Mayor Outlines Plan to Fight Gang Violence in State of the City Address

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday delivered his annual State of the City Address at police headquarters. Villaraigosa focused many of his comments on his plan to improve gang prevention programs. KPCC's Frank Stoltze was there.

Frank Stoltze: The mayor's address followed a series of gang shootings. Some have garnered widespread coverage, like the killing of a Los Angeles high school athlete. Others have not.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: Cesar Martinez, killed by a gang member as he walked down Hill Street. Craig Cooper, murdered in a drive-by outside his apartment building...

Stoltze: In his speech, the mayor promised to continue expanding the number of police officers, and to spend more on anti-gang programs. He said the focus would be on helping kids when they're most vulnerable.

Villaraigosa: That means keeping our parks and rec centers open, and bustling, as safe havens during the hours when our kids are most exposed, from 3 p.m. to midnight.

Stoltze: Last week, the City Council moved all anti-gang programs into the mayor's office. Villaraigosa said he would use his new authority to expand the number of gang reduction and youth development zones in the city from eight to 12, and to fund each with at least a million and a half dollars. Deputy mayor for gangs Jeff Carr said overall funding for gang prevention programs would increase from 18 to 24 million dollars. He said the plan is to concentrate more resources in fewer areas.

Jeff Carr: In a tough fiscal climate, we're going to have to make some tough choices, and that means unfortunately that some resources that may have been available in the past, in certain areas, may no longer be available.

Stoltze: Carr said he wants to demonstrate success, then seek more funding from the City Council. The gang reduction zones include the Ramona Gardens housing project in East L.A., the Florence area in South L.A., and Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley.

While the mayor called the state of the city "strong," he said it's facing one of its worst ever budget crises. The city faces a $400 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. Villaraigosa's proposed layoffs. He also said that his office and that of City Council President Eric Garcetti already had agreed to a 5% reduction in their budgets.

Villaraigosa: I want to thank our city controller and our city attorney in advance. I know that you too are eager to do your part. (laughing)

Stoltze: Later, City Controller Laura Chick didn't sound so eager.

Controller Laura Chick: Uh, ya know, I'm very supportive of 5% for the mayor and the city council. I can't speak for the city attorney, but I run a department and it's going to be real tough to come up with 5%. The mayor knows that. We've talked about it already.

Stoltze: The controller argued her department saves the city money. It's an example of the budget battles ahead. The mayor didn't say it directly, but also hinted strongly he'll propose increasing trash pick-up fees, something sure to garner strong opposition from neighborhood councils.

Villaraigosa's agenda stalled last year amid an extramarital affair. In his state of the city address, the first term mayor, who had asked the city to dream big in his inaugural address, acknowledged he hadn't realized all of his goals, most prominently his bid to take over the school district. But he claimed progress. Villaraigosa takes over half a dozen campuses from the L.A. Unified School District in the fall.

Villaraigosa: Our partnership schools are going to be like the first seeds. We intend to show results, and expand the franchise every single year.

Stoltze: Villaraigosa also touted his green energy initiatives and promised to fight hard for more mass transit funding.