Culver City Edition Lead Story News Northeast Edition West Edition

Mayor says ‘back-to-basics’ is producing results

NORTHRIDGE — Mayor Eric Garcetti said in his State of the City speech Tuesday that his “back to basics” approach has yielded results and announced a series of measures to tackle a recent rise in violent crime.

“City Hall is getting things done, neighborhoods are on the move, people are getting back to work,” Garcetti said at in the Valley Performance Arts Center at Cal State Northridge.

Garcetti said when he took office 21 months ago, “our city was still reeling from the Great Recession,” and the “city had stopped fixing sidewalks, trimming trees, hiring firefighters.”

But since then, new jobs in the city have been added at “the fastest pace in more than a decade” and the city’s credit rating is up, he said.

“Los Angeles and your City Hall are roaring back, and the state of our city is strong,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti acknowledged that there is more work ahead with the city recently experiencing a rise in violent crime.

To tackle this crime increase, he said the city is “nearly doubling the ranks” of “elite” police officers in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Metropolitan Division, “so we can quickly saturate a neighborhood with additional officers when crime spikes.”

Garcetti said he will extend the city’s Summer Night Lights program — which keeps parks open later during summer as a way to steer youth away from gangs — so parks will also remain open late on Friday nights during the school year.

Garcetti also announced that the police department is expanding its Community Safety Partnership, a program that embeds police officers for five years at public housing developments, “where they will become part of the community they protect and serve.”

The expansion includes creating a team of 40 officers who will take this “relationship-based” approach to policing.

Garcetti added that he will make a budget proposal next week to increase funding for the city’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development program by $5.5 million.

Garcetti also announced that the city will allow ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft to join taxi companies in being able to pick up passengers at airports beginning this summer.

Garcetti also said the city will now also provide data to Waze, a smartphone app that gives crowd-sourced traffic directions. The app will now be able to show areas where the city has closed streets for repairs and even film shoots.

In a speech that touched on numerous initiatives and ongoing issues in the city, Garcetti avoided discussing ongoing labor talks with city employees — thousands of whom recently voted to authorize a strike as contract talks stall.

A small group of protesters from one of the city employee unions marched in a circle outside the Valley Performing Arts Center, banging on buckets like drums and carrying signs with a picture of the mayor, saying “Garcetti, Fix LA Now.”

Garcetti said last year that in order to eliminate future budget deficits, the city needs to hold the line on city employee wages and get workers to agree to contribute a higher percentage of their health care costs.

City employee unions have so far resisted such concessions.

Garcetti used the speech as an opportunity to remind the public about the continuing drought and his plan to prepare the city’s infrastructure and buildings for the next big earthquake.

“We’ll get through this drought because we are a resilient city, … a city that prepares for disasters, instead of being caught off guard,” Garcetti said.

The drought, now in its fourth year, has become a pressing issue across the state, with Gov. Jerry Brown calling for a 25 percent reduction in water use, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California expected to restrict water deliveries to its members agencies by 15 percent — only the third time in 25 years it has enacted such limits.

Garcetti, who noted that Cal State Northridge, where he delivered his speech, was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, said the college bounced back quickly, re-opening a month after the temblor.

Garcetti said a major earthquake “will happen” and is “overdue,” so he and the City Council are moving forward immediately with an “aggressive earthquake plan.”

The plan calls for strengthening the city’s water delivery system, improving the local communications network and requiring that buildings prone to collapsing during earthquakes be retrofitted.

Garcetti also used the speech to tout several major proposals he has put forth in recent months.

Garcetti urged the City Council “to pass a responsible, carefully crafted plan to raise the minimum wage — now.”

The City Council is to debate his proposal — announced on Labor Day — to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 per hour by 2017. Some city leaders want to go further and boost the wage to $15.25 by 2019.