Over the past several years it seems that there has been an increasing culture of cheating everywhere we look. Whether it is paying to give a student an advantage for college admission, lying to the media, stealing pitching signs during our national pastime, or banks signing up clients for bank accounts they didn't request, I am afraid that many are becoming so used to the idea that this is somehow the new normal. I want to say it is not normal and this cultural shift is unacceptable.
Throughout the history of our democracy, there have always been outlying law-breaking officials “on the take” who have lined their pockets with ill-gotten gains. As soon as a cheating culture is perceived as status quo in government we have a foundational imbalance from which we may never recover. Some cities have historically been associated with corruption and have never completely shaken the reputation. But it wasn’t too long ago that our City of Los Angeles was not one of those. The series of events that has been occurring at City Hall over the past few years, committed by my colleagues, my peers and, in some cases, people I have called friends, breaks my heart and makes me furious.
To me, it is more important than anything else to serve the public from an unfettered position. Those who serve at the behest of a few wealthy individuals or corporations who buy their influence are not fulfilling their oath. To be sure, the scourge of recent corruption in Los Angeles City Hall has created an understandable and anguishing level of public distrust.
Was I naïve to have thought that LA City Council remained one of the cleanest governmental entities, and that such things weren’t possible? I am outraged that this has gone on and I am beyond disappointed in those who put greed ahead of public service. Certainly, we have heard the voices of the many who are following the news of new charges with the salacious excitement of a gossip columnist, confirming suspicions of those cynical about government. But the behavior of my colleagues and their staff are much more than criminal acts. The resulting consequences are that they have marred the public trust and maligned the reputations of thousands of hardworking and honest City employees.
So how do we regain the public's trust and confidence?
The Controller’s website offers a step in the right direction with the following: “The City of Los Angeles aims to be as transparent and efficient as possible, going above and beyond to protect taxpayers’ assets and preserve government integrity. Critical to these efforts is tracking reports of fraud, waste, and abuse of City resources. The Controller’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Unit seeks to identify, stop and, ultimately, prevent the misuse of City resources by employees and others. This is done through a 24-hour telephone hotline and web-based complaint form, along with citywide education and training programs.”
In theory, that is a good start. City employees (as well as all City elected and appointed officials) are required to take ethics training every year that defines the code of ethics as well as the rules of the City Charter and local laws to be followed that include conflict of interest, transparency, waste, fraud, and abuse. Each of those who are currently charged were mandated to take that training. But there are always going to be people who ignore the law and ethical considerations despite our best efforts to do everything we can to set examples for the residents we serve. My colleagues' egregious and illegal activities betrayed the trust of those they represent, and those working with them and aware of their transgressions knew how to report the wrongdoings, yet we wound up here anyway. So, we must continue our search for additional, more effective ways.
The current investigation will continue to reveal who knew what, when they knew it and who else was involved, but the reality is that we must take even stronger steps to make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for someone to participate in criminal activities as a Councilmember.
Since much of the corruption that takes place is around the planning process, one idea is to remove Councilmembers and their offices from the decision-making on planning projects. This would clean up the process, but it would also remove the Councilmember as an advocate for a neighborhood to reign in developments that go too far, and for important projects to address such issues as housing affordability and homelessness that normally require Council office involvement. It removes the voice of someone they elected to represent them. So this idea has pluses and minuses we have to balance. Perhaps we could try this as a short-term pilot program to see if this turns out to be a worthwhile idea on balance.
Perhaps we should also create a Task Force to identify the arenas that are most opportune for corruption and figure out the best ways to foreclose those opportunities.
This isn’t just about losing or winning a battle over a political issue, this is ultimately about the very soul of our City and the way we are perceived throughout the world. Going forward, we must work hard every day to regain the trust of all Angelenos, through transparency, openness and accountability.
I will not rest until that promise is fulfilled.
Councilmember Paul Koretz, Fifth District
Grand Opening! Join Us For A Virtual Ribbon Cutting of CD5’s First A Bridge Home Housing Project
You are invited to join Councilmember Koretz and Mayor Garcetti in celebrating the grand opening of the first A Bridge Home housing site in Council District 5! The new supportive housing site is operating at the former Grand Motel in the Pico-Robertson community located at 1479 La Cienega Blvd. Councilmember Koretz will be joined by participating City and County departments and community organizations in a virtual ribbon-cutting celebration that can be accessed on Zoom on Monday, August 3rd at 3 pm details below:
Join Meeting Online: Just click this link a few minutes before the meeting starts at 3:00 p.m. You will be connected to the waiting room until the meeting starts. If Zoom asks, “allow” your device to run the Zoom app and/or “allow” your video and audio to be activated.
Join via Zoom App on any computer, iPad, tablet, or smartphone:
Meeting ID: 836 5699 1512
FROM THE DESK OF JEFF EBENSTEIN
DIRECTOR OF POLICY & LEGISLATION
Wednesday was the first City Council meeting following the summer recess and although City Council was not in session, Councilmember Koretz and his team spent the recess working on several proposals that were introduced at Wednesday's meeting:
Councilmember Koretz has introduced a motion asking the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance with an urgency clause that would require payment of increasingly steeper fines for failure to comply with the Mayor’s Safer LA Emergency Order to wear a mask (or face covering) outside the home. Health experts state that if we achieve a high level of compliance, the spread would be reduced by 50-60% enabling us to finally get a handle on the virus. The ordinance would be enforced by any City of Los Angeles agencies with authority to do so in order to mitigate the ongoing and alarming escalation spread of COVID-19. As proposed, the first violation would result in a $100 penalty, followed by a $250 citation for the second violation, and $500 for the third and subsequent violations. The motion has been referred to the Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Recovery and Neighborhood Investment Committee and Council could consider the proposal as soon as the first week in August.
Assembly Bill 345 has been introduced by Assemblymember Muratsuchi to establish health and safety buffer zones between oil and gas wells and sensitive land uses such as housing, schools, and hospitals. Councilmember Koretz has proposed that the City Council vote to support this bill.
Civil and Human Rights Impact Assessment
Councilmember Koretz also has called for the new Department of Civil and Human Rights to determine the feasibility of establishing a Civil and Human Rights Impact Assessment program for application to departmental, City Council, and Mayoral actions and decision making. The aim is to address decisions that might create unintended negative consequences for different populations in the city. The motion calls for a report back to the City Council within 60 days with recommendations on program scope, issue areas that could be addressed, staffing needs, and how such a program would fit into the City's legislative and administrative procedures. The motion has been referred to the Immigrants Affairs, Civil Rights, and Equity Committee.
California State Senator Henry Stern's SB 1175 requires the regulations implementing the restricted species program to be designed to prevent damage to California native wildlife, and to provide for the welfare of wild animals and the safety of the public. After Covid-19 was believed to be spread by the eating of exotic animals, like bats, live animal markets have been shut down throughout the world. The bill would improve controls over importation of wild animals and strengthen protections for how these animals are treated in California. Councilmember Koretz feels this bill is compatible with his pending proposal to ban live animal markets in Los Angeles and this week asked the Council to support it.
Limited Relaxed Parking Enforcement & Payment Deadlines on Existing Parking Fines Extended
In order to support Los Angeles residents as they stay safer at home, LADOT Parking Enforcement will extend current relaxed parking enforcement to Sunday, August 16th, and they will also extend the deadline for payment on existing parking fines. While residents are encouraged to pay any existing fines if they are able, there will be no increase in fines for failure to pay.
While certain parking regulations are relaxed, others remain enforced to ensure that emergency services and other city functions continue to operate. Please see the list below for full details regarding enforcement:
LADOT has relaxed enforcement for the following categories:
- Residential street sweeping
- Expired registration on a vehicle
- Overnight/Oversize parking districts
- Peak/rush hour and gridlock zone parking restrictions
- No ticket/tow for abandoned vehicles and oversized/overnight parking
- Vehicles displaying recently expired permits within preferential parking districts will have a two-week grace period following the expiration to renew
Meet L.A. Al Fresco: A Webinar on the New City Dining Program
In order to balance the needs of local businesses and the health concerns surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the City of Los Angeles created L.A. Al Fresco, a new program supported by LADOT that allows restaurants to expand dining areas into parking lanes, driving lanes, and adjacent private lots to encourage safe physical distancing for customers. To facilitate this expansion of outdoor dining options, the city will provide planters, barricades, and umbrellas for businesses to use in newly permitted spaces.
To assist business owners and restaurateurs in learning more about this exciting new program, the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LADOT will host a virtual presentation on L.A. Al Fresco on Wednesday, August 5 at 1:00 p.m. Those interested in attending this online event are invited to do so by accessing the Zoom livecast link located here.
Metro Deploys First Electric Bus
Metro is excited to announce the deployment of its first 60-foot zero emission electric bus to launch its busiest bus rapid transit corridor - the Metro G Line (Orange). This electric bus will deploy from the Metro North Hollywood station and will serve commuters throughout the San Fernando Valley. It is the first of 40 electric buses that will be put into service by the end of 2020. These buses are manufactured by New Flyer and use state-of-the-art technologies.
The G Line (Orange) has transported many Angelenos in the San Fernando Valley since its opening in 2005 and is the first Metro line to be completely converted from compressed natural gas (CNG) fueled buses to fully zero emission electric buses. Following the completion of testing and the installation of electric bus charging units along the alignment, the new buses will be capable of recharging at various points along the G Line (Orange) to support its 24/7 operation.
Ultimately, Metro has a comprehensive plan to transition the agency to a 100 percent zero emission bus fleet by 2030 with the J Line (Silver) being the next to receive zero emission electric buses. Consequently, this transition to electric buses will provide a cleaner, quieter, better performance fleet and significantly lower environmental impacts.
West Nile virus activity continues in LA County
This week, the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD) has confirmed 10 additional mosquito samples positive for West Nile virus (WNV). This brings the total number of samples positive for the virus within the district’s service area to 40 this year. This is the first positive sample of the season in Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Burbank, Downey, Encino, La Mirada, North Hills, Panorama City, Santa Fe Springs, and Whittier.
“The increase in positive mosquito samples are a reminder that West Nile virus is endemic in Los Angeles County ,” said Mary-Joy Coburn, director of Community Affairs for GLACVCD. “Residents are urged to remove standing water from their property and wear repellent to protect against mosquito bites.”
There are two West Nile virus positive samples that were detected on July 15, 2020 in Encino. For more information and surrounding areas affected please click here.
LA’s Library to Go Program and Summer Reading Challenge
||Mayor Garcetti kicked off the new Library to Go program with City Librarian John Szabo. |
The library is continuing to offer services and programs to assist the community and provide some much-needed options for entertainment. In addition to its robust selection of online programming and materials, the library is once again offering patrons the option to pick up physical copies of books, DVDs, etc. through the new Library to Go program operating at 18 hub libraries.
Patrons place the items on hold, and when those holds are ready, they are transferred to one of the hubs where a pick-up appointment can be scheduled. All items will be available for pick up outside the library, and social distancing protocols are in place. Visit https://www.lapl.org/library-to-go for more information.
SUMMER READING CHALLENGE
The library's Summer Reading Challenge is totally online this year, and runs through August 31. Patrons can track their reading online or download a game board, and every weekday the library offers special online programming that includes performers, author readings, and special presentations for early learners, children, and teens. Visit https://www.lapl.org/summer for more information.
New Finish Line Course Change Brings the 2021 LA Marathon’s Finish to Century City’s Avenue of the Stars
The finish line for the Los Angeles Marathon has been moved to the Avenue of the Stars in Century City. This change locates the finish line among the City’s best-known landmarks and within easy access to hotels, transportation and the entertainment areas of Westwood, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood.
The new race course, dubbed "Stadium to the Stars", will track the 2020 race course from its traditional start at Dodger Stadium into Brentwood where it will double back on San Vicente, Sepulveda and Santa Monica Blvds. to Avenue of the Stars.
To register for the 2021 Los Angeles Marathon go to www.lamarathon.com.
Calling all L.A.-area Jewish Communities Eager to Build Constructive Discussion and Learning Across Political Divides
This painful and difficult time has amplified divisions within and across many of our communities. As communities continue to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19, a looming presidential election, nationwide protests, and political changes in Israel, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and Resetting the Table (RTT) invite Jewish organizations to apply to be part of our second Convener Cohort. Participating institutions will be introduced to RTT’s celebrated approach and practical toolkit for opening welcoming, productive discussion across charged differences.
To start, each Convener will select 2-3 team members to participate. Then, over the course of 10 months, these teams will receive a highly subsidized package of training, consultation, tools, resources, and access to trained facilitators in L.A.
Eight institutions will be selected to participate in the 2020-21 Convener Cohort. Cost for the program is $500. The program is generously supported by a Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. Cohort participation will be virtual and begin after the High Holidays in October 2020.
Apply by Friday, August 7th, to bring RTT’s skilled facilitators and celebrated toolkit to your community.
Job Opportunities for LA Youth
Hire LA's Youth Program of the City of LA is accepting applications for jobs this summer which will include virtual job opportunities and training. Applicants must be between the ages of 14-24 and live in the City of LA to be eligible.
For more information visit www.HireLAYouth.com.
Here to Serve
My office, like all City of Los Angeles offices, is following recommended protocols such as social distancing and working remotely to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That said, my staff and I are always readily available to help with your questions, concerns, and needs during this difficult period. We can be reached by phone at 213-473-7005 (City Hall), 323-866-1828 (West LA), or 818-971-3088 (Bel Air/ Encino) and through email email@example.com. Since we are experiencing a higher-than-normal volume of calls, feel free to email the staff member you wish to contact directly. The accompanying link contains those e-mail addresses.
I know these are really confusing times and that new information is changing quickly, so please continue to check and verify official information through these credible resources: