Ending Corruption in Los Angeles

Corruption has cast a shadow on City Hall for years now.  Sitting elected officials have been repeatedly charged with bribery and malfeasance, and it’s destroying public trust. A 595-page Special Master’s report last year concluded that as many as 5 lawyers employed or hired by our current City Attorney’s Office violated the rules of professional conduct. Our City Attorney’s office was raided by the FBI and the Department of Justice and a top leader in the City Attorney’s Office plead guilty to a federal charge of extortion. I will serve as an independent elected official committed to rooting out the culture of corruption that permeates our local government.

How specifically can we move forward, and how as the City Attorney can I make an impact?

I have a relatively long list. 

Ending Nepotism and No-Bid Contracts

A crux of my campaign has been a pledge to end no-bid contracts, which are both an invitation to corruption and are driving the costs of supportive housing up many times above what they should be. I would implement best practices for financial matters such as the “4 eyes” rule, requiring two people to review key matters. Competitive bidding is essential to not only look after public resources, but to see any meaningful progress on the housing we need to build, the infrastructure we need to fix and the services we need to deliver day in and day out. I would establish prequalified checklists and competitive bidding procedures for all procurement above a certain dollar threshold, and make the process transparent providing access to bidders and publishing the reasons for the award. I would also reopen bidding for material changes to a contract – such as when a fair market value sale of a single parcel is “amended” to become a long term $1/year ground lease for 10 parcels.

Making the City More Transparent and Responsive to Neighborhoods. 

I would Implement Neighborhood Law Corps (like a cross between the Peace Corps and Legal Aid) as part of the City Attorney’s Office and work with law enforcement and the social services and health departments of the County to meet each neighborhood’s needs.

I would also take a page from Controller Galperin’s office and upgrade technology and enhance Public Records Act document database/e-discovery capacity.

These are things I can do from day one as City Attorney, without making structural changes to the Charter or seeking substantial partnership with the council. These are also items that fit a larger goal I have, of bringing more resources to bear on our existing issues, and demonstrating to the people of Los Angeles that the City is not only trustworthy and competent, but is an ally in solving the problems that matter to them locally. I believe that in a City as large as LA, we have to be sensitive to the fact that issues in San Pedro differ from those in Sylmar. We need to be flexible. 

Making Meaningful Changes to the General Plan and City Charter

I have many other ideas I would like to see implemented to not only end corruption but make our City work better.  For example,  I would advocate for updating the General Plan and Charter as part of redistricting every 10 years to give the City the flexibility to be more responsive and ensure issues do not reach a boiling point. 

Redistricting itself must also change, not only in light of the recent revelations about the raw abuses of power in our process, but also because our City has gone nearly 100 years with 15 council districts that is struggling to  represent the diversity of our City and its many communities. 

I would also advocate to make the day-to-day business of our City more transparent and accountable, such as requiring that presentations and testimony before commissions or council be under oath or that there are other consequences for lying to city policymakers.

I would appoint an ombudsman for HR/personnel issues, ensuring independent investigations, non-retaliation and confidentiality.

I would have independent commissioners, especially ethics commissioners, appointed for a term of years – preferably 5 years so as to span more than one term and have greater independence.

I would advocate reform to our budgeting process from current standards whether than means 2 year budgets, zero based budgeting, incentives for efficiencies or other options.

I also have a concept to help communities with revolving funds for microloans to: 

(a) support emergency and back rent to prevent displacement; 

(b) support for contractors especially women or minority owned businesses; 

(c) provide services for low income/section 8 housing; 

(d) help start up/small businesses; 

(e) incentivize retail (grocery, bank, etc) in underserved areas; 

(f) support first time home buyers; 

(g) promote workforce and low income housing conversions/projects; and/or 

(h) develop community land trusts and community beautification projects.

Finally, I believe we need to professionalize and standardize grant applications across all city departments to maximize applications for available grants and receipt of funding.

These are all issues that can and should be addressed by our next City Attorney. I welcome the challenge to craft and implement these reforms, because I love our City and believe we can make it work for everyone.

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