In this challenging time, may the values of Chanukah, equality, repair and unity find their way into our lives. In remembering these rich traditions may they bring us closer to creating healthy, just and caring communities.
For each candle that will be lit, let each of us imagine a bit of goodness we are thankful for, and a piece of this world that is broken that we might offer to repair. Let us remember the small band of Jewish Maccabees that fought for equality and freedom and try to bring that strength forward into our daily lives.
This past year has been very difficult but, we have seen so many “Maccabees” stand up to fight against political tyranny within our nation and to also fight to help those in need here in Los Angeles. I have joined in solidarity with frontline medical workers to ask for workplace protections against COVID-19, for organizing wellness calls to seniors in my district, and calling for reforms to fight climate change and to protect our environment, and for reforms to the Ellis act to protect affordable housing. In these efforts I have seen first hand the good change our City’s everyday heroes bring forth.
My team and I have been proud to serve you and look forward to continuing our work together with all of you. If there is anything we should be aware of, especially for people in need due to the pandemic please reach out to us at 213-473-7005 or visit my website at www.CouncilmemberPaulKoretz.com. Wishing you and your loved ones an uplifting and Happy Chanukah!
Councilmember Paul Koretz, Fifth District
FROM THE DESK OF JEFF EBENSTEIN
DIRECTOR OF POLICY & LEGISLATION
The City is facing a $675 Million revenue shortfall until the end of the fiscal year. Combined with cost overruns in departments, the deficit the City has to confront and solve for is over $700 Million. This could arguably be the worst financial scenario the City of Los Angeles has faced since the Great Depression.
This week the Budget Committee, on which Councilmember Koretz sits, and the LA City Council met to hear reports from the CAO and all of the City Department General Managers to consider the impacts that necessary cuts and potential furloughs and/or layoffs will have on city services. This week’s actions revolve around a mandated 3% expenditure cut for all departments, inevitably straining each department’s ability to provide the level of services to the public that we all want to see. In addition, they call for looking in every nook-and-cranny of the City Budget to find possible savings which can free up funds to cover other higher priority costs.
Almost every source of revenue the City depends upon - from sales and property taxes to parking revenues to transient-occupancy taxes - have been clobbered by the drop-off in economic activity created by the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, the City has stepped up to provide help to tenants, landlords, businesses, and persons experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, with only some of the expenses being reimbursed by the county, state or federal governments. Federal stimulus funds and further concessions from our City labor partners would definitely help our situation.
Moreover, there are critical services in every department from the Department of Aging to housing and homeless services to the LA Fire department where cuts will directly affect our residents and are critical to the well-being of the City.
Despite the cuts that will have to inevitably be made, public safety remains Councilmember Koretz's top priority. This is why he introduced a motion during the budget debate in Council to exclude LAPD personnel from being even considered for layoffs, especially at a time when we are at our lowest level of sworn officers since 2008. Please note that $150 million has already been transferred out of the LAPD budget last summer. The City Council rejected my motion. However, the Budget & Finance Committee DID vote to reduce the potential number of layoffs for LAPD sworn officers and civilians from nearly 1700 to 355 sworn officers and 278 civilian employees. The Councilmember remains committed to reducing both numbers to zero.
At the conclusion of the debate by the Council, Councilmember Koretz joined his Council colleagues in voting to adopt a Financial Status Report that sought to address the $675 Million revenue shortfall by curbing spending, cutting services, dipping into reserves.
Among the changes were:
- A hard hiring freeze;
- $81 Million in spending reductions;
- authorization to dip into the City’s reserves (the entire Budget Stabilization fund and the entire Contingency Reserve account) up to $259 Million;
- authorization to borrow to cover day-to-day costs for city services up to $150 Million;
- transfers from other accounts like the Coronavirus Relief Fund to reimburse the General Fund for previously incurred Coronavirus response expenses; and,
- to negotiate potential cutbacks to employee pay.
Special thanks to CAO Richard Llewellyn and Budget Chair Paul Krekorian for their leadership in these efforts.
THESE THINGS TAKE TIME (AND MONEY)
I’m often asked why legislation and policy proposals move so slowly through the City Council and City departments. The answer is simple, and complicated, at the same time.
Serious proposals usually require a fair amount of research and discussion to get to the point where they become potentially viable. Councilmember Koretz and his team are constantly working on ways to help the people of the Fifth District and the entire city, holding weekly meetings to brainstorm ideas and work them into shape for introduction via motions to the City Council. Depending on the nature of the idea, the process can move quickly or slowly.
Two issues that recently have come to fruition provide good examples of how this works in reality:
CITYWIDE CAT PROGRAM
A couple of weeks ago, it was mentioned in this newsletter that the Environmental Impact Report for the Citywide Cat Program was being heard before the Board of Animal Services Commissioners. Since then it has been approved by the Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare (PAW) Committee chaired by Councilmember Koretz, and subsequently it was approved (certified) by the full City Council. It accompanied two pertinent ordinances, one to allow the City to pay for the spay/neuter of unowned community cats, and the other to increase the household cat limit from three to five. (The latter was proposed by Koretz several years ago.)
This EIR should lead to the lifting of a court injunction imposed back in 2010 that prohibits the City from participating in an activity called “Trap-Neuter-Return” (TNR), which many feel is the best way to reduce the population of free-roaming/stray/unowned/community cats and reduce the threat to birds and other wildlife posed by these cats. The City first began dealing seriously with this issue back in 2005, and Councilmember Koretz has been involved for about a decade.
The EIR’s approval and approval of the City’s Cat program is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people, many of whom the Councilmember acknowledged during the PAW Committee hearing. They include the Bureau of Engineering, the City Attorney, a team of expert consultants, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield who partnered with Koretz to oversee the project on the part of the full Council (which provided the funding needed to do the work), Mayors Garcetti and Villaraigosa, The Department of Animal Services, the Animal Services Commission, and the hundreds of animal activists who weighed in on both sides of the issue over the many years. Prominent among those was the late Mark Dodge, co-founder of the first organizations dedicated to spaying and neutering these cats, who spent years educating City staff on TNR and its importance in humanely combating cat overpopulation.
As Councilmember Koretz has noted, it may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a city - and then some - to fix a community of cats.
THE AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE HOUSING REGISTRY
One of the constant complaints we hear is that tenants in need of affordable housing find it nearly impossible to get the information they need to apply for the affordable units that exist or are required to be included in certain new apartment projects in L.A. So, in early 2018 Councilmember Koretz proposed that the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID) create an online registry that could help landlords and tenants better navigate the complex world of affordable housing.
After cobbling together the funding and the technology to do the job, HCID got to work and finally (and quietly in the midst of the distractions of the pandemic and other issues this year), launched the Affordable and Accessible Housing Registry (https://lahousing.lacity.org/AAHR).
This registry provides tenants (and would-be tenants), housing advocates, property owners and managers, and City staff with information and the means to actively use it that has never been assembled in one easy-to-find location before. Tenants can identify units they’re interested in and apply to rent them or get on waiting lists, owners and managers can list their units, and the City can make sure newly-required affordable units are no longer best-kept-secrets.
With the demand for affordable housing at an all-time high, Councilmember Koretz hopes that this new registry will become a useful tool for renters and landlords alike.
Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program
The City recently took a big step towards modernizing and reimagining the City's sidewalk furniture program when the Board of Public Works approved the release of an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the our Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program (STAP). Now, Councilmember Koretz along with the rest of the City Council need your input to ensure its success for our entire City.
The goal of the STAP is to increase shelter, shade, safety, and comfort to support those who use public transit and our sidewalks, as well as to improve upon what is currently on our sidewalks now. Councilmember Koretz is very excited about the potential of this new program to support our transit riders and pedestrians throughout the City, and move our communities towards a more equitable and sustainable future. However, prior to a finalization of any private contract, the City Council will need to consider several important issues and will also need to hear from our communities to ensure that we address these important topics in the best possible way.
Some of the issues we will consider include:
- Digital advertising in the public right of way, including at bus stops, street lights, bike share stations, and other locations, and its potential safety impacts;
- How data collected from potential devices on transit facilities might be collected and handled, and how privacy would be protected;
- How funds from program revenues will be reinvested into City infrastructure;
- Discussing limitations on advertising content and locations;
- Ensuring that neighborhood character and scenic corridors are protected.
Community input is key, so StreetsLA is hosting a series of Zoom Informational Sessions which are open to the public, from December 10th to the 21st. We hope you'll attend at least one of them, and then let CD5 staff know what you think!
Information on the RFP and the community engagement sessions can be found by visiting the STAP webpage at https://streetsla.lacity.org/stap-rfp-info
DMV Temporarily Halts Behind-the-Wheel Driving Tests; Seniors Can Now Renew Their Driver’s Licence Online
No office visit required for eligible drivers 70 and older until further notice
The California Department of Motor Vehicles is temporarily suspending behind-the-wheel driving tests for at least two weeks beginning December 14. The DMV is taking this step for the health and safety of customers and employees during the current statewide surge in COVID-19 cases. Customers with scheduled appointments in the next two weeks will be notified that their tests are canceled. The DMV will automatically reschedule the tests at a later date.
However, the DMV is now offering Californians who are 70 and older the option to renew their noncommercial driver’s license online. Licenses that expire beginning March 1, 2020, and throughout the COVID-19 emergency are also eligible, including REAL ID renewals. A mail-in option will be available in the coming weeks, and most drivers 69 and younger can also renew at dmv.ca.gov – even if their renewal notice states they must come to an office.
The alternative to an in-person renewal follows Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent Executive Order that temporarily waives California law requiring drivers age 70 and older to visit a DMV field office to renew their license. The DMV will make this option available during California’s State of Emergency or until the order is modified.
The DMV previously provided yearlong extensions to senior drivers with noncommercial licenses expiring in March through December 2020. Those who received the extensions are eligible to renew online.
Commercial licenses, including those for drivers 70 and older, expiring between March and December are extended through December 2020, to align with federal guidelines.
Summary of California driver’s license extensions
Age 70 & older (noncommercial)
Age 69 & younger (noncommercial)
Beginning March 2020
Expanded eligibility to renew online or by mail for licenses expiring during the emergency
Commercial (all types, all ages)
Extended to December 31, 2020
Learner’s permits (noncommercial)
March 2020-May 2021
Extended six months or to a date 24 months from the date of application
The DMV recommends that customers use its online services, expanded virtual services and other service channels to complete transactions, including eligible driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals. Customers can use the Service Advisor on the DMV website to learn their options to complete DMV tasks.
The ability for senior drivers to renew online is the latest action to help Californians avoid or delay a DMV office visit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The DMV continues to streamline its processes to limit the time customers spend at an office. Customers applying for a REAL ID are encouraged to fill out the online application and upload the required documents before they come to the office for expedited service.
Information video: https://youtu.be/sUb8Qzdy-zI
Help Our Homeless Neighbors Stay Warm This Winter
West LA Homeless (WHLA) was founded by West LA residents and community leaders to increase community participation in addressing issues of homelessness in the West Los Angeles area. They facilitate the training of professionals to engage with those experiencing homelessness and connect them to City, County, State and other community resources.
This weekend, WHLA is doing a holiday drive. Please consider helping our unhoused neighbors with winter clothing and cold weather essentials by donating your gently used hats, scarves, winter jackets, blankets, and sleeping bags. All socks and underwear must be new, in original packaging. Please launder used clothing.
WLAH volunteers will distribute donations throughout the community. Donations can be made Saturday and Sunday at Rancho Park, 2551 Motor Ave, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., or you can visit www.WLAH.org winter-drive for additional drop off locations.
Thank you to BABCNC for Another Successful Blood Drive!
Thank you to the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council for holding yet another successful blood drive. Special gratitude goes out to BABCNC President Robin Greenberg and Ellen Evans pictured here with some neighbors who stopped by to donate.
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, 323-866-1828 (West LA), or 818-971-3088 (Bel Air/ Encino) and through email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.