LA 20/20 Commission makes recommendations for budget, jobs

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Los Angeles skyline with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background

Los Angeles skyline with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background (AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Suffering from chronic budget shortfalls and dwindling numbers of jobs, Los Angeles city officials should take steps to improve accountability at City Hall and bolster economic development activity — including combining the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a residents’ panel recommended.

The Los Angeles 2020 Commission, a panel convened last year by City Council President Herb Wesson to come up with budget-balancing ideas for the city, also made recommendations including the creation of a city Office of Transparency and Accountability and establishing an independent oversight and rate-setting body for the Department of Water and Power.

The report, titled “A Time for Action,” proposed the steps in an effort to “put the city on a path to financial stability and renew job creation in Los Angeles.”

“There are no `silver bullets’ or simple solutions to these challenges, but the proposed measures, taken as a whole, are a solid step in the right direction and will provide a foundation for further change,” according to the report. “Change is never easy, but unless Los Angeles embraces a different approach, it will become a city left behind in the 21st Century.”

The report reiterated issues outlined in the panel’s initial report — “A Time for Truth” — released in January. That report said the city suffers from a crisis in leadership and direction, along with high poverty levels, unemployment, traffic congestion and other ills. The report laments that the city is being held back by stagnant economic growth, “failing” schools, low voter turnout, rising city employee retirement costs and “chronic budget deficits.”

Today’s report offered recommendations aimed at addressing those issues.

“We have to start moving in the right direction in order to open the doors of opportunity for all who live in our community,” said commission co- chair Austin Beutner, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor.

The panel proposed the creation of an independent Office of Transparency and Accountability that would be charged with “preparing critical analyses of what goes on in City Hall and how effectively the city is using taxpayer money to provide services.”

It also recommended an oversight body for the DWP to relieve the utility of “political interference” and “high leadership turnover.”

“We need a system that works for both the ratepayer and DWP’s long-term best interests, independent from politics,” according to the report.

The panel also said there needs to be more regional collaboration to generate jobs, most notably by combining the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“All too often the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach issue press releases boasting of new customers — one only has to study the details to understand these customers are just switching from L.A. to Long Beach or vice versa and not bringing new jobs to the region,” according to the report. “And with the ongoing widening of the Panama Canal, maritime trade is about to get a lot more complex — and competitive. We should be competing with ports in other regions, not with each other.”

The report also recommended holding municipal elections at the same time as state and federal elections to boost turnout, adopting a “truth in budgeting” ordinance requiring three-year budgets and baseline budgets, establishing a commission to review the city retirement obligations and establishing a regional tourism authority.

Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor chairs the commission, with co-chair Beutner. Other members are former Gov. Gray Davis; former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis; Brian D’Arcy, who heads the IBEW Local 18, the Department of Water and Power workers union; David Fleming, an attorney at Latham & Watkins and a board member on the Southern California Metropolitan Water District; Tyler Izen, president of the city’s police union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League; Thomas S. Sayles, senior vice president for university relations at USC and president of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners; Kathay Feng, director of California Common Cause, a nonprofit group active in elections and redistricting; Antonia Hernandez, president of the California Community Foundation, a nonprofit serving underserved communities and former president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council; and George L. Pla, president of civil engineering firm Cordoba Corp.

 

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