Two days after the 13-member Los Angeles 2020 Commission released a report saying the city is experiencing "continued economic decline" and a crisis of leadership, council members voiced their own frustration about their efforts to combat poverty, attract jobs and deliver basic services.
But they also argued that the 43-page document, entitled "A Time for Truth," did not reflect recent efforts to put the city's financial house in order — including cutting the workforce by 5,300 people and paring back retirement benefits for future city workers. Councilman
"If it's a time for truth, we should also acknowledge that part of the truth is a dramatic degree of progress in what has been a nagging, nagging problem for the city for many years," Krekorian told members of the 2020 panel who attended Friday's council meeting.
The commission's report was unsparing in various passages, saying decision makers had "evaded the hard choices facing local government and municipal finance" and bemoaning a host of urban ills: low graduation rates, depressed wages, rising public safety response times and ongoing traffic congestion. In one passage, the report said the city had made "modest strides" in reducing the size of the deficit.
In recent days, the commission's chairman, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, has tried to soften that message by personally praising Council President
"A lot of people say this is about the council, it's about the mayor, it's about the city attorney, it's about the city controller. No. No, sir," Kantor told the council. "It's about all of us."
"The commission's verbal presentation gave a better accounting of the progress that has been made than the written report," he said.
Former mayoral aide Austin Beutner, who served on the panel, said the document tried to acknowledge that progress had been made while also showing that much more work is needed. "We were limited to 20 pages" of findings, he said. "This wasn't supposed to be the 'Odyssey' or the 'Iliad.'"
Krekorian's budget committee will take another look at the commission report in coming weeks. The L.A. 2020 commission is scheduled to deliver its second report, a list of recommendations, in 90 days.
Seven of the council's 15 members have taken office since July and have not yet had to cast major votes on the city budget. As they discussed the report, lawmakers largely sidestepped the commission's assertion that the city is facing a crisis of leadership, opting instead to praise each other's work so far.
"As a whole this is one of the best councils that I've seen," he said.