Represent!

Politics, government and public life for Southern California

2020 Commission paints bleak picture of LA's finances, leadership

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A commission appointed to examine the City of L.A.'s finances released a report Wednesday that paints Los Angeles as a city dependent on financial gimmicks and short-term solutions while simultaneously suffering from a "crisis in leadership and direction."

The 2020 Commission was appointed last year by council President Herb Wesson and is co-chaired by former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor and former mayoral candidate Austin Beutner. Its findings will be formally presented to the Los Angeles City Council on Friday, with additional recommendations due in another 90 days. 

One of the report's most critical passages reads: "Government relies on the public trust to function. When such big gaps occur between what government tells us and reality, ordinary citizens lose their trust in democracy." 

The commission's report asserts the city suffers from "a crisis in leadership and direction," though when pressed at a news conference Wednesday, Kantor declined to name any specific politicians. The commission was named by Wesson during last year's runoff campaign for mayor. When Eric Garcetti took office, the group had already begun meeting. 

"Mayor Garcetti was elected to solve problems and we invite the authors to join our work to improve L.A.'s economy and reform City Hall. We appreciate this report and look forward to the next one," said Yusef Robb, a spokesman for the mayor. 

Kantor and Beutner were joined at the news conference by the council president. 

The city's problems include:

  • Slow job growth and an increase in the number of low-income jobs that leave Angelenos in poverty
  • A public school system where fewer than 60 percent of the students graduate high school
  • Retirement and healthcare costs that eat up an increasing amount of the city's budget

"It's intended to be a candid look," Beutner said. "There's an old adage: 'You can't begin to solve a problem until you admit you have one.' And I think what we're trying to do is look at the depth of the problem." 

Just what will change at the city as a result of the 2020 Commission's report is unclear. Back in 1988, a similar report on the city's status was released — and then placed on a shelf. 

"I hope there's a difference," Kantor said. "I hope people respond, but it's also up to us."

Read the full report

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