By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU
City News Service
LOS ANGELES - A 13-member citizen panel says in a report released
today that Los Angeles “suffers from a crisis in leadership and direction,”
with little being done to stem high poverty levels, unemployment, traffic
congestion and a litany of other problems.
The Los Angeles 2020 Commission, a panel convened last year by City
Council President Herb Wesson, released a 20-page report entitled “A Time For
Truth” that laments the city is held back by stagnant economic growth,
“failing” schools, low voter turnout, rising city employee retirement costs
and “chronic budget deficits.”
“L.A. is treading water and there is a serious prospect of decline,”
former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, who chairs the panel, said at a
downtown news conference today.
The report starts by pointing to the
40 percent of Angelenos living in
“what can only be called misery,” with 28 percent earning poverty wages and
the rest unemployed. It also points to “chronic budget deficits” that is
preventing the the city government from providing quality public services and
paying the salaries and benefits of its city employees.
The city could face a budget deficit of as much as $267 million in the
2014-15 fiscal year, according to a statement by City Administrative Officer
Miguel Santana that was cited in the report.
The report, which resulted from a series of eight meetings from April to
June, does not suggest any solutions, but the commission plans to submit a
set of recommendations within 90 days.
“Today is just a start” and an effort in getting people to acknowledge
that “a problem exists,” said the commission’s co-chair Austin Beutner, a
former investment banker and staffer in the Los Angeles mayor’s office.
Beutner gave a preview of some of the recommendations today when he said
city government should invest more in technology.
“A well run enterprise today probably should be spending more on
technology and making the staff dollars go further,” he said. “There are
choices to be made and the budget is about choice.”
The report drew tepid response from some city officials, including
Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents a district that covers the Los Angeles
International Airport and the communities of Venice, Mar Vista and West Los
Bonin said the report “kicked around more dirt than it broke ground,”
and while the information was “sobering,” he did not see anything new.
“I think I could have basically gotten the same analysis by asking my
constituents on Facebook” about problems they think the city faces, he said.
“I look forward to the following report that lists the solutions.”
An aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti said Garcetti’s office appreciated the
report and “look forward to the next one.”
The report takes a broad approach to the city’s fiscal crisis by looking
at areas such as the city’s business climate, its school system and
transportation measures, as well as the city budget.
It warns that the number of Fortune 500 companies has shrunk from 12 to
four, while New York City has 43. The city also missed opportunities to
cultivate a bioscience hub as New York did, the report warned.
Los Angeles leaders also lack a “coherent” approach to stimulating the
economy and attracting investment, according to the report.
“In fact, we do an abysmal job of identifying and servicing the
legitimate needs of the employers already located here,” the report said.
A survey indicates that 9 percent of Los Angeles businesses plan to
leave the city due to “stifling regulations and an unresponsive bureaucracy.”
Development at Los Angeles Harbor and city-run airports also fell by the
wayside, the panel warned. While other ports underwent “major
improvements,” the city “bent to the will of special interest groups and
NIMBYism,” the report says.
The report also warns that the local public school system is not
preparing students to “compete in a globalized economy,” with recent studies
finding that fewer than 60 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District
students graduate from high school and only 32 percent students complete
courses that meet admission requirements for University of California and Cal
Local schools are “failing our children and betraying the hopes of
their hardworking parents,” the report said.
Measure R, the 2008 tax hike designed to pay for new rail lines, would
leave traffic essentially unchanged, the report warned.
The report also concluded that the city’s push to have 10,000 police
officers — a benchmark reached by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — is
“not real” because of the way the officers have been deployed in recent