Transportation, education, gang violence, and a huge budget deficit. All were on the agenda as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave his third State of the City speech Monday night. KPCC's Frank Stoltze was there, and joined Shirley Jahad with a recap.
Shirley Jahad: Frank, the mayor talked about some new gang fighting efforts. Tell us about that.
Frank Stoltze: He spent a lot of time on gang prevention and gang intervention, and the reason, really, clearly, is this series of gang shootings we've had over the last few months; the killing of a 13-year-old boy in Echo Park as he picked lemons for his family in the front yard; the killing of Los Angeles high school football player Jamiel Shaw. These, and other incidents like them, really forced the mayor to address the gang problem in the city. Even though gang violence overall has been declining the last few years, we have these horrific incidents.
And he said that he is intending to rejigger, essentially, the gang prevention and intervention programs. Right now they're in the community development department. The city council last week passed a motion moving all of those programs into his office, and today he announced he would concentrate on the 12 most violent neighborhoods in the city. There are already eight programs targeting violent neighborhoods; he is increasing that to four, and that means some of the other less violent neighborhoods will get less funding, but he's planning on increasing funding to the gang prevention programs from about 18 million to about 24 million dollars.
Jahad: Twenty-four million dollars to help fight and prevent gangs, but the mayor has that massive budget crisis losing, $400 million. Did the mayor elaborate on what might lie ahead, and what he might do about it?
Stoltze: Well, as he's been saying for the last few days, he's said that he's going to seek full cost recovery for certain services that are subsidized right now, most prominently garbage pickup, which costs about $22 per household per month right now, and in fact, costs city to provide, it costs the city about $35. So, we're very much probably going to see an increase in trash pickup in his formal budget proposal later this week.
And he talked also about those layoffs that he's been talking about for a few days; 767 elimination of job positions, eliminating 767 positions, some of them will likely result in layoffs. So he sort of in this speech said look, he's going to move forward on some gang prevention programs, but there's gonna be a lot of belt tightening too.
Jahad: Can you tell us about education? He talked about his taking control of a handful of schools, and that would be the seed the for the future.
Stoltze: He did. Of course, that was the highlight of last year's state of the city address; today, it took a less prominent role after his failure to win control of the schools last year, but he did, as we know, win control of about six or seven campuses, and that starts in the fall.
And he said that will provide the seed for reform, he hopes, at schools throughout the Los Angeles school district. He didn't offer many details in terms of exactly how that reform will go forward, other than school uniforms and more parent involvement, stuff he's talked about before.
Jahad: Now, the mayor just wrapped up the speech less than an hour ago; have you been able to get some reaction to some of what he said?
Stoltze: Well, I have. It's interesting; of course, everybody praises him for focusing more on the gang prevention programs, but in terms of the belt tightening, he wants all city departments to reduce budgets by at least 5%. City Controller Laura Chick immediately said she doesn't have that kind of money to spare, so he'll run into some resistance there.
And he wants to move all the sale of surplus property from council districts into the general fund, and Councilman Tom LaBonge said he didn't really like that idea, 'cause he likes being able to spend that money in his district. So you can already see sort of the outlines of the budget battle. You couldn't imagine having to make $400 million in cuts, which is what they have to do by July 1st, without some fighting.
Jahad: Thank you very much. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reporting from Parker Center on the mayor's state of the city address. The mayor also planning a news conference for tomorrow to elaborate further on his gang prevention efforts.