Los Angeles Yearender-City Hall

12/30/2013 1:11 pm0 commentsViews: 6

Yearender-City Hall
By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – It was a year of transitions at Los Angeles City
Hall in 2013, highlighted by a pair of major elections that saw seven new City
Council members take office and a councilman move into the mayor’s chair.
Voters also rejected Proposition A, which would have raised the city
sales tax by a half-cent, and approved Proposition D, which bans new medical
marijuana dispensaries and pares the hundreds of pot shops in Los Angeles down
to the 135 that were registered prior to a Sept. 14, 2007, cut-off.
The beginning of the year saw dozens of candidates in the thick of
campaigning for the positions of mayor, city attorney and controller, as well
as seats on the City Council. Independent campaign spending reached $5.1
million — an all-time high — and candidates themselves spent upwards of $28
million by the time voters went to the polls for the March primary.
Ultimately, a total of $58.7 million was spent by candidates and
independent groups in 2013. Even with all of that activity, only 20.8 percent
of voters cast ballots in the March primary and 23.3 percent in the May general
election.
The Angelenos who did vote whittled an initial field of five major
candidates vying to lead City Hall as mayor down to City Controller Wendy
Greuel and Hollywood-area City Councilman Eric Garcetti.
Voters eventually chose Garcetti, who prevailed in a close May runoff
with Greuel to replace Antonio Villaraigosa, who left office at the end of June
after completing two four-year terms as mayor.
Just prior to leaving, Villaraigosa squeezed in one last out-of-town
trip to China and received kudos from former Vice President Al Gore for pushing
the Department of Water and Power to begin ending the city’s reliance on coal
power by 2025.
Los Angeles voters this year also seated seven new council members, of
whom four — Gil Cedillo, Curren Price Jr., Bob Blumenfield, Felipe Fuentes –
are alumni of the state Legislature, with the rest veterans of City Hall
politics. Voters also booted City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, replacing him with
former Assemblyman Mike Feuer, and voted in political “outsider” Ron Galperin
as city controller.
With the changes at the top came shakeups in leadership throughout City
Hall. Two weeks into office, Garcetti called in the city’s more than 30
department chiefs to inform them they must re-apply for their jobs and that not
all of them would be asked back.
Six department heads had announced their retirements or resignations by
the end of the year. Fire Chief Brian Cummings, whose tenure was marred by the
revelation the fire department had inflated its response time numbers, was
among those who announced their departures.
In his first major political battle as mayor, Garcetti locked horns over
a new labor contract with the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers, Local 18, which represents 8,200 workers at the Department of Water
and Power. The union spent millions of dollars earlier in the year backing
Greuel for mayor.
Garcetti said the terms of the proposed contract, including those that
would postpone a scheduled pay raise, did not go far enough. He insisted on
deeper pension reforms and other changes to close a long-criticized disparity
between the compensation received by city employees and the DWP’s more
attractive benefits and salaries.
Eventually union officials and the mayor agreed on a contract that
lowers the starting salaries of several dozen jobs and adjusts the retirement
tier for incoming employees. Together with the three-year postponement of a 2
percent cost-of-living pay raise scheduled for Oct. 1, the new terms would save
the city $6.1 billion over three decades and help control rising rates for
DWP’s electricity and water customers, according to city officials.
This was also the year the city voted to ban single-use plastic grocery
bags. While the city follows in the footsteps of numerous others, Los Angeles
is said to be the largest city in the country to ban plastic bags.

( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA7pUOqTBOY Plastic Bags out in 2014 LA )
The ban and an accompanying 10-cent charge on paper bags goes into
effect Jan. 1 at major grocery stores such as Ralphs and Vons, as well as at
big-name convenience stores like 7-Eleven and drugstores like CVS and
Walgreens. Smaller independent stores will be required to stop giving out
plastic bags by July 1.
Unlike previous years when city leaders grappled with the challenges of
an economic recession that contributed to massive layoffs among city employee
ranks, officials this year easily passed a balanced $7.7 billion budget that
includes funding for additional firefighters, tree trimming, street paving,
graffiti abatement and the purchase of nearly 300 new police cars.
The rosier economic outlook followed dire warnings issued by city
officials at the start of the year, prior to voters deciding the fate of
Proposition A, a March ballot measure to increase the sales tax by a half-cent.
City officials claimed at the time the estimated $211 million that the
tax hike would bring in was necessary to stave off further cuts to public
safety and other city services. But critics slammed Proposition A as a money
grab by a city unable to control its own spending.
No sooner had voters rejected the measure, city officials advising
Villaraigosa revealed that they had revised their projected budget deficit from
$216 million to $150 million for fiscal year 2013-14.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA7pUOqTBOY Los Angeles is said to be the largest city in the country to ban plastic bags. Photo by Gary McCarthy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA7pUOqTBOY
Los Angeles
is said to be the largest city in the country to ban plastic bags.
Photo by Gary McCarthy

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