Citywatch asked me to share my thoughts about Mayor Garcetti’s first year in office.
If I were limited to writing about his tangible achievements, this article would end right here………
– just 30 words about nothing.
That would not be fair.
There are some intangible developments worth mentioning, but there is also so much for him to prove.
The most encouraging sign I see is the synergy among Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Controller Ron Galperin. I cannot recall any administration where the top three elected officials appeared to be in step with each other. For one thing, all of them embrace technology. That’s a far cry from the threesome of Villaraigosa, Greuel and Trutanich who allowed the city to slip further behind 21st century information processing standards. There is no doubt in my mind Los Angeles will move forward and close the gap.
It was also heartening to see the three stand together against Brian “Vladimir” D’Arcy’s disrespect for the public’s right to transparency over the financial disclosures of the secretive Joint Institutes of Safety and Training. By contrast, the City Council has remained mum.
But what is in store for the next three years? A more tech-savvy city that still cannot fix its streets and gives developers breaks to build more luxury hotels?
Garcetti’s effectiveness will boil down to how well he manages the city’s finances. He can’t do it alone – there is an entrenched civil service bureaucracy at City Hall and a City Council that does not want to make waves with the public employee unions.
Freeing up funds to provide both core services and eliminate some of the massive deferred maintenance will depend on whether Garcetti can secure higher contributions from labor to cover steadily growing health care and pension costs. Left unchecked, retirement benefits will eventually consume the majority of the general fund within a generation.
It would not be productive for the mayor to tackle education at the granular level as Villaraigosa attempted. Instead, Garcetti should use his superior communication skills – something his predecessor lacked – to encourage more parental activism to free students as much as possible from the tyranny of the LAUSD.
Garcetti is on record as wanting to reform the DWP. He made a good start by appointing responsible commissioners and advocating for new management at the utility. Now he has to make sure his team can deliver better customer service and more attention to infrastructure replacement. It will require loosening IBEW work rules and reining in the compensation costs. Rate increases are inevitable, so the long-term goal should be to attain maximum value for our money.
Of course he will not be able to achieve all of these things in a single term, but he must show at least some progress in his second year to prove he is committed to turning the city around both financially and in terms of quality of life.