PAUL KORETZ at WVRC on December 2nd
PP STEVE DAY led the Pledge, plus leading us all in The Four Way Test. RICH BROUS had composed a song based on Clap Your Hands, and it went well. PP STEVE SCHERER provided the Invocation.
We had a bunch of guests, from both Rancho Park Rotary and Century City Rotary. PEGGY was with her helper, and Sunny was of course with LENNY. STEVE PETTISE had two Special Guests, Dennis McCarthy and Trevor Sterry. RICK BROUS also had two guests. New members ATHENA JACKSON and BRIAN WHITNEY were asked to survey the crowd to spot any no-pinners, but I didn’t get their final tally, if any.
There were several announcements:
We were reminded that the Memorial Service for GEORGE COX will be this Tuesday, the 7th of December, at Westwood United Methodist church, at 1 pm. The next day, the 8th, is the Auxiliary Christmas Party. It will be at the home of ELOISE SISKEL, starting at 11:30. The Oceanaires will perform, and there will be a money tree for donations. Also, please bring sample cosmetics as these will be collected. The lunch is catered, and costs $25 MARGIE DOWNIE will take your check.
December 9th, is the Holiday Shopping Spree MIKE YOUSEM is the contact.
December 16th, two weeks from today, will be our Christmas Celebration, and at the Angeleno Hotel, NOT at UCLA. It’s a Spouses Day, of course.
Jumping ahead to 2011, January 26th will be a Yearling Breakfast, at the Angeleno.
And in April, the annual Village Cleanup Day will take place JOHN HEIDT is in charge, and they need members who can help supervise the UCLA students who will be working. The date is Sunday the 17th of April. Save the date, please.
PP CHRIS BRADFORD introduced our Speaker, Councilman Paul Koretz. Koretz has a considerable record of Public Service, having been on the City Council and then Mayor of West Hollywood, starting in 1988. In 2000 he served three terms as Assembly District 42’s Representative in Sacramento. He was elected to the LA City Council for the 5th District in 2009. Before any of this, he graduated from both Hamilton High and UCLA. In the 5th District, he has led the fight against illegal billboards, and apparently has saved the iconic Century Plaza Hotel, which is now a protected State Landmark.
Councilman Koretz began by saying he had never spoken before to a group where a song was first given and he liked the song. Speaking of Thanksgiving and the shopping season for Christmas which now officially begins, we were reminded that the Westside has at least 50% of all the upscale shopping in all of LA. This information is included in his newsletter which all of us can sign up for, on line. He introduced his two assistants, one covering Westwood and the other Century City. He congratulated Rotary for our strong commitment to Service Above Self.
Commenting about his service in the State Legislature, he noted the State now has about a $25 billion budget shortfall. And the day he started as an LA Councilman, that group passed a budget that was $500 million out of balance. This included 10% cuts in all departments, including the Police and there is no way these shortages can be made up. They did provide early retirement for some 2500 employees which of course reduces the services these former employees once provided. Another 1000 employees were terminated, thus saving more money. They negotiated with the public service employees unions, which saved a total of $80 million. And of course there is waste in public management, which they are working to reduce. Cortez is the Chair of that committee for example, they now pay bills when due, and not before. Note that we have a city of four million people, with a budget of about four billion dollars, so these costs can mount up.
He began collecting what he thought were good ideas in public administration, and soon learned that some of these ideas had been around for twenty years, but never tried. One result was the creation of an Inspector General, whose job it is to see that these ideas ARE implemented. Collections are a prime example our record is not good here. One parking lot operator owes $73 million, for example.
A major driver of economic activity is the Entertainment Industry. With most of the needed talent right here, we are still finding that areas away from LA are offering incentives for film production. One way that is being offered is that most major intersections in LA now have built in electricity sources, thus eliminating the need for mobile generators. In job creation, we have started a 12-2 plan, where you once had to deal with a dozen agencies, you now have only two. And of course he noted his strong involvement with saving the Century Plaza Hotel.
He is working to bring Westwood Village back to its previous status as an entertainment center. And on the forthcoming ballot, in which the Council produces Initiatives, they have eliminated several but it is still too long, in his opinion. One he favors is an Oil Severance Tax apparently we are the only state in the US that doesn’t have such a tax. Another one concerns a modest reduction in Police and Fire pensions. Library funding is addressed. Yet the budget still has a $300 million shortfall. Progress on the subway was noted it now appears we will have one to Westwood within the next ten years, instead of the fifty years first planned.
Q&A What can be done to get more parking in Westwood Village? This is his toughest problem. The City is working on bringing in long term leasing for parking, and there is one block that may provide another structure. Also, the present ‘free’ parking will gradually become fee parking, and will help. Is anything being done to improve the surface of Sunset Blvd? We have found that it is much cheaper to resurface streets that are already in good shape than to work on damaged streets so that’s what gets done. I asked if there was any way to eliminate the high speed rail program, which we don’t need? This is a State project, voted on as a Proposition, and thus not within our purview.
Councilman Paul Koretz, thanks for appearing. Obviously there is much interest in what the Council is doing, bases on our strong attendance today. Keep it up, please.