LA NOT READY FOR A SERIOUS SKID ROW CONVERSATION--While families across America come together this holiday season to spend quality time with one other, there are many who also choose to “give back” to the less fortunate. 

Every year since 2007, I have been in Skid Row on Sundays, but holidays are the worst time for the accumulation trash, debris and whatever remains from all the food that is handed out. It all ends up on Skid Row’s streets, especially near the missions. 

With many City workers off for the holidays, all of that trash builds up. One cannot help but wonder, where are all the trash cans? And, why doesn’t the City distribute additional trash cans before employees go home for the holidays? 

While these questions are valid, I couldn’t help but ponder a bit longer than normal about all the connected topics associated with trash in Skid Row. 

This has ultimately led to my realizing what the number one least-asked question in Skid Row is. 

My thought pattern goes something like this: trash and debris…leads to germs and bacteria…which leads to urine and feces…  Wait, I forgot to ask the question: 

Drumroll please… The number one least-asked question related to homelessness in Skid Row is: “Where do homeless folks wash their hands?” Boom! 

Years ago, the LAPD insisted on removing all the port-a-potties from Skid Row due to all the drug-related crime and prostitution occurring constantly in them. 

Instead, super-expensive Automatic Public Toilets (APT’s) were installed – FIVE for the entire 50-block Skid Row community. But there are so many moving parts in these self-cleaning restrooms that, combined with the 24-hour constant usage, the APT’s often are out-of-service -- even though they are serviced by contracted maintenance crews 3-5 times per day. 

Only one of the missions remains open for 24-hours. This means there are extremely limited restroom options in an area with a reported 10,000 to 15,000 residents, and of those, 2,000 to 3,000 are homeless folks sleeping on Skid Row streets.  

All of this means that homeless folks and residents living in missions or low-income housing who travel several blocks from home have to “get creative” when they have to use the restroom. 

In 2012, the City of Los Angeles was cited by the LA County Health Department for three violations, one of which was for a high concentration of urine and feces all over Skid Row. 

Going back to the “number one least-asked question,” even when homeless folks relieve themselves, whether it be in an alley or behind a car, where would they be able to wash their hands? 

People outside of Skid Row don’t even realize that a person living in low-income housing (in this case an SRO) who happens to be receiving GR (General Relief) only receive $221 a month; sometimes they don’t have money at the end of the month to by a bar of soap. This means there are even residents who have access to bathrooms who can’t wash their hands in a sanitary manner. 

With El Nino fast-approaching, along with the germs and bacteria that will travel with it, a much-needed holiday gift would be bars of soap and hand sanitizers. 

It would help tremendously if a responsible person or team could walk around pouring bleach into all the nooks and crannies where homeless people relieve themselves. (I say this holding my nostrils closed just thinking about some of the smells “passing” in the air. Pun intended.) 

Maybe Santa could drop off his elves for a few months before next year’s holiday season so they would be tasked with BPD (Bleach-Pouring Duties). 

I don’t think Los Angeles is ready to have serious conversation about everyday living in Skid Row. In February, 2016, both the City and the County of LA plan to release comprehensive strategic plans on homelessness. But I can almost guarantee that funding for hand sanitizer, soap or bleach will not be anywhere in these two separate documents. 

And by the way, why will there be two different strategic plans released the same time anyway? But that’s a whole different article for a later time. 

Right now, though, it must be made public as to just how easily germs and bacteria can spread in Skid Row. Since it is winter time, it won’t be considered offensive if volunteers wear gloves when passing out food, blankets or whatever. 

Fist bumps instead of handshakes are a must…anyway, it makes people seem cool. Even volunteers should carry hand sanitizer in their pockets and/or purses. 

While we appreciate it if you want to “give back,” there are many more realistic complexities that all should be aware of. 

Instead of “walking to end homelessness,” how about pouring some bleach to end undesirable smells? It’s a more realistic way to help. 

I hope Angelenos appreciate what a luxury it is to have a place to wash their hands and soap to wash them with. 

Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us in Skid Row!

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

 CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015

NO ONE’S LISTENING--Since October, residents of Porter Ranch California have been exposed to dangerous contaminants from a massive natural gas leak that continues to seep into the air, causing a catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen since the 2010 BP oil spill.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

Southern California Gas Co., or SoCalGas, has essentially ignored the impact to victims and its actions have instead added to their suffering. The company has refused to release air quality data that could be used to protect its residents, it has made relocation very difficult, and it has forged ahead with plans to expand its facility before the leak has even been contained.

The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated. Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground, and it shows no sign of stopping. As the pressure from weight on top of the pipe causes the gas to diffuse, it only continues to dissipate across a wider and wider area. According to tests conducted in November by the California Air Resources Board, the leak is spewing 50,000 kilograms of gas per hour — the equivalent to the strength of a volcanic eruption.

At this rate, in just one month, the leak will have accounted for one-quarter of the total estimated methane emissions in the state of California.

So it is no surprise that residents here feel sick. While I can escape to my home to recover from my symptoms, this community wakes up to conditions that cause vomiting, nosebleeds and serious respiratory issues daily. And no one really knows the potential long-term side effects of benzene and radon, the carcinogens that are commonly found in natural gas.

This dangerous environment is why the Los Angeles Unified School District unanimously voted last week to close two Porter Ranch schools and relocate their nearly 1,900 students and staff to protect their safety.  

SoCalGas’ response to this disaster is almost as alarming as the impact on the community.

The company has offered some assistance in relocating residents in the affected area, but those efforts are woefully inadequate. People have been told they have to wait, they are 300th in line and that they will not be able to relocate before Christmas. Many residents simply cannot afford pay for a hotel or apartment while continuing to cover home costs. SoCalGas does not even know exactly how long it will take to fix the leak, but the company’s CEO has said it will be at least another three to four months. Curiously, despite this admission, SoCalGas is only offering three months of relocation to those fortunate enough to receive a return call. 

The company has also refused to release the data from air quality monitoring it has conducted in the community, despite numerous requests from the public. The company is withholding vital information about the exact composition of the air — information that is critical for the thousands of residents who want to understand why they are so sick. That is why I have been out in the community distributing canisters that we hope will provide an independent verification of the toxicity in the air. 

And while Porter Ranch continues to suffer, SoCalGas is moving ahead with a project to expand the Aliso Canyon facility, even though the company still has no idea how the gas leak there started and is unsure of how to fix it. The company hasn’t even established any risk management or emergency response plans in the event of another leak. 

That is why I am working with the law firm Weitz and Luxenberg to seek justice for Porter Ranch and hold SoCalGas accountable for the physical and emotional damage they have caused, and to ensure that something like this never happens again. This community should not have to wait any longer to receive the justice and fair treatment it deserves.

The situation Porter Ranch residents are facing today is unacceptable. It is time for SoCalGas to acknowledge this fact, gather whatever resources are necessary to help every resident now, and provide answers about the health impacts to residents who have suffered for too long.

(Erin Brockovich is a renowned consumer advocate who works to help Americans everyday on multiple fronts. Her comments were posted first at Common Dreams.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--If you are following debates over growth and density in Los Angeles, I strongly recommend you watch the new film, The Big Short.   Without giving away too much of the plot, it is about several financial analysts who saw through the bombast that lead to the mortgage-based real estate bubble that nearly devastated the global economy in 2008-09.   

The only thing that stopped that Great Recession from turning into another Great Depression was the United States government bail out of the banks.  According to Bloomberg News, it took $13 trillion dollars of public dollars to stem the red ink that flowed from sub-prime mortgages into the entire financial system.  

Now, less than a decade later, the cheerleaders of another real estate bubble are ushering in Act II.  As recently presented in City Watch (“If you want LA to continue Living in the Past, then the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is for You”), we are once more being treated to the preposterous argument that unrestrained real estate speculation is an urban miracle cure.  It represents the present rather than the past.  It eliminates the cause of high priced housing: planning and zoning regulations.  It allows for vertical growth rather than horizontal sprawl.   It creates jobs.  It promotes transit ridership.  And on and on.   

So, let us actually look at Los Angeles to evaluate several of these often repeated claims for their “truthiness.” 

Dishing out planning and zoning exceptions to super-sized projects allows us to be modern, to no longer be stuck in the past.   Really?  If we have learned anything from the recently concluded Paris climate summit, it is that modernity means dealing with climate change, not thumbing our nose at it through zoning approvals that allow mega-project after mega-project to proceed despite their unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases.  

Yes, the claims that high rise, mixed use projects in Hollywood and elsewhere are “green” (i.e., low carbon footprints) is belied by their Environmental Impact Reports.  Like the Hollywood Community Plan -- overturned by Superior Court Judge Alan Goodman -- all of the mega-projects’ Draft Environmental Impact Reports reveal that these projects will generate unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases.  Why?  Because they are automobile-oriented.   These buildings are only transit-adjacent, which does not, in any way, make them transit-oriented.   

They all have large parking structures to serve the needs of their well-heeled, car-loving tenants and condo-owners.  These tenants are, in fact, the least likely demographic group to use transit, even though many of these proposed and/or approve projects are close to METRO Red Line stations.  If these projects contained significant numbers of affordable units, they could eventually become transit-oriented developments because those tenants are more likely to use transit.  But, in LA this is not happening because the City Council long ago rejected inclusionary zoning provisions that would have mandated approximately 20 percent affordable units in all new apartment projects. 

In addition, the Hollywood area and other potential transit-oriented areas, such Korea Town and the Miracle Mile, suffer from two more deficits never mentioned by the groupies of real estate speculation.  Enthralled at appearing “modern,” these hucksters overlook the obvious.  Los Angeles does NOT have a dense mass transit system, nor does it have dense local services. 

Dense housing needs a dense transit system for local residents to regularly take transit.  This is why cities like New York, with its transit-oriented built environment, generate such high levels of transit ridership.  That city’s subway system, augmented by busses, has an astounding number of alternative origins and destinations.  In contrast, Hollywood residents only have a few Red and Purple Line destinations:  NoHo, Universal Studios, Koreatown, and some parts of downtown Los Angeles.  Many busy Los Angeles destinations will not be mass transit accessible for many decades – if ever -- such the Sunset Strip, downtown Beverly Hills, Westwood, Veterans Administration, UCLA, USC, Century City, Venice, and much of Santa Monica, to cite just a few popular destinations. 

Dense housing also needs dense public infrastructure and public services to effectively dislodge those who can afford to drive cars out of their vehicle.  As again demonstrated by New York City, a city needs wide, well maintained, ADA-compliant, sidewalks covered by trees and free of overhead wires and billboards, for residential density to achieve its intended low carbon goal.   

In the same vein, transit-oriented communities also need well-serviced local parks, schools, community gardens, and libraries.  Finally, these communities also need a full array of nearby private services, including restaurants and bars, dry cleaners, medical offices, grocery stores, drug stores, hardware stores, and clothing stores. 

When the Los Angeles neighborhoods targeted by investors for high density, such as Hollywood and Koreatown, provide these amenities, then the anticipated benefits of large, tall, mixed-use buildings could eventually appear.  Until then, however, to approve and then build these enormous structures is an invitation to failure.  The reason that the boosters overlook this is not quite a mystery though.  Like the commercial enterprises they shill for, their focus is short-term.  Once the Council dishes out the zoning and planning entitlements they need, and the buildings they ballyhoo are built, they are on to their next commercial project.   Their approach is antithetical to long-term planning, which is why real estate speculators and their supporters view planning as a barrier, not a manual for crafting a much-improved Los Angeles. 

Mega-projects help solve LA’s housing crisis by channeling billions of private investment into local real estate projects.  If this claim were true, Los Angeles would already be far better off, but it isn’t.  Building expensive homes and apartments does not increase the supply of affordable housing.  There is no linkage between these two real estate markets.  An analogy told to me by one correspondent explains this simply and straightforwardly:  building lots of Ferraris does reduce the cost of Hondas.  

Furthermore, the actual situation is much worse because new luxury housing often replaces affordable houses that are quickly bulldozed out of way – often illegally -- to assemble building sites.   For example, the Department of Building and Safety issues at least 2000 demolition permits per year for single-family houses.  They are almost all smaller, older “starter houses.”  When the wreckers leave, these new building pads quickly sprout over-sized houses that cost three times as much as the ones they replaced.  

The job creation myth.  Nearly every Statement of Overriding Considerations issued by the City Planning Commission and City Council cites job creation as the rational for ignoring the generation of unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases.  In these cases, though, talk is cheap because these decision makers never require a monitoring program to determine if the perpetually promised jobs actually appear.   Similarly, they never revoke zoning and planning approvals when the promised jobs do not materialize. 

While it is theoretically possible that some of the mega-projects will generate significant numbers of jobs, it is highly unlikely.  The free market approach to job creation has already failed miserably in Los Angeles.  While the Los Angeles area has had moderate population growth since 1990, job creation has been stagnant.  In fact, according to KPCC, there has been no change in the number of local jobs in over 25 years.   

Other CityWatch writers will undoubtedly debunk the alleged benefits of large commercial projects in Los Angeles requiring special zoning and planning exemptions.  I trust, though, that presenting the facts regarding the myths of modernity, construction of affordable housing, and employment is enough to take the wind out of the boosters’ sails and encourage wide support for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.  

 

(Dick Platkin is a retired LA City planner who writes on planning issues for CityWatch.  He welcomes comments, corrections, and questions at rhplatkin@gmail.com. )

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015


CAL WATCHDOG-Public employees at California cities and counties took home more than $36 billion in compensation last year, according to new payroll data released by the state’s chief fiscal officer. 

State Controller Betty T. Yee disclosed the 2014 payroll data from 54 counties and 468 cities, which included information on more than 600,000 employees. The disclosure is part of the controller’s latest update to the “Government Compensation in California” website. 

The open government online portal allows users to map compensation levels throughout the state, assemble charts, evaluate payroll trends and export data for in-depth statistical analysis. 

Vernon: Smallest City, Biggest Pay 

The state controller’s public employee payroll website has become a powerful tool for journalists and citizen watchdogs to identify wasteful spending and corruption in local government. 

Among the municipalities with questionable payroll data from 2014: the city of Vernon. Although it is the least populous city in California, with just 123 residents, Vernon has double number of employees. And those employees earn $103,601 per year in salary — the highest average salary in the state. Vernon employees also take home, on average, another $32,462 per year in health and retirement benefits. 

Vernon’s top salary is followed by the city of Hayward with $94,041 average salary, and Palm Desert at $89,582 in average salary. The state controller’s office notes that the average wages for city governments overall fell by 3 percent to $59,614. 

In 2014, the average salary for county employees increased by approximately 3 percent to $60,993. At the county level, the nearly 19,000 employees at Santa Clara County received the highest average wage, earning $78,486 per year in wages and $27,655 in retirement and health benefits.

Nine Local Governments Fail to Disclose Data

The controller’s office classified six cities as non-compliant entities for having “filed a compensation report that was incomplete, was in a format different than the one requested by the Controller’s Office, or was submitted after the reporting deadline.” San Francisco, the largest non-compliant entity joined the cities of Bell, Compton, Covina, Dana Point and Santa Ana on the list of non-compliant entities.

The counties of Modoc, Monterey and Riverside were the three counties, or 5.3 percent, that failed to file.

The city and county of Los Angeles remain the largest local government agencies. Los Angeles County employs 103,338 people with a cumulative wage of $7.2 billion in annual salary and $2.76 billion in health and retirement benefits. The city of Los Angeles paid out $4.5 billion in wages and $703 million in health and retirement benefits.

Yee’s latest disclosure builds on the work of her predecessor. In 2010, following the high-profile corruption case at the city of Bell, then-Controller John Chiang didn’t wait around for local governments to clean up their act. He ordered cities, counties and special districts, under Government Code sections 12463 and 53892, to share salary and other wage information with his office. Initially, some local governments balked, then dragged their feet in disclosing the payroll data.

To access State Controller Betty Yee’s payroll database, go to publicpay.ca.gov

Top 10 Highest County Employees in California

1. Faculty Physician-Contract: $1,360,744
Kern County

2. Faculty Physician-Contract: $1,295,929
Kern County

3. Orthopedic Surgeon-Contract: $1,092,651
Kern County

4. Chairman, Department of Surgery: $851,665
Kern County

5. Medical Director II: $775,999
Los Angeles County

6. Physician – VMC: $760,461
Santa Clara County

7. Chief Physician III Surgery-Neurological: $728,489
Los Angeles County

8. Physician: $727,864
San Joaquin County

9. Physician – VMC: $684,365
Santa Clara County

10. Physician – VMC: $658,745
Santa Clara County

Top 10 Highest City Employees in California

1. Police Sergeant: $592,652
City of Burbank

2. Fire Chief: $487,871
City of Richmond

3. Chief of Police: $487,644
City of El Monte

4. City Manager: $470,249
City of Lincoln

5. City Manager: $419,840
City of West Covina

6. City Attorney: $412,211
City of Escondido

7. Power Engineering Manager: $403,271
City of Los Angeles

8. Assistant City Manager: $396,548
City of Oxnard

9. City Manager: $395,501
City of Escondido

10. Police Officer (PERS): $393,573
City of Oakland

(John Hrabe is an investigative journalist, freelance writer and communications strategist with a decade of experience managing media outreach for local, state and federal political campaigns, public relations clients, and new media start-ups. This piece was posted first at CalWatchDog.comEdited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015

COUNTERPOINT--I have been trying very hard not to weigh in on Dick Platkin's latest “Mansionization Crusade”  to limit our ability to build a modern home in Los Angeles. I spent 7-plus  years defending my neighborhood against his misguided mission to prevent the building of homes with attached garages or any other architectural features that don't conform to his vision of a proper home … and I'm tired. 

But in his last CityWatch article (“Mansionization at a Crossroads...”), he said something that should make sense to anyone who does want to engage in this battle. Make your voice heard!   

Talk to your neighbors. Sign Petitions. Talk to reporters if you can. Make appointments with your Councilman and speak to him, not one of his aids. Attend hearings. Write letters to your Councilman, the Mayor, the Planning Department. And if possible, talk to any political movers and shakers you might know or your neighbors might know that might have influence with the politicos.  Motivate your neighbors to do the same. 

Because in the end, this is a political fight and the deck is stacked against you. It doesn't really matter what you want. It only matters what your Councilman wants... or in this case, the entire City Council. And if they want to change the Mansionization Ordinance and severely limit what kind of home you can build, it will most certainly happen. 

If the changes Mr. Platkin proposes were just for his District, this would be a done deal because Councilman Paul Koretz is already “on board” and, like every other Councilman, Koretz is pretty much emperor of his own district. No Councilman would dare oppose another Councilman's control over his individual district without risking interference with his own district's management … at least that is what I believe. 

And don't depend on the Planning Department to do anything more than give the Council what they want. I know. In my district, we handed Paul Koretz and the Planning Department signed statements from the majority of property owners in the neighborhood opposing proposed zoning changes … but Koretz wanted the changes … so we were ignored and the zoning changes took place. 

There is only one way you can stop the proposed zoning changes. And that is to create enough political noise to make the politicians think twice; to make them wary of political fallout. Not an easy task when our representatives are typically deaf to anyone who is not a threat to their political image. But if enough people scream; if you can get the support of the right people; if you can get enough public visibility to make the City Council nervous … then maybe you have a chance. 

The sad truth is that the proposed zoning changes will do nothing to enhance the quality of life in our city. If Dick Platkin and his ilk really cared about Los Angeles, they would stop trying to impose their idea of a proper single family home on their neighbors and start fighting all the new condominiums, apartments, and hotels that are being built with little or no concern for the impact on neighborhoods or the city at large. 

Each one of these projects bring with them 300 families and 600 cars to one location and nobody seems to link that fact to our congested streets, horrendous freeway traffic, growing air pollution, and inadequate and overly expensive parking … not to mention the challenge of providing city services like water, gas, power, schools, etc. 

Yes, we have real problems in this city. Our leaders don't seem to be able to see beyond their term of office. They have no density plan whatsoever. How many people per square mile is reasonable? That question is not even on their radar. It seems to me we are building New York City West minus the subway. OK … maybe we are trying to build some mass transit, but do we really want to be like New York!? Not me! 

For the record, I have lived in Los Angeles and my neighborhood for almost 70 years. I live in a small home and have no ambitions (or money) to build a modern home. But I recognize that today's families need more space than most old homes can provide. Given today's economy, it is not uncommon to have more than one generation living together and sometimes even three (Parents, children, and grandparents). 

It is irresponsible and heartless to prevent families from building or expanding their homes to meet their needs.

 

(Charles Tarlow  is a Los Angeles homeowner, has served on a neighborhood council board and can be reached at: stillchugn@yahoo.com

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015

 

 

SERVICE REPORT CARD--Got a gripe about street maintenance or trash pickup?  Graffiti or storm drains? Want to express your admiration for our local fire or police services?  Animal services or libraries? Had a particularly good or bad experience with another local city service this year?

The City of Los Angeles Budget Advocates have created a comprehensive survey for Angelenos across the city to weigh in on a wide variety of city services, which will help them with budget planning for the coming year.  The survey gives you a chance to let the city know what’s working for you and what isn’t.  Please take a few minutes to fill it out and add your voice to the planning process.  The deadline for responses is January 15. Everyone is invited to contribute.

 

 

  

Take the Survey in English  

Take the Survey in Español

 

(Elizabeth Fuller is the co-owner/publisher of the Larchmont Buzz.

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015

EASTSIDER-Over the holidays is a great time for politicians to announce things that would normally get greater scrutiny during the year. After all, everyone is making family get together plans, traveling, and/or hiding from year end duties. In that context, along comes a Report from the City Controller with the spiffy name “Disposition of City’s Surplus or Obsolete Items and Equipment” and I lick my chops because I just know that there’s going to be some real gems buried within. 

The Controller’s audit report does not disappoint. The headlines in it say that the City isn’t monitoring its fleet vehicle system, and is spending more money than many of the vehicles are worth in maintenance. For cars there is a photo of a Civic Hybrid that cost $24,000 (new) but they have spent $44,000 to maintain and repair it. On the big iron Street Sweeper side, there’s a photo of one that cost $232,000 to buy -- but another $360,000 to maintain. 

Buried in the document, however, is a story that really interests me: back in 2011, Tony V’s City was broke due to the Mayor and the Council’s incompetent fiscal policies. They were desperate to make the budget look balanced. So, through a series of cuts, early retirements, and shifting employees to DWP and the like, they cooked the books enough to get a bond measure through and stay “solvent.” 

One of the brilliant ideas the Council had was to disband the General Services Department’s Salvage Section -- the folks who monitored the disposCWal of the City’s surplus and/or obsolete items. So guess what happened? Not much, and that’s the essential finding of how and why the City has no real system and has lost a bunch of money. Gee. 

The audit misses a fundamental understanding of how and why LA City’s bureaucracy operates the way it does, and the implications therein. At the top of the food chain are the elected officials, who, by current definition, make political decisions regarding oversight of the City. They do not make business decisions, unless you count getting developers, billboard companies, and the like to make campaign contributions to their coffers. 

I point this out to explain the impact of the City Council’s actions as they axed or crippled, year after year, every request by City Departments for vehicle replacement – and abandoned all oversight. 

So when these half-baked mandates trickle down to the troops, there is one lesson that almost every vested City employee has learned well:  as long as you “go along to get along” and don’t make waves, you will have a fine future and a pension with the City of Los Angeles. On the other hand, if you make waves, take risks, or (god forbid) make the elected officials look bad, your life will be very unpleasant indeed. 

Consequently, no one said anything

Looking at the guts of the audit, there are two fundamental lessons to be learned. First, over 80% of the money we are talking about comes from cars -- vehicle fleet maintenance, which represents 83% of all auction income, to be exact.  

Second, outside of vehicles, no one department or agency has responsibility or understanding of exactly what, if any, policy the City has regarding the sale or disposal of obsolete property. Thus it is hard to quantify the rest of the items discussed in the audit; they aren’t even tracked internally, or if they are, it’s by happenstance. 

For example, electronic equipment has its own website (CitiMAX) which almost no one uses. Most of the stuff that gets donated through it (surprise) is because of City Council requests, and even then, the amount of paperwork involving formal Council action is not cost effective. 

I am personally aware of this and remember well when the Glassell Park NC tried to get the City to cough up a computer for our use. No deal. And when the NC used its own funds to buy one, we had to comply with all the CitiMAX requirements of inventory, serial numbers and other information and justification. And now we know all this data went nowhere. So, well done, DONE, BONC and Council offices – thanks a lot. 

If there is a single takeaway moment in the report, for me it is the following: the auditor complained that, as they tried to obtain data, they were reduced to looking at individual employees’ Excel spreadsheets that didn’t even have a common template. Clearly, the Mayor’s “World Class City” is an emperor without clothes. 

The final report has a six point series of recommendations that require action by the Council and City Departments, although there is no reason to believe those points will survive the City Council budget process. For a copy of the full report, click here

For those of you with a mathematical bent, Pareto’s Principle is alive and well – 80% of the dollars comes from about 20% of the stuff. In line with this concept, I propose a variation on this idea -- two simple recommendations that would fix 80% of the problems identified in the audit: 

1) Reconstitute the Salvage Unit, staff it with competent people, give them citywide authority and responsibility. 

2) Hire a couple of “freelance” thirty-somethings or their equivalent (that is, no regular full-time employment), pay them enough to cover wages and benefits, then have them develop a simple, web based, data management system for centralizing everything that needs to be kept track of. Then make everybody use it. 

This would be simple and quick with a provable return on investment model. I suggest this be done immediately because, given their mind set, City Council is likely to come up with some stupid major IT project that they would then bid out to the usual “big name/bad result” corporate consultants…who contribute to their campaigns. 

Stay tuned...

 

(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.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015

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