LA WATCHDOG--The Los Angeles Unified School District is closed for business because United Teachers Los Angeles and its over 30,000 members are striking for higher wages, fully staffed schools, and the curtailment, if not the elimination, of charter and magnet schools.
But cash strapped LAUSD cannot afford the $800 million demanded by UTLA because it has a $500 million a year Structural Deficit and dwindling reserves. The County and State are in the wings, threatening to take over the District.
The FBI has raided the office and house of Councilman Jose Huizar, the chair of the powerful Planning and Land Management Committee, further eroding Angelenos trust in the Mayor and the City Council.
Federal investigators have also obtained a search warrant to obtain information on Councilman Curren Price, Deron Williams, the chief of staff for City Council President Herb Wesson (photo left), Ray Chan, a former Deputy Mayor under Garcetti, and current and former City Hall staffers. Also named are several Chinese real estate developers with large projects in DTLA. The search warrant mentions numerous possible violations, including conspiracy, bribery and kickbacks, extortion, and money laundering.
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee continues to approve numerous high density, congestion causing projects for campaign funding developers. This includes Crossroads of the World, an oversized, out of character, high rise development in the middle of Hollywood that will displace hundreds of low-income residents and result in a gift of over $200 million for the Harridge Development Group and the owner of the underlying land, the overly generous Milton La Kretz. Our cash strapped City receives very little in return.
While the City has declared war on homelessness, it has made very little progress in developing permanent supportive housing despite voter approval of a $1.2 billion bond measure two years ago. It takes three to five years to complete a project at a cost that exceeds $450,000, close to the average cost of a house. In the meantime, there have been outbreaks of hepatitis A and typhus in Skid Row.
The City’s budget for this year is already $50-$100 million in the red, but no solutions.
The City has failed to reach an agreement with the City’s civilian workers whose contract expired on June 30.
The City also has a Structural Deficit of over $1 billion a year when considering employee raises, the repair and maintenance of our streets, the financing of an adequate Reserve Fund, and the necessary contributions to the City’s two underfunded pension plans. This threatens the City’s very existence and its ability to deliver even basic services.
With all the spaghetti and meatballs hitting the fan, why is Mayor Eric Garcetti MIA?
Very simply, Garcetti has placed his personal political ambitions above his duties to the citizens of Los Angeles as he has been prancing around the country promoting his presidential pedigree instead of minding the store.
He has failed to address the City’s financial issues, including an unbalanced budget, a Structural Deficit, and the two seriously underfunded pension plans. His administration has not developed a plan to repair and maintain our streets. And he has failed to expedite the development of permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
Despite previous pledges to improve education, he has stayed clear of LAUSD, unlike Mayor Villaraigosa who had the courage to take on the Board of Education and UTLA. Now, Eric is tip toeing around the strike, hoping that he can gain political points without risking his political capital.
But ducking the issue of pay-to-play corruption that has occurred on his watch will be difficult, especially since he has been an elected official since 2001.
Between the distraction of running for President, the inability and unwillingness to address the City’s financial, labor, and infrastructure issues, and the real possibility of systematic corruption., Garcetti should seriously consider resigning as the Mayor of Los Angeles.
(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: firstname.lastname@example.org.)