fund.  The impact of the virus compounds the problem.    

Some of the members questioned the Mayor’s optimistic revenue projections, a valid concern. 

The City Council must respond by June 1.  

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The following are my remarks to the Committee. 

Prior to the virus, the City, despite record revenues, was projecting an annual deficit for the current fiscal year.  The Structural Deficit was expected to exceed $1.4 billion over the next four years as a result of the new labor agreements [that were approved after the adoption of this year’s budget.]. 

The impact of the virus on the City’s [revenues and] budget only compounds the problem of balancing the budget.  

The Budget Advocates developed ten recommendations in its White Paper to increase transparency into the City’s budget process that will, if implemented, begin the process of restoring Angelenos trust and confidence in City Hall. 

The key recommendations include: 

The establishment of an Office of Transparency and Accountability to oversee the City’s budget and finances on a real time basis. [Also, a recommendation of the LA 2020 Commission] 

All labor negotiations must be open and transparent and not result in any budget deficits, now and in the future.  

The creation of a Pension Commission to review and analyze the City’s two pension plans and develop recommendations to eliminate the $15 billion unfunded liability.  According to the City’s projections, the City’s contribution to the pension fund will consume about 25% of the General fund, up from the current level of 20%.  [A recommendation of the LA 2020 Commission] 

Develop a ten-year infrastructure plan that will begin to eliminate the $10 billion deferred maintenance budget. 

The Four-Year General Fund budget Outlook should include placeholders for future raises.  

Implement multiyear budgeting. [A recommendation of the LA 2020 Commission] 

Other recommendations include the Mayor submitting his Proposed Budget on February 1st, benchmarking the efficiency of the City’s department and operations, developing a strong Reserve Fund, and developing solutions to eliminate the Structural Deficit. 

To earn the vote of Angelenos on future tax increases, including the Split Roll, the City will need to earn the trust and confidence of Angelenos.  Implementing these recommendations will begin that process.

 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

 -cw

 

LA WATCHDOG--Governor Newsom’s advisors announced that the State faces a $54.3 billion deficit through June 30, 2021, of which $13.4 billion occurs in this fiscal year ending on June 30 and $40.9 billion is in the upcoming year beginning on July 1.

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LA WATCHDOG--“I always say that budgets are a statement of our values. But this year, it is also a document of our pain.” Mayor Eric Garcetti, April 19, 2020 

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LA WATCHDOG--In a memo to All General Managers, Councilman Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, indicated there will not be 40 hours of budget hearings as there have been in the past. 

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LA WATCHDOG--The City’s Annual Required Contributions to its two pension funds have increased 56% ($475 million) since Eric Garcetti was elected mayor, from $848 million to $1.32 billion for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2020.  

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LA WATCHDOG--Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti have prioritized the lives of Californians and Angelenos over the premature opening of our economy unless there is adequate testing, tracking, and monitoring; proper social distancing; the protection of vulnerable communities; surge capacity at hospitals; continued research and development; and the development of adequate guidelines in the case there is a resurgence of the virus. 

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LA WATCHDOG--The Mayor’s Proposed Budget anticipates General Fund revenues of almost $6.7 billion, an increase of $118 million (1.8%) from this year’s Adopted Budget, and a balanced budget. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Over the last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti has done an excellent job of communicating with Angelenos about the Virus and what we need to do to stay safe and healthy. 

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LA WATCHDOG--“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.  Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

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LA WATCHDOG--Rumors emanating from City Hall suggest that Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council are considering a tax increase to finance the projected deficit for the upcoming fiscal year beginning on July 1. 

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LA WATCHDOG--One day, hopefully, sooner or later, we’ll knock down the new coronavirus that’s got people rattled.  But there is no vaccine for the virus that infects City Hall.”  Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2020 

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LA WATCHDOG-On Friday, former LA City Councilman Mitchell Englander “agreed to plead guilty to a federal criminal charge stemming from his obstruction of a public corruption investigation related to his acceptance of gifts - including cash, hotel rooms and expensive meals - from a businessman during trips to Las Vegas and palm Springs in 2017.” 

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LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti will submit his Proposed Budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2020 to the City Council on or before April 20 as required by the City Charter.

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LA WATCHDOG--In November of 2018, the FBI and IRS raided the offices and house of Jose Huizar in connection with its investigation of pay-to-play corruption at City Hall. 

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LA WATCHDOG--The impact of the coronavirus on the City’s already precarious finances has yet to be determined, but there is little doubt that it will cause a materially change in the City’s budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2020.

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LA WATCHDOG--“One day, hopefully, sooner or later, we’ll knock down the new coronavirus that’s got people rattled.  But there is no vaccine for the virus that infects City Hall.”  Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2020 

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LA WATCHDOG--On Monday, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced that he is running for Mayor and creating a fund-raising committee even though the March 2022 primary is two years away. 

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REVIEW--Over the next month, CityWatch will run a series of articles on the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (“LACERS”), a $17.7 billion fund created in 1937 to prefund pension and post-retirement medical benefits for the City’s current and retired civilian employees.

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LA WATCHDOG--In November of 2018, 56% of the City’s voters rejected Charter Amendment B that would have allowed the City to establish a municipal bank despite the measure being endorsed by 170 organizations and members of the political establishment, including Mayor Eric Garcetti and 12 members of the City Council, including then City Council President Herb Wesson, the prime mover of this ballot measure. 

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LA WATCHDOG--“Any unanticipated economic stress in the future would put L.A. in a far more precarious financial situation.” Ron Galperin, March 2, 2020, Revenue Finance Report

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LA WATCHDOG--“When Garcetti became mayor in 2013, he pledged to get “back to basics.” There should be nothing more basic than balancing the budget.” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2019 

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LA WATCHDOG--We are being “bloomberged” by the educational-industrial complex that is spending an estimated $10 million (if not more) to convince us to vote for Super Tuesday’s Proposition 13, the $15 billion bond measure to fund the repair, modernization, and construction of facilities for K-12 schools, preschools, community colleges, and universities. But Super Tuesday’s Proposition 13 is not in our best interests. 

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LA WATCHDOG--There are rumors emanating from the Mayor’s office and the Los Angeles City Council that they are considering placing on the ballot a new tax or bond measure to finance the City’s homeless initiatives, now that the $1.2 billion in Measure HHH funds has been fully allocated. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti launched LA’s “Decade of Action” to fight the climate crisis by issuing a 2,600 word Executive Directive, “LA’s Green New Deal: Leading by Example,” where he “laid out his vision for a carbon neutral Los Angeles and a firm commitment for environmental justice and equity.” 

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LA WATCHDOG--While it is not easy to say no to State’s nine million public school and higher education students, it is easy to say no to the educational-industrial complex that is expected to spend over $10 million to buy our approval of a ballot measure authorizing the issuance of $15 billion of general obligation bonds.  

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LA WATCHDOG--While most of the attention on Super Tuesday (March 3) will be on the Democratic Presidential candidates, there are three “down ballot” races that will have a direct impact on the lives of the residents of both the City and County of Los Angeles. 

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LA WATCHDOG--“At the heart of LA politics is a hardened political operation fueled by an elaborate pay-to-play system where businesses and developers pay money to get their projects approved by the city.  The way the Garcetti machine operates often looks like Tammany Hall in Ray-Bans: sleek, stylish, and sophisticated, but at its root it’s a machine that leverages power for money.” 

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LA WATCHDOG-Jan Perry has literally earned our votes for Supervisor because her successful efforts to increase the transparency and accountability of the Department of Water and Power that resulted in savings of hundreds of millions of dollars for Ratepayers. 

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LA WATCHDOG--The following letter of January 13, 2020 to Mayor Eric Garcetti from Dan Schnur outlines his preliminary findings on establishing an Office of Inspector General for the Department of Water and Power. 

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LA WATCHDOG--At her first meeting as President of the Los Angeles City Council, Nury Martinez discussed her Families First agenda that is based in no small part to her experiences as the daughter of hard working immigrants from the Free and Sovereign State of Zacatecas who valued family, education, and a better life for their children. 

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LA WATCHDOG--In a September 27th op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times, Harold Meyerson called for “a new legal order that again breaks big money’s hold on the way we make laws.” 

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LA WATCHDOG--County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and former State Senator Kevin de Leon are candidates for separate seats on the Los Angeles City Council.  Both are interested in succeeding Eric Garcetti as the Mayor of Los Angeles.

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