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24
Sun, Jan

LA WATCHDOG--San Francisco based Carmel Partners, a multibillion dollar private equity firm, has “agreed to pay $1.2 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation that focused on the Company’s relationship with former Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, who voted to approve its 35-story project” located at 520 Mateo Avenue in the low rise Arts District, just west of the railyards and the Los Angeles River, at the entrance to the iconic 4th Street Bridge. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Our Department of Water and Power will be hosting a series of virtual community meetings this week to discuss LA 100, its plan to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2045, and the updating of the Urban Water Management Plan (“UWMP”) and its goal to increase local supplies. 

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LA WATCHDOG-On March 27, former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander agreed to plead guilty to one count of scheming to falsify material facts.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 25. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, federal probation officials are recommending three years of probation, a $9,500 fine, and no jail time or community service.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office is pushing for 24 months in jail, 300 hours of community service, and a $45,000 fine.  

Englander deserves the max: three years in the clink and a $250,000 fine.  He has violated the public’s trust and disgraced our City.  Now, if he could give up a few of the higher ups in the criminal enterprise known as City Hall, then he would deserve a lighter sentence. 

 

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Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that the City has entered into deals with the Coalition of LA City Unions (representing 18,000 civilian employees) and United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (representing 3,600 members) to defer raises in return for no layoffs and furloughs during the term of the agreements.  The Coalition workers are protected until the end of this fiscal year while the firefighters are protected for two years. 

However, the Mayor and the City have not released any details about these arrangements and the financial implications for the City’s budget over the next two or three years.  More than likely, the City is kicking the can down the road, once again selling out the City to their Partners in Labor, just like they did when they approved budget busting labor agreements in 2019, entered into the Separation Incentive Program in July, and failed to implement the budgeted furlough plan that would have saved $140 million.   

 

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The City is not only facing a $675 million “budget challenge” for this fiscal year that ends on June 30, but must also eliminate $130 million of overspending.  But this is just the beginning because the City is looking at an estimated deficit of over $1 billion next year.  

But next year has not been a topic of conversation with Angelenos.  Why not? Most likely because it will require layoffs and furloughs, an anathema to the City’s Partners in Labor. But what the hell, it only concerns the financial integrity of our City.

 

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And speaking of Mayor Garcetti, he is scheduled to be deposed in February in the sexual harassment lawsuit where Matt Garza, a police officer on Garcetti’s security team, is suing the City for sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.  Garza alleges that a senior Garcetti operative made inappropriate remarks and hugs that were witnessed by Garcetti and that the Mayor joked about the operative’s behavior.  Unfortunately, tickets will not be available, despite the fact that scalpers believe the prices would be in the five figure range. 

 

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On the brighter side, the Assessed Valuation of the City’s property increased to $696 billion, an increase of 6.6%.  This is good news because property taxes represent over one-third of the City’s budgeted revenues and are not overly sensitive to swings in the economy.  Of this increase, about half resulted from the sale or transfer of properties while the inflation adjustment represented about 30%.  One of the benefits of Proposition 13 is that property taxes represent a stable source of revenues, even during downturns in the economy.

 

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Next week, the Department of Water and Power will be hosting meetings on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to discuss its 100% Renewable Energy Study and how the Department will be fossil free by 2045 as mandated by the State.  Unfortunately, there will be no discussion of the impact on rates of this program and the plan to upgrade the distribution system.  The link is www.ladwp.com/CleanEnergyFuture.

 

(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--On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that it entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with San Francisco based Carmel Partners,

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LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is in the midst of a financial crisis because of the impact of Covid-19 on revenues and unsustainable labor agreements.  This will require drastic action, including layoffs, furloughs, and the elimination of some vital services.       

This year, the City is facing a “budget challenge” of $675 million according to the City Administrative Officer’s Second Financial Status Report.  This does not include overspending of over $125 million. 

And for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1, the estimated deficit may well approach $1.25 billion.  This red ink, along will this year’s budget deficit, overspending, and other contingencies, will most likely exceed $2 billion. 

The Mayor and the City Council will have to make tough decisions, but first and foremost, they need to address their own budgets that together total over $110 million.  This does not include the City Council’s less than transparent discretionary slush funds that are estimated to be in the range of $25 million or more a year.  

Unfortunately, it is difficult to analyze the spending and staffing of the Mayor’s office and the City Council because, unlike every other City department, their budget requests are not available to the public. But it is possible to get a partial understanding of their budgets despite the lack of transparency. 

The City Council has a fully loaded budget of $55 million, the bulk of which is for salaries and benefits.  But there appears to be a disconnect between the 60 Council employees listed in the budget and the over 300 people on the Council rosters, or an average of 20 people per Council office. This is no doubt excessive, especially given that many of these employees are political operatives promoting the careers of the Council Member.  

The Mayor has a fully loaded budget of $56 million, the major component of which is $38 million of “other allocations.”  But there are no details on this item that represents about two-thirds of the Garcetti’s budget.  

The other disconnect on the Mayor’s budget is staffing.  The budget lists 94 positions, but the telephone roster shows over 270 names.  Why? 

Both the Mayor and the City Council need to justify their staffing levels by providing us with detailed information about why they are absolutely necessary during this time of crisis.  Until that time, the City Council and the Mayor should cut their budgets and staffs by at least 50% and their handsome salaries by at least a third.  Furthermore, the Mayor and the City Council need to be transparent about the $38 million and $8 million, respectively, in “other allocations.”  Finally, the City Council needs to come clean on its discretionary slush funds and allocate these monies to the General Fund for the benefit of the entire City.  

The Mayor and the City Council will be asking City departments and employees to make sacrifices.  But they need to be the first to endure the cuts and savings and set a good example for the City, its employees, and all Angelenos.

(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--Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council are at odds over how to spend almost $90 million of the $150 million that was reallocated from the Police Department to be reinvested in disadvantaged communities.

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LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is facing a “budget gap” of more than $1 billion for the next fiscal year that commences on July 1, 2021. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Do the members of the Los Angeles City Council deserve to be paid $214,000 a year? 

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LA WATCHDOG--On Thursday, Harbor Gateway real estate developer Samuel Leung pleaded guilty to laundering over $600,000 in campaign contributions to Mayor Eric Garcetti, five members of the Los Angeles City Council, and County Supervisor Janice Hahn. 

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LA WATCHDOG--In 2014, the LA 2020 Commission recommended the establishment of a commission to address the “ballooning” costs related to the City’s two underfunded pension plans, the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (“LACERS”) and the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions (“LAFPP”). 

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LA WATCHDOG--The US Attorney announced the indictment of former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan along with two other real estate developers in connection with the criminal enterprise involving Jose Huizar and the pay-to-play corruption scandal that is enveloping a City Hall that refuses to reform its policies and procedures involving zoning in the City of Los Angeles. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Will he or won’t he go to Washington to be a member of the Biden Cabinet has been the topic of considerable speculation and comment.

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LA WATCHDOG--Despite the fact that Los Angeles is facing a $700 million “budget gap” this year, our cash starved City has managed to blow an estimated $250 million in its effort to overcome union objections to the planned furloughs for 15,000 civilian employees.

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LA WATCHDOG--You can imagine the fun the late night talk show hosts will have if the characters in Los Angeles have to live and work in the dark because of blackouts caused by the lack of renewable power. 

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LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is still looking for a financial bailout from Washington, DC, despite the apparent failure of the Democrats to flip the Senate.

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LA WATCHDOG--“You don’t raise taxes during a recession…. The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of the recession because that would just suck up and take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a further hole.” Barack Obama, 2011 

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LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Nury Martinez led Los Angeles City Council were counting on the voters of California and many other states to bail the City of Los Angeles out of its budget crisis.

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LA WATCHDOG--The outcome of the race for Los Angeles County District Attorney between incumbent Jackie Lacey (photo above) and former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon will have a significant impact on public safety in the County of Los Angeles. 

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LA WATCHDOG--The First Financial Status Report prepared by the City Administrative Officer (“CAO”) estimated that the City’s revenue gap for this fiscal year would be in the range of $400 million to $600 million, up from the previous estimate of $200 million to $400 million.  

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LA WATCHDOG--Would you vote to increase our sales tax by 2½% to 12%? 

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LA WATCHDOG--An elected official’s experience may work in his or her favor as is the case for the incumbent David Ryu in Council District Four. 

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LA WATCHDOG(Political Perspective: Center Right) My primary focus is on the twelve statewide ballot measures as well as the two measures for the County (Measure J) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (Measure RR).

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LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles cannot stay out of the news unless it is engaged in a cover up.     

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LA WATCHDOG--If approved by the voters, Proposition 16 would repeal Proposition 209, a constitutional amendment that was approved by 55% of the voters in 1996.  Proposition 209 stated: 

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LA WATCHDOG-On Friday, September 18, Mayor Eric Garcetti released his Budget Policy and Goals for Fiscal Year 2021-22 to the General Managers of All City Departments (except Water and Power, Harbor, Airports, and the two pension plans).

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LA WATCHDOG--In his recent Update on the Status of City Finances, the City Administrative Officer estimated that “2020-21 revenue could fall short of budget by $200 million to $400 million.” 

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LA WATCHDOG--Authorizes $5.5 billion state bonds for: stem cell and other medical research, including training; research facility construction; administrative costs.

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LA WATCHDOG--On Wednesday, the City Council approved a Declaration of Fiscal Emergency without any discussion. 

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LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, Federal prosecutors dropped the dime on Morrie Goldman, a long time City Hall lobbyist, charging him with one count of “conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud.” 

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LA WATCHDOG--The courts have ruled “use of the public treasury to mount an election campaign which attempts to influence the resolution of issues which our Constitution leaves to the ‘free election’ of the people … presents a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral process.” 

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LA WATCHDOG--When the FBI raided the home and offices of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar on November 7, 2018, the “shocked” City Council sprang into action to address long needed campaign finance reform. 

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LA WATCHDOG-As part of their call for Radical Transparency into the budget and financial affairs of the City of Los Angeles, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates called open and transparent labor negotiations and that any new labor agreement not result in deficits. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Just what we need.  Another controversial measure on the already crowded November ballot that has twelve statewide propositions, many of which are very high profile, and one measure from the County to cut the Sheriff’s budget. 

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LA WATCHDOG--On Thursday, a federal grand jury threw the book on Councilman Jose Huizar, returning a 34-count indictment on “charges that he lead a criminal enterprise where he used his powerful position at City Hall to enrich himself and his close associates, and unlawfully gave favorable treatment to developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit financial benefits.” 

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LA WATCHDOG--Matthew Garza, a 23 year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who served on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Security Detail for over six years, has filed a complaint in Superior Court against the City of Los Angeles in which he alleges sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. 

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LA WATCHDOG--Proposition 15 is an attempt by the state’s public sector unions (along with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) to establish the Split Roll. 

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LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, July 21, the County Board of Supervisors will consider a motion, Reimaging LA County,

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LA WATCHDOG--Californians are the highest taxed people in the country.

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LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and numerous members of the Los Angeles City Council want us to approve the Split Roll by voting yes on Proposition 15. 

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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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