LA Mayor Eric Garcetti's 1st year: Mixed results, a lot left to do

On July 1, Eric Garcetti marked his first year as mayor of Los Angeles. To coincide with his appearance on AirTalk, KPCC reviewed his campaign promises and progress over the past year.
On July 1, Eric Garcetti marked his first year as mayor of Los Angeles. To coincide with his appearance on AirTalk, KPCC reviewed his campaign promises and progress over the past year.
File photo by victoriabernal via Flickr Creative Commons

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti celebrates his first year in office this week, and KPCC took a look at Garcetti's campaign promises and his progress in meeting them. The results are mixed.

Issue: Creation of 20,000 Green Jobs  

The Promise

At a debate back in December of 2012, Eric Garcetti pledged to create 20,000 green jobs if elected mayor. A comment made to grab headlines instead became a campaign promise. 

Progress so far

The Mayor's Office says it's making progress with about 2,500 jobs created in water conservation, solar and energy efficiency. Garcetti's staff says there are policies and funding in place today that will lead to another 9,000 jobs. It expects to reach its goal of 20,000 green jobs through expansion of a solar panel program, energy efficiency policies and water projects.

But critics aren't so sure. One economist noted that the North American Industry Classification System does not break out "green" jobs in its employment numbers. Even the Mayor's Office notes there is no way to determine whether a job was created by city, state or federal policy. 

Issue: Eliminating Business Tax

The Promise

The city of L.A. taxes businesses on their gross sales. That tax brings in about 10 percent of the city's revenue, yet it is often cited as a deterrent to bringing new companies to Los Angeles. Garcetti supports phasing out the tax until it is eliminated.

Progress so far

There's been little progress on this front. The mayor's budget calls for the tax rate to reduce over a three-year period, starting in January 2016.  Even after the reduction, however, the tax will still be higher than taxes in Beverly Hills, Culver City, West Hollywood, Glendale and Calabasas.

The chairman of the Business Tax Advisory Committee said he would give the mayor a B- or C+ on this goal so far. "Although he did succeed in enacting business tax reform--hence the passing grade--he failed to enact BTAC's plan (or any plan, for that matter) to phase out the city's onerous business tax, as he called for repeatedly during his campaign speeches," said Lloyd Greif. 

"The mayor's proposal doesn't go far enough, nor fast enough. This baby step is way too small to 'move the needle' on attracting, retaining and expanding businesses within L.A.," Greif said. 

Issue: Department of Water and Power  

The Promise

As a candidate, Garcetti pledged to pursue a 1,200 megawatt solar rooftop program. He also pledged to be independent of the DWP's powerful labor union, and to bring a new era of accountability and transparency to the utility. 

Progress so far

Garcetti gets a "B" grade for hiring new general manager Marcie Edwards, an industry executive, to replace Ron Nichols, and appointing four new commissioners (including two members of Neighborhood Councils), according to Jack Humphreville with the DWP Advocacy Committee. 

Humphreville also praised Garcetti for the following: "[He] ordered the benchmarking of DWP's operations and compensation structure; entered into a favorable four year contract with the IBEW that included pension reform and no raises; supported Ron Galperin in his efforts to obtain the financial records of the Joint Safety and Training Institutes; and deferred needed rate increases."

But Garcetti "receives an incomplete grade on issues involving long term issues facing DWP," Humphreville added, including: "the unaffordable escalation of water and power rates required by environmental and political mandates; City Hall's interference with DWP's operations and policies; Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the State Water Bond and Owens Lake; City Hall's tapping DWP for over $1 billion a year (Transfer Fee, Utility Tax, IBEW Labor Premium, pet projects); One Water and the concern that DWP will be the deep pocket; and the undue influence of the IBEW due to its relationship with members of the City Council."

Garcetti has also made little progress in getting the DWP's labor union to release information about public funds that are given to two nonprofits for training and safety programs. The funds must be paid as part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' contract, but Garcetti has said the public has a right to know how the money is being spent. The mayor sees the fight over the Joint Training and Joint Safety institutes as a way to bring "transparency" to the utility. ​ 

Issue: Los Angeles River

The Promise

As a councilman, Garcetti was involved with appointing the initial board of directors for the LA River Revitalization Corp. One of his first tasks as mayor was to lobby the federal government to approve a $1 billion proposal to rehabilitate 11 miles of the river. 

Progress so far

The mayor has gotten high marks for his plans to rehabilitate parts of the L.A. River.

"It's been phenomenal," said Omar Brownson, executive director of the LA River Revitalization Corp. "He said he wanted to make the L.A. River front and center in his administration, and he has."

The mayor lobbied the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve a $1 billion plan to rehabilitate parts of the L.A. River. The plan was ultimately recommended by the feds, but only in concept. Congress will still need to approve $500 million for the project, and Los Angeles will have to come up with the remaining $500 million. The plan will impact 11 of the river's 51 miles.

"I would want to give him an A+, but I feel like there's always room for improvement, and I don't want him to rest on his laurels," Brownson said.

Issue: Transparency

The Promise

Garcetti promised to bring transparency to City Hall by posting departments' metrics to a public website. He also said he would be data-driven in how he evaluates programs and city employees. Garcetti pledged to use technology and innovation to improve customer service for Angelenos. 

Progress so far

Garcetti has created a website where residents can view various metrics about the city – how many potholes get filled, how many murders go unsolved. But few residents are using them: In May, the L.A. Weekly reported the website received just 34 views a day. 

Garcetti has also made heavy use of Twitter and Facebook to reach constituents, which allows him to communicate directly with Angelenos, which may give them a sense of openness, while also allowing Garcetti to control his message.

But Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, would like more genuine transparency. "My biggest concern is his fundraising for the nonprofit [Mayor's Fund] mentioned in Saturday's Times," Stern said. "I want to make sure he is completely open about who gives and who receives the funds. The mayor has been much less visible than [former Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa, who was everywhere his first year, and people knew about what he was doing.  The only thing people remember about Garcetti's first year is his four letter word at the Kings celebration."

Issue: General Managers

The Promise

As a candidate, Garcetti said he would make all of his general managers reapply for their jobs in an effort to hold them accountable. Garcetti also wanted to see general managers set specific goals for their departments.

Progress so far

Since Garcetti took office, there have been leadership changes in 12 departments, including DWP, the port and the fire department.