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Los Angeles Mayor Bass sets agenda in State of the City speech

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass broadened her priorities from tackling homelessness and police officer retention, presenting a plan in her State of the City speech to comprehensively evaluate city departments to make them more effective as she wrestles with a $467 million deficit.

The mayor will present her budget later this week.

The city has been struggling financially in recent months as revenues missed forecasts and police raises and retention bonuses came to bear.

“Vacant positions do not fill potholes, sweep streets or staff parks,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said. “And, too many of these vacant positions have been there for years and years, because of flawed budgeting that does not reflect how departments should actually operate.”

Los Angeles Mayor’s Office

Bass set a staffing target of 9,500 sworn police officers early in 2023 as crime soared. Her agreement with the police union provides annual raises for four years.

She has faced criticism for protecting the police budget as other city services suffer and positions go unfilled.

“We are attracting record numbers of applicants to the police academy — and my budget for next year maintains our LAPD staffing goals,” she said.

Her efforts, she said, resulted in a reduction in homicides and violent crimes last year. In January, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that homicides declined in 2023 to 327, a 17% reduction from 2022.

The City Council is slated to vote Wednesday on employee pay hikes for civilian employees that could add $1 billion to the annual budget by 2028.

Bass said she wants to change the way the city handles its budget. First, she has eliminated what she called the city’s 7,000 ghost positions, she says, no longer match services needed in the city.

“Vacant positions do not fill potholes, sweep streets or staff parks,” Bass said. “And, too many of these vacant positions have been there for years and years, because of flawed budgeting that does not reflect how departments should actually operate.”

“This year, we will eliminate these ghost positions, while we preserve core services — and we will continue to strategically hire based on real life,” Bass said. “Looking ahead, we will use the elimination of these vacancies to set the stage for future budgets to be based on actual service delivery.”

To determine this, Bass said, she directed her office to conduct a comprehensive analysis of all city departments. The city implemented a hiring freeze on all but critical positions after the city administrative officer reported revenues were coming in $158 million below what was forecast in the fiscal 2023-24 budget.

The mayor’s office will also begin preparing for the fiscal 2026 budget right after the fiscal 2024-25 budget is signed July 1, “so we can take advantage of these tough times to determine how departments can function in a more efficient and effective manner,” Bass said.

To affirm Los Angeles’ long-held goal of hitting 100% clean energy by 2035, she also announced plans to create a “climate cabinet” to establish action plans at key departments to make sure the city continues to lead and hits its clean energy goal.

In her first act in office last year, Bass declared a state of emergency around homelessness. Her goal wasn’t just to reduce homelessness, she wanted to eradicate it by creating programs that would not only get people off the streets into temporary shelters, but permanently house them and provide wrap-around services.

Bass appealed to private industry to help fund her efforts to reduce homelessness in the city during Monday night’s speech.

She acknowledged the city has 46,000 homeless people despite her efforts, adding she has committed to a goal of ending homelessness, not hiding, or managing it.

She ticked off neighborhoods in multiple council districts where her Inside Safe program has cleared encampments and moved people into temporary housing, such as hotel rooms, while they await permanent housing options.

The mayor put out a call out to wealthy individuals, businesses and charitable organizations to aid efforts by contributing to her capital campaign: LA4LA.

“We are asking the most fortunate Angelenos to participate in this effort — with personal, private-sector and philanthropic funds — to help acquire more properties, lower the cost of capital and speed up housing,” Bass said.

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