Holding the DWP Accountable
Councilmember Paul Koretz wants to hold the Department of Water and Power accountable for having blithely misrepresented its financial condition to the City Council. That’s why he has initiated strict steps to make certain that the DWP does not escape a recent condemnatory audit unscathed. The Councilmember revealed his intentions at an Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee meeting where DWP was notably absent despite having been repeatedly invited to attend.
As Chair of the committee, Councilmember Koretz concluded its June 15th meeting by introducing three separate motions (unanimously embraced by the committee) regarding the DWP’s March refusal to transfer promised funds to the City.
The DWP had earlier justified its refusal to turn over $73 million by claiming that it had insufficient funds, but a subsequent audit released by the Los Angeles City Controller’s Office found this claim to be fabricated. (City Controller Wendy Greuel was at the June 15 committee meeting and made a full presentation of the audit. She was joined by staff from Crowe Horwath LLP, which was the outside auditing firm used in this matter.) “I would like to thank Controller Greuel for this important audit and its thorough scrutiny of DWP’s finances and behavior,” Councilmember Koretz said.
Controller Wendy Greuel with Councilmember Koretz after the Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee meeting.
He continued, “We need to find out who is being disciplined for this scam by DWP, which caused grievous harm – the City’s bond rating suffered as a result. We need to determine whether there was any illegality involved in DWP’s duplicitous conduct. But we also need to address DWP’s disregard for our bond ratings, by removing that agency’s authority over its own bonding.”
The Koretz motions call for:
1) A report back from the Mayor and the DWP, to the Audits and Governmental Efficiency (AGE) Committee, detailing who in those offices – including the DWP Board – is being disciplined as a result of this misconduct [falsely claiming that a sizable Energy Cost Adjustment Factor rate increase was needed or no transfer of funds would be possible].
2) The City Attorney to report back to AGE on whether any of said misconduct reaches or breaches the threshold of criminality.
3) A report back from the Chief Legislative Analyst and City Administrative Officer to AGE committee on the timeline for removing bonding responsibilities from within the DWP to the City Administrative Officer – the agency that does bond items for other departments in the City. (Councilmember Koretz explained that, “For too long the DWP has played politics with its bond ratings, using it as a tool to hogtie the Council into decisions that may otherwise be imprudent.”)
Councilmember Koretz said that the DWP’s failure to send a representative to the meeting was “outrageous. In a department that may have 10,000 employees, you’d think that they could find someone, even if it’s just one person, to be here to listen to our questions and concerns regarding what Controller Wendy Greuel and her auditors have uncovered. That the DWP couldn’t even bother to send a single person to this meeting shows the incredible arrogance that got them into this particular mess to begin with. Their lack of candor has lost them the confidence, trust and respect of the people of Los Angeles.”
New General Manager Selection for Animal Services
At the Animal Services press conference (from l-r): Irene Ponce, Vice-President of the Animal Services Commission; Ruthanne Secunda, Commission Member; Melanie Ramsayer, President of the Commission; Councilmember Koretz, Brenda Barnette, Mayor Villaraigosa, Animal Services Interim GM Kathy Davis and Assistant GM Linda Barth
Councilmember Koretz is a leading voice on animal issues, which is why he was an important presence at Mayor Villaraigosa’s recent press conference naming Brenda Barnette as the new head of L.A.’s Department of Animal Services.
Ms. Barnette had served as Chief Executive Officer of the private, non-profit Seattle Humane Society since 2006, receiving many accolades for her strong record of success. In 2009, the 113-year-old Seattle Humane Society had its best year ever with the placement of more than 6,000 animals and a live save rate of over 91 percent (some animals brought to shelters are too ill or injured to be saved). By comparison, 36 percent of the animals in our Los Angeles City shelters were euthanized last year.
Councilmember Koretz said that, “Mayor Villaraigosa has done what I consider to be absolutely essential, which is that he has named somebody with all the right experience. I’ve always said that we should pick someone with a significant success record when it comes to saving the lives of animals.
“With our new general manager, we hope Animal Services will be taking a big stride forward toward becoming the 21st Century department of vision, compassion, competence and capacity that we need to meet our needs, the needs of our animals, and the desires of a city that cares about its animals.”
Among the key efforts associated with Ms. Barnette’s tenure at the Seattle Humane Society were the aggressive use of media to promote the adoption of animals; the remodeling and expansion of the Society’s housing facilities and training grounds, enabling happier interactions between the animals and staff, volunteers and potential adopters; a Foster Care Program that has allowed more than 4,300 animals to benefit from home care while awaiting homes of their own; an Animal Adventure Camp for Kids that gives young people an opportunity to have fun and learn about pets; and a new Visiting Pets Program that has brought the healing presence of pets to seniors, people with disabilities and children.
Prior to her appointment as CEO of the Seattle Humane Society, Ms. Barnette had been CEO of Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, and before that, she was Executive Director of Pets In Need, and the Development Director at the San Francisco SPCA.
Supporting Local Business
Councilmember Koretz is always happy to support businesses that are community-friendly and willing to be a helpful contributor to our local economy. This past week, he proudly participated in two ribbon-cutting ceremonies, both in the community of Encino. At these events he welcomed an Office Depot store and a branch of Synergy Capital Associates (below).
Some things don't happen overnight, and that includes getting developers to pay for the costs of processing applications for their own proposed projects.
Each year, $1.7 million of City funds are spent to help developers who are after such things as major variances, instead of having the developers themselves pay for such costs. Those are tax dollars that could instead be going for crucial city services.
That will change -- just not overnight. A City Council agreement is in place to shift responsibility for such costs to the developers, eventually. The key word is "eventually." In the meantime, though, taxpayers are still footing the bill. Councilmember Koretz wanted to change all that by immediately requiring developers to bear the full costs of their own project applications.
Many representatives from homeowner groups and neighborhood councils spoke out in favor of the Koretz effort, but developers successfully mounted a huge lobbying effort to keep the phase-in from occurring overnight.
Not all developers opposed Koretz -- Louis Krokover of New Day Development, for example, testified before the City Council to say that no other local city or other Southern Californian government is so generous in subsidizing developers in this manner and to this degree. (Mr. Krokover is pictured above with Diane Rosen, an Encino community activist who also spoke in front of the City Council in support of the Koretz effort.)
Councilmember Koretz said he was personally disappointed that more developers didn't voluntarily step forward to support an accelerated phase-in: "I think it would have been the right thing for them to do, in particular because these costs when spread out over so many projects are pretty modest for any individual project. We're trying to do many things to assist local businesses, but the City is going through a serious budget crisis, and this would have sent a signal that I know other businesses are sending, which is that they are willing to accept some responsibility in the spirit of shared sacrifice so that our city can emerge from this crisis in the best possible shape."
Ironically, the city funds that might have been saved could have gone to increase the staffing or save jobs in the Planning Department, which developers themselves often complain is understaffed.
In the Community!
Councilmember Koretz with Jan Reichmann, President of Comstock
Hills Homeowners Association, and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich
Councilmember Koretz promised to be a constant presence in the community, and he continues to deliver on that promise. Along with frequent one-on-one meetings with constituents, he is an eager visitor, participant and listener when it comes to attending the meetings of the 5th Council District’s many neighborhood and community organizations. On this particular evening – Wednesday, June 16th, following a lengthy day of meetings in City Hall City – he was a happy and involved guest at the annual meetings of the Comstock Hills Homeowners Association and the Bel Air Association.
A Reservoir of Good Will
Councilmember Koretz recently toured the 135 million gallon Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir (off of Mulholland).
Here, as well as at reservoirs throughout Los Angeles, new safety measures are constantly under contemplation, due to water quality considerations and changing federal and state regulations.
The Councilmember met with Department of Water and Power officials and local community activists during the visit to the Reservoir, in order to discuss DWP proposals aimed at determining which solution at that site might best benefit the community while protecting our water supply. Councilmember Koretz is very appreciative of the shared effort that has been undertaken to ensure that we make smart, beneficial, healthy, economically sustainable, environmentally sound and community-friendly decisions about our water supply.
Let the Sun Shine In
Los Angeles was built partly on oil, but the key to staying one of the world's great cities is for us to become increasingly environmentally green, clean and energy independent. And here in California, that means taking advantage of the Sun.
For that very reason, we have splendid news to shout about from the rooftops -- or should we say, from the upper floor of a Century City parking garage located on Century Park West where the new roof system, including a recently completed solar installation, will offset 80 percent of the annual electricity demand for the facility.
This large-scale system is now one of the most powerful urban solar systems in the Western United States.
Councilmember Koretz says, "I am delighted by this project, and by all the crucial efforts in our 5th District that are giving Los Angeles a leadership role in environmentalism and sustainability, at no cost to city taxpayers or ratepayers."
The Councilmember's office salutes SPG Solar, JMB Realty's Constellation Place, LLC, and MGM for making this project achievable, and looks forward to more corporate-civic partnerships benefitting our local ecology and economy. This is the second such installation now at that site, and expected benefits include more than $46,000 in annual savings on electricity costs and the offsetting of 7,500 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions through the 25-year life of the system. There is also a solar installation at the adjacent MGM Tower: together, these systems will generate just under one megawatt of power, a level rarely achieved in urban retrofit projects, making the MGM Tower one of the "greenest" retrofitted structures in the country. Truly, the 5th Council District has bragging rights in the essential cause of conservation of resources and environmental innovation.
This past Saturday was “Joe Cerrell Day,” in the City of L.A. If the name “Joe Cerrell” rings a bell, that’s because for the past half century, he’s been a major guiding force in local and national politics and governance, and a legend in the fields of public affairs, public relations and political consulting. He played key roles in the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Lloyd Bentsen, John Glenn and Al Gore, is the Chairman Emeritus of Cerrell Associates, Inc., which he founded in 1966; is chairman emeritus and past president of the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC), and past president of the International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC). A graduate of USC where he has also taught, Joe and his firm, Cerrell Associates, have been involved in many charitable and philanthropic efforts. “Joe Cerrell Day” celebrated his 75th Birthday but also was the City’s way of saying “Thank you!” Among the special guests at a Cerrell Associates party held for Joe were Councilmember Koretz and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (pictured above with Joe Cerrell).
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for winning another NBA championship! We thank the players for their tremendous efforts and salute the team for its work ethic, extraordinary skills and dedication. The Lakers exemplify the teamwork and excellence that in so many different areas of professional endeavor make our City great.