By Aaron Blevins, 2/21/2013
Candidates seeking to replace current controller Greuel
In the March 5 Primary Election, six candidates are running for the position of Los Angeles City Controller, a seat currently held by Wendy Greuel, who is among those running for mayor.
Five of the six candidates are profiled here. Candidate Analilia Joya did not return multiple requests for comments via e-mail, and the phone number listed in the Los Angeles City Clerk’s Declaration of Intention list had been disconnected.
Patel, 27, is a graduate student and union organizer for the National Union of Healthcare Workers. He said he became familiar with the controller’s office — and ultimately decided to run for the position — after having trouble getting information about the city’s finances.
“I’m running because I feel there is a blatant lack of transparency on how city hall spends our money,” Patel said.
A current board member for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, he said his top priority would be updating the city’s financial management system and making it available to the public online in real-time. As it is right now, the city has 785 pages of accounts with little information about their contents, Patel said.
“It’s just a beast,” he said. “You can’t figure out how much money is in each account without going back through the whole process. …These are public funds. We should know where it is, where it’s going and how it’s spent.”
Patel said he also wants to address pension and healthcare costs — two aspects of the budget that are growing and “squeezing” the general fund. He said these funds generally are invested by Wall Street into multi-national corporations.
Although the numbers are “contentious,” the grad student said the city expects a 7.75 percent return, but a safe estimate would suggest that the city gets 6 percent. With healthcare increasing 8 to 10 percent annually, Patel suggested investing the city’s pension money into a single-payer, city-operated healthcare system.
“It’s a big idea,” he said. “It’s not completely fleshed out.”
The Northridge native, who said he isn’t taking campaign contributions, added that the city could invest the parts of its three $10-billion pension funds into a healthcare system it could create for city employees. He said it would be an “interesting and nuanced” way of using current funds.
Bornstein, 52, lives in Canoga Park and owns an audio/visual company, Bornstein Company Inc. He said he is running to be a voice for the taxpayers.
“I think that the taxpayers of this city have been burdened for a long enough period of time without the elected officials being on their side,” Bornstein said.
He said he would like to make changes to the personnel department by eliminating positions through attrition. This would eliminate some pension payments and help alleviate the city’s budget issues, Bornstein said.
“If you let it happen, it’ll happen,” he added.
Bornstein said it doesn’t make any sense that city employees are granted six-figure pensions while some people in the city struggle to buy food. He said he would propose an “exorbitant” pension tax.
Bornstein also suggested creating more of a conglomerate in the procurement department. He said combining the city’s purchasing power with that of the LAUSD and Los Angeles County would save the city money on purchases and allow officials to sell items to other municipalities.
“And really, that’s what sets me away from everybody else,” Bornstein said, adding that the extra money could maintain services, provide new services and allow the city to make a profit “so we don’t have to overburden the taxpayer.”
Lastly, he said he wants to locate business opportunities for the city to start its own businesses, which would allow Los Angeles to make a profit and fill a pothole without requiring taxpayer dollars.
“Eventually, all governments are going to have profit-making ventures as a part of their city governments,” Bornstein said.
A lifelong Democrat, he said he has run for the Los Angeles City Council District 3 seat twice.
Zine, 65, has represented District 3 on the Los Angeles City Council for 12 years. He will “term out” this year, but he hopes to use his council experience in the controller’s office.
Zine said he would seek to make the city more efficient through fiscal management, performance audits and by ensuring that waste, fraud and abuse are addressed. He said he has the insight and knows what changes need to be made.
“I’m up and running on July 1,” Zine said. “I don’t need a learning curve.”
He said his top priority would be risk management. As a former LAPD officer and current reserve officer, Zine said the police department could do a better job of managing risk and limiting liability cases.
“I don’t think they’re being managed properly,” he said.
Further, Zine said he wants to monitor how the city spends its money and what officials spend it on. He referenced a proposed Los Angeles International Airport public relations program that would have spent $4 million on other municipalities had the council not stopped it. Zine said the city needs to ensure that its funds are appropriately dispersed.
“It’s an area that has not had the attention it needs to have,” he added.
Zine said he would strive to allow city departments to reinvest extra revenue into their respective departments. He said he would also oppose the half-cent sales tax increase, promote transparency in the office and be aggressive in collecting money.
“I use common sense,” Zine said. “I use logic. I use a fiscally-responsible attitude, and that’s what the city controller’s office will reflect.”
Galperin, 49, operates the Law Offices of Ron Galperin and has chaired two of the city’s financial commissions, the Quality and Productivity Commission and the Commission on Revenue Efficiency. He said he wants to ensure that some of the recommendations made on those commissions come to fruition.
“I really think that with the current finances of the city being in the shape that they’re in, we need desperately to improve them,” Galperin said.
He said the city has a vast array of assets, including hundreds of pieces of real estate, some of which are leased for $1, that could be put to better use.
“We own asphalt plants,” Galperin said. “We own farm land.”
He also wants to reform the way the city handles its contracts. Galperin said few of the city’s purchases are made from Los Angeles-area businesses, which ship taxpayer dollars elsewhere.
“And that makes no sense,” he said.
Galperin, a Philadelphia native who has lived in Los Angeles for 28 years, said he authored the blueprint for Los Angeles’ Reform of City Collections, but said more recommendations need to be implemented.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to improve the collections we do in the system,” he said, adding that those improvements could be done without straining residents’ wallets. The attorney said he wants the city to be smarter and more efficient. He said that merely shining a light on problems is not enough; change needs to be made.
Brazeman, 46, owns a marketing and public relations firm, The Corporate Storyteller, and is an at-large representative of the Mid-City West Community Council. He said the controller is the closest position the city has to an inspector general, and has the ability to impact residents’ quality of life and the business climate.
“As we know, there’s a lot that needs fixing around here, starting literally with broken infrastructure,” Brazeman said, adding that the city’s finances are also at a crossroads. “We’re looking at years of budget deficits unless we get a grip on this.”
He said he would look at all department programs and the impact of city ordinances, and make recommendations to the city as needed. Brazeman said he would ensure that all public infrastructure funds are being spent wisely.
He said he would also focus on core service delivery, including the Los Angeles Fire Department’s response times. Brazeman said the department meets national response standards only 60 percent of the time.
“Sixty percent is not acceptable — shouldn’t be acceptable,” he said, adding that he would look at the department’s software, dispatch operations, resource management, equipment sufficiency and GPS systems.
Brazeman said the city must fix its “structural budget deficit,” and he proposed salary and pension reform for public employees. He suggested reopening negotiations with public employees unions in hopes of asking all involved parties to give “a little bit more” in the interest of helping the city through its crisis.
The neighborhood council board member said he would also support additional fees or taxes for infrastructure improvements, promote transparency and review key city contracts.