Presidential Visits and Traffic Gridlock
Over the past many years, Angelenos have become accustomed to especially bad traffic on days when presidents or other major world figures arrive and suddenly everything comes to halt to let others pass swiftly, safely by. Still, many have wondered if the suffering could be reduced – especially when, as the L.A. Times noted about the recent visit by President Obama, "residents reported that commutes and errands that typically took minutes turned into hours-long ordeals...streets remained blocked for hours."
Of course, it is absolutely essential that the President of the United States be kept safe from harm, and that the same be true for other high-ranking officials and world dignitaries who may choose to visit Los Angeles. Still, we should try to avoid unnecessary gridlock, confusion and risk to the public resulting from any needless lack of communication and planning.
As a result, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl introduced a motion, seconded by Councilmember Koretz, stating that "in the future, it is important that local and federal officials find ways to better facilitate the flow of traffic during visits – without doing anything to jeopardize the safety of the President." The motion called on the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to report on procedures used in determining how to shut down or re-route traffic to accommodate the presence of the President or other high-ranking dignitaries. The motion additionally asks that the LAPD and LADOT also report on any additional efforts that could be taken to better inform residents of pending traffic impacts, and on additional or different processes that could be used to better move traffic while still safeguarding the President or other prominent officials.
At the request of Councilmember Koretz, and thanks to the diligent efforts of the Street Enforcement and Investigation Division of the Bureau of Street Services, Supervisor Karen Bowie and her team of Investigators did a full sweep on Ventura Blvd., from Van Nuys to Cedros, along the south and north sides in Sherman Oaks. They removed A-frame and large metal signs, clothes racks, banners, planters, and tables from the public right of way.
Also deserving immense credit with this effort are community leaders in Sherman Oaks, who have a no-tolerance attitude for code enforcement violations. Thanks go to all who participated in this team effort with the CD 5 office and the Street Enforcement and Investigation Division.
VICA Luncheon Event
Councilmember Koretz receives a friendly greeting from Stuart Waldman, VICA President.
The Valley Industry & Commerce Association – VICA – is one of the most dynamic and essential organizations serving the San Fernando Valley, the City of Los Angeles and the entire Greater Los Angeles area. In VICA meetings, important ideas and initiatives are incubated and advocated, and crucial debate occurs. Especially at a time of economic uncertainty, VICA has a special role in championing understandings about what can help our business community and promote job creation.
That's why Councilmember Koretz eagerly attends and participates in VICA events. He was delighted to be at the recent VICA luncheon featuring elected officials from throughout Los Angeles: it was a "meet and greet" but it was also an opportunity for members of the Valley business community to ask questions. Councilmember Koretz was asked about the Audits & Governmental Efficiency Committee that he chairs, and so he described many of the efforts in that committee, including threatening the DWP with possible subpoenas if they refused to cooperate, and working hand-in-hand with City Controller Wendy Greuel to implement audits to collect money owed to the city by parking companies.
You may have seen news reports about a big rally that was held last week in front of City Hall. Thousands cheered their support for the 30/10 Initiative, which seeks to accomplish 30 years worth of transit projects, here in Los Angeles, in just 10 years.
The 30/10 Initiative will take the long-term revenue from the sales tax that was approved some years back with the passage of Measure R, and will use that revenue as collateral for long-term bonds and a federal loan so that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority can build 12 crucial mass transit projects in a decade, rather than taking 30 years as would otherwise be the case.
Quicker construction will have a huge impact, translating into significant cost savings plus 160,000 jobs created sooner rather than later, at a time when the region’s suffering economy can surely use an immediate boost. (Many of those participating in that rally were labor activists eager for job creation.) Swifter completion of these transit projects also means we can look forward to a time, not that far away, when there will be reduced greenhouse emissions and less traffic congestion in Los Angeles, thanks to increased public transportation options.
Saying "NO" to Too Much Bureaucracy
Can you imagine being told that in order to remodel your house and do a small addition you have to enlarge your street? Can you imagine this happening on a cul-de-sac and the enlargement going up onto another property? As ridiculous as it sounds that is what happened to one CD5 homeowner when they went to pull permits from the Department of Building and Safety and the Bureau of Engineering (BOE).
One role of the Council Office is to cut through the City bureaucracy and regulatory jungle in order to assist our constituents. In the recent case described above, Councilmember Koretz authored a specific council motion to compel BOE to waive the unnecessary improvement requirements. While street improvements are often necessary, sometimes they are not, and common sense has to take over.
If you are facing difficulty with a City official or agency, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
A Wish Come True – 7,000 times and counting
Councilmember Koretz with many of the Make-A-Wish Foundation's Greater LA Chapter. Councilmember Koretz is standing between Wish Recipient #7000 Claire Wineland (seated) and Chapter VP and CAO Dr. Ramin Bashchi. Wish Recipient #7001 Matthew Palacios is seated on the floor giving us a "thumbs up."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles® is one of the most wonderful organizations of our time – and it’s headquartered right here in the 5th Council District, in Century City.
On Wednesday, August 18th, the Los Angeles chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation enjoyed a remarkable landmark achievement, when it presented its 7,000th wish-come-true to children with “progressive, degenerative or malignant life-threatening medical conditions.” That wish was one of 420 wishes granted in 2010 by the Greater Los Angeles chapter – the most for any year since the foundation was founded in April 1983.
Councilmember Koretz honored the landmark 7,000th wish by inviting many of those involved with the Greater Los Angeles chapter to City Hall to tell the foundation’s story. Volunteers, staff, wish recipients and “wish parents” were on hand. Speaking for the chapter was Dr. Ramin Bashchi, Vice President and CAO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. Wish parent Adele Bailey talked of how much it meant to her son and family to have such fun in the midst of trying times: her son, Brett, went to TOPGUN flight school in Nevada in answer to his wish.
Finally, and most poignantly, the City Council was addressed by the 7000th Wish recipient, the delightful Claire Wineland, age 13, who had her bedroom transformed by HGTV personality and renowned decorator Kim Myles into an oceanic wonderland with images of starfish, mermaids and other seafaring creatures. She, too, talked of the tremendous happiness the wish presentation gave her and her family.
The dedicated and important work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation was driven home to the City Councilmembers when the Foundation reported that it was not resting on its laurels with granting 7000 wishes but already had selected the child for its 7001st wish – 3 year old Matthew Palacios, who has fought liver disease his entire life. Matthew, it turns out, has a City Hall connection – he is the son of Andrew Palacios, who serves on the staff of City Councilmember Bernard Parks. Young Matthew excitedly told the packed Council chambers how thrilled he was to have his wish granted – his family was leaving the very next day for Florida, where he would get to visit Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Give Kids the World, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles.
Councilmember Koretz and all of City Hall salute the Greater Los Angeles chapter for its generosity of spirit. The City cherishes the children involved and thanks and honors all those who give them good cheer.
Ray Bradbury Week
Ray Bradbury greets Councilmember Koretz after the presentation.
The astoundingly productive and inventive writer, Ray Bradbury, celebrates his 90th birthday on August 22nd – and people from throughout the Los Angeles region will celebrate with him during "Ray Bradbury Week," which is from August 22 through August 28. As part of the festivities, Council President Garcetti brought him to City Hall to be saluted by the full Council and be wished "Happy Birthday!"
Bradbury, a past 5th Council District resident and denizen of many of our most memorable locales, is certainly among the world's foremost authors of science fiction, fantasy and mystery: his stories have tantalized minds and spurred readers to wonder about all aspects of existence, whether real or imagined. What's clear is that Ray Bradbury has opened up great vistas of contemplation for countless readers while also getting people to be thrilled by science and enamored with Los Angeles, for he has constantly written about our city and has inspired visionaries to have new and different ideas about how we might best evolve as a city.
Councilmember Koretz, who attended Palms Middle School and Hamilton High with Bradbury’s daughter, has read and reread Ray Bradbury’s work many times over the years. He even confessed to his favorite author that Bradbury had inspired Koretz to try his hand at science fiction writing. Koretz remains an avid Bradbury reader.
Adoring fans have many extraordinary works to choose from when naming their favorite Ray Bradbury classic, though surely Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dandelion Wine would rank among the top vote-getters. Several "Ray Bradbury Week" events are scheduled around town, with Mr. Bradbury hoping to attend each event, subject to availability: for complete information, go to the Ray Bradbury Week Facebook page or email email@example.com with "schedule" in the subject line.
Thank you, Stan Chambers!
Los Angeles is a city of constant new trends and changing faces, with sadly vanished landmarks and forgotten treasures, so it is remarkable to think about the long career and steadfast contributions of Stan Chambers.
He recently retired on August 11, his 87th birthday, after an amazing 63 years as a TV reporter at KTLA – a station he joined when there were only about 300 TV sets in the L.A. area, and only about half of them worked. His 1949 on-scene reporting of the efforts to save a young girl who had fallen into an abandoned well has been called the first live TV coverage of a breaking news story, and was credited for inspiring a surge of sales of TV sets in Los Angeles.
In his remarkable career, he covered more than 22,000 stories that together comprise a tapestry of Los Angeles during its emergence as one of the great cities of the world. Whether detailing famous murder cases and key political revelations, being on site at the first live telecast of an atomic bomb test at the Nevada Test site or following natural disasters, breaking the news about the videotape of the Rodney King incident, or covering the Tournament of Roses Parade nearly every year since 1949, Stan Chambers has been the quintessential voice of trustworthy reportage.
He has been awarded numerous Emmy, Golden Mike and L.A. Press Club Awards. He has been honored with a "star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and just this past week was saluted in City Hall upon his retirement. In some ways, what may be even more significant are the Stan Chambers Journalism Awards, which encourage and reward young future journalists. With news media outlets rapidly disappearing and with journalism too often seeming like a doomed art form, it's great to know that Stan Chambers has set an example of fortitude, longevity and grace that may well inspire future generations of reporters to serve with similar honesty, skill and dedication.
Municipal Garage Update
It’s no secret that the City has taken tough steps to deal with the City’s budget crisis. There have been layoffs, furloughs and service cutbacks, some of them quite severe.
Councilmember Koretz has championed fixing the budget by introducing a vast array of governmental efficiencies and getting rid of waste, including by implementing the tough recommendations of audits. But in general, the Mayor and the significant majority of the Council have sought to make some of the biggest inroads in the budget deficit through leasing of some municipal assets.
That’s why, in response to the City’s short term and longer term budget challenges, the Mayor two years ago proposed that the City join other jurisdictions around the United States and Europe in analyzing whether the City should enter “public-private partnerships (P3)” for the operation of City owned parking garages. The City Council determined that it would not agree to sale of the assets, but would consider entering into long term lease agreements with private garage operators. Representatives of various City departments have been working with the Mayor’s staff to develop the parameters for a bidding process to gauge private sector interest in city garages.
Early on, the City Administrative Officer and various city consultants informed the Council and Mayor that it believed that the City would get the highest bids from this process if all City garages were offered as part of one complete bid package rather than selling or leasing the garages individually. Thus, the P3 bidding is being structured in that manner.
In addition, the Mayor, in developing the proposed City budget for fiscal year 2010-2011, stated that he believed that the P3 deal would happen during the 2010-2011 year, and that it was a prudent budgetary action to recognize some but not all of the revenue anticipated to come from that transaction – $53 million. The Mayor reported that roughly 1000 more layoffs of City personnel and the corresponding reduction in already strapped city services would be required if these funds do not materialize. The City’s final budget as adopted includes this $53 million.
This week, as the next step in this process, the City Council agreed to submit the proposed P3 deal to the marketplace with a request for proposals (RFP). The City Council next will review the bids which come in response to this RFP later this fall.
Councilmember Koretz has expressed strong reservations throughout the P3 discussion about this transaction, but also has indicated his willingness to “hear” from the marketplace before making a final decision. Thus, he supported the Council’s decision to seek proposals. And, to put it bluntly, the significant majority of the Council was clearly determined to get to the next stage of at least being open to receiving and reviewing proposals.
As part of this process, Councilmember Koretz expressed particular concerns about leasing the Broxton Garage in Westwood Village which he considers critical to the ongoing vitality of the Village. As a result of Koretz’s advocacy, the Broxton Garage is the only garage in the City which, if leased, will have a special pricing policy to protect, at least for five years, reduced pricing at the garage to support local economic development. Koretz also requested that the garage be taken out of the package so that other bidders – such as bidders from the Westwood community – could bid solely on that garage. Unfortunately, the City’s Administrative Officer and Chief Legislative Analyst recommended that all garages be kept together as a package, and no other Councilmember supported Koretz in pulling the Broxton Garage from the package.
Again, to be clear, there has been no decision to lease these garages. The only decision is to authorize the City to seek bids from interested operators. When these bids are received, the next phase of the process will begin.
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