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City Controller Talks About Budget Crisis and Political Future at DLANC Visit

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, April 15, 2010, at 10:15AM
City Controller Wendy Greuel

City Controller Wendy Greuel

In short, the city is still in a crisis. That's according to City Controller Wendy Greuel, who on Tuesday kept a scheduled visit to the Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council that was first scheduled to discuss funding for neighborhood councils. The topic was changed to how the city is responding to the budget crisis.

"I've been going across the City of Los Angeles talking to the neighborhood councils about issues of importance, and taking audits from just being a report that sits on a shelf to something that impacts communities,' said Greuel after the Q&A. "This is an opportunity to hear from the people who roll up their sleeves to improve their neighborhood."

Those sleeves are often rolled up to banter loudly with each other. "I don't get into the back and forth of the political theater that is happening," said Greuel. "What I am trying to do is look at––and come from––where the City Controller has a responsibility: to be the voice of accountability and transparency."

"I interject when I think its important for people to come together and try to resolve this."

A week after the City Controller sent out a release stating the city is at risk to "run out of cash" unless there is a $90 million transfer of reserve funds to pay bills, Greuel offered that the state of affairs is bleak, but not insurmountable.

Quick fixes are not the answer, Greuel told who those in attendance at the Palace Theatre. Departments have to look at consolidation, even cutting "that fat bureaucracy at the top" while maintaining public safety and revenue generating departments.

Still, Greuel feels that 4,000 layoffs, a number the City Council has debated, may be avoided. "I think it will be closer to 1,500 that we will look at," she said.

She also said that the budget crisis is no reason to be unresponsive to services like filling potholes. "Clearly there are things we can't do, but it doesn't mean we stop everything," Greuel said, adding that "It's a cop-out" since street services "will fare fairly well" due to economic stimulus packages.

Just as important as not blowing out a tire when you hit a hole in the asphalt is how to keep a city developing. "We are losing so many people to surrounding cities with no business tax who can get through the the system very quickly. Instead, L.A. puts up a lot of roadblocks."

Plans to streamline the process to obtain permits from different departments are still a work in progress, Greuel admitted.

Greuel was asked about her future plans, and whether her name might end up on a list of those running for mayor.

"I'm enjoying being Controller, and always think the best way is to be competitive for whatever job you are going to do next is do a good job in the one you were elected to do," Greuel diplomatically answered. "That being said, born and raised in this city I've always said the best job in the world is mayor."

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