By Aaron Blevins, 2/23/2012
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, 10th District, has had his hands full since assuming the council’s top leadership position, and his plate now includes redistricting and the 2012-2013 budget.
Since Wesson has taken the helm, the council has passed an ordinance to require condoms in adult films, hired a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ratepayer advocate, realigned its committees and begun the process to redraw district lines.
Ed Johnson, Wesson’s press deputy, said the hiring of ratepayer advocate Fred Pickel took longer than anticipated, and the council had to approve a water quality rate increase request before he set up his office and staff.
Johnson said the deadline established by the federal government for the city to cover its reservoirs was upcoming, and council members were running out of time to execute contracts and have the work done. The city was facing a $25,000/day fine, and Pickel would have required an additional 45 to 60 days to review the proposal, he said.
“We didn’t have that kind of time,” Johnson added.
At the end of January, Wesson altered some council committee seats, removing Bernard Parks, 8th District, as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee and replacing him with Paul Krekorian, 2nd District. He also removed Jan Perry, 9th District, as chairwoman of the Energy and Environment Committee, replacing her with Jose Huizar, 14th District.
Though these alterations have received attention for possibly being politically motivated, Johnson said every incoming council president realigns committees. He said the changes are not punishments.
“That is not the case,” Johnson said. “You can only work with people who want to work with you.”
He said Wesson also split one committee into two. Now, there is an Education and Neighborhoods Committee, headed by Parks, and an Arts, Parks, Health & Aging Committee, headed by Richard Alarcon, 7th District.
“Beyond that, there weren’t any wholesale changes,” Johnson added.
Upcoming issues facing the council include Huizar’s motion to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and a motion by Tony Cardenas, 6th District, to alter truancy laws. Johnson said in the latter case, some students who have been cited for truancy come from distressed families in poor neighborhoods.
“There hasn’t been enough focus to see what we can do to keep kids in school,” he said.
Foremost, the council is currently in the midst of redistricting. Johnson said Wesson will chair the Rules Committee, where the proposed lines will first be subject to council scrutiny.
“It’s always controversial,” he added.
Additionally, the council will look into franchise waste hauling. Johnson said the city’s Department of Public Works is hoping to enhance its recycling efforts and provide better working conditions. However, the proposal creates 11 “zones” with one hauler for each zone. Opponents say the plan adversely affects small, independent companies.
“It’ll be a big issue,” Johnson said.
He said the council expects to receive a mid-year report on the budget this week. The 2011-2012 deficit of $76 million has been eliminated through cuts and other “efficiencies”, though the city anticipates a $150 to $200 million deficit in 2012-2013, Johnson said.
“The economy is getting better, but it’s not getting better quickly,” he said.
Johnson said the council will face some tough questions, such as, “What are the core functions of the city?” He wondered aloud whether those core functions included a city-run zoo or convention center. Johnson advised residents to take Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s budget survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/2012LABudgetSurvey.
The council could also soon make decisions on immigrant rights in relation to police impounds, the handling of the post-redevelopment era and the environmental impact report (EIR) for the proposed downtown football stadium.
“Once [the EIR] is complete, we’ll find out if the NFL really wants to come to L.A.,” Johnson said.