A City In Decline? ‘2020’ Report Paints Bleak Future For LA

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Poverty, weak job creation and other issues currently plaguing Los Angeles could leave the city “sinking into the future,” according to a report released Wednesday.

The report titled A Time For Truth (PDF) from the Los Angeles 2020 Commission, which was convened to study and report on the city’s fiscal stability, warns the city is suffering from a “crisis in leadership” and a lack of confidence on the part of investors.

“Los Angeles is sinking into a future in which it no longer can provide the public services to which our people’s taxes entitle them and where the promises made to public employees about a decent and secure retirement simply cannot be kept,” the report stated.

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports several pressing issues cited by the commission include poor economic development, traffic, a declining school system, budgetary cuts and deficits, rising pension costs and other factors that have contributed to the city’s current fiscal condition.

Commissioners focused specifically on slow job growth and stagnant wages that have left about 28 percent of working Angelenos at the poverty level, even as median income levels linger at 2007 levels, according to the report.

Budget constraints imposed after years of essentially flat revenue streams have also left the city facing a “death of a thousand cuts” that has resulted in severe declines in service levels since 1994, the report stated.

“Although City Hall forecasts revenue will grow about 1 percent next year, the only thing certain is expenses will grow by more than 5 percent in the same forecast,” the report said. “The implications of that gap are obvious.”

According to the report, a lack of investment dollars can also be blamed in part on reduced city services, such as an estimated 75 percent reduction in tree trimming services and libraries that operate with a workforce 30 percent smaller than levels from as recently as 2011.

Resources for building and safety, economic development, street services and sanitation have all been sharply reduced since 1993 after cuts to over 1,300 workers in those departments, the report stated.

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“Investment dollars will not flow to neighborhoods that suffer from crumbling sidewalks and pothole-filled streets,” notes Carol Schatz, President and CEO of the Central City Association of Los Angeles.

The report also describes the Los Angeles Unified School District as a “failing” public school system that will graduate less than 60 percent of its 640,000 students from high school despite a $7.1 billion budget. The report isn’t all doom-and-gloom: commissioners say LA can grow into a top-notch 21st-century city on the strengths of its ethnically diverse “pool of human capital,” world-class universities like UCLA, USC, and Caltech, and the city’s international brand, which represents “creativity, innovation, meritocracy, opportunity and a desirable lifestyle.”

Despite providing specifics on issues, commission chair and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor said the report isn’t directed at any single public official.

“This is not just about one person or two people or a leader here or a leader there…it’s about everyone,” Kantor said. “That’s why we don’t mention any names, we talk about leadership in general.”

The independent commission, formed by City Council President Herb Wesson and chaired by Kantor, is comprised of 13 former civic and business leaders, including former California Governor Gray Davis, and former U.S. Labor Secretary and California Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis.

“A Time For Truth” is the first of two reports the commission is expected to produce, with the second expected to cover commission recommendations and possibly alternative solutions for addressing the challenges facing the city.

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