The mayor cancelled his scheduled news conference where he was to announce electricity rate increases, saying the proposal needed to be reviewed. He plans to try again Monday. Here’s what he might say if he wanted public support instead of the fight he faces:
Ladies and gentlemen of the press:
I had planned to meet with you on Friday to discuss my plan to raise electricity rates and how we will use your money to bring solar and wind power to our city to clean our air and bring good-paying green technology jobs to Los Angeles.
But I found out neither I nor my staff understood what we were talking about with regard to rates and that the DWP really didn’t have a detailed and comprehensive plan to deliver on our environmental commitment.
I was angry about the misinformation we were putting out, angry at others and at myself. I had a tough time sleeping Friday night and decided to shed my bodyguards Saturday morning and look at our city through fresh eyes.
As I drove through neighborhood and after neighborhood, I saw groups of three and four men standing in front of gas stations and liquor stores and hardware stores hoping for a day’s work as a laborer. I saw dozens of houses with signs saying “Foreclosure Auction” and a multitude of storefronts with “For Lease” signs.
From the Eastside to the Valley, to the Westside and South LA, the signs of hard times were visible everywhere.
I reflected on how easy it is to forget what’s going on in the city you love when you live in a mansion and are surrounded all day by people looking after you, when so many of the people you engage are rich and influential.
Scenes of encounters I had in Washington last week on my lobbying trip for money for the subway-to-the sea project flashed across my mind, conversations with Senators and House members and their staffs that had little to do with the substance of our transportation plan and a lot to do with manipulating the levers of power for advantage.
It all seemed so empty and pointless, so disconnected from the reality of the lives of the people who live and work here or are looking for work. I thought how much easier it is to spin the truth than to engage it honestly and forthrightly.
When I got home, I canceled all my activities for the weekend and sat alone in the backyard listening to the sounds of the city, enjoying the beauty of a perfect sunny Southern California afternoon.
I thought about my childhood and how I had gotten to this place as your mayor and realized that somewhere along the way, my ideals had become distorted and confused.
“Oh my God,” I thought, “it’s all come to nothing. I’ve lost my way.”
Today, I’m going to make a new beginning as your mayor. I have asked my staff to reach out to business, labor, Neighborhood Councils, environmentalists and many other sectors of our community, to people from every part of LA, to meet with me in small groups over the next two weeks to talk about how we face our problems together, how we put aside our differences, how we balance our private interests with the public interest so we can work together for the greater good of the city.
Out of these meetings, I will create a Mayoral Council of Advisers who will have full access to all the resources of City Hall and all departments. They will bring their intelligence, skill, expertise and their devotion to LA to helping create a new vision that unites us in our purpose and resolve.
Our problems are great, time is of the essence. We cannot go on as we have. We must change the way City Hall does business.
Toward that end, I signed an executive order for the City Planning Department to only approve new developments that have clear economic benefits to the city and enhance the quality of lives in our neighborhoods. This will require close coordination with the community and developers to find solutions that achieve these goals.
I also am directing the Department of Water and Power to come back within a week with a new power rate structure that will encourage conservation while we develop longer term strategies to replace fossil fuels with clean technologies that provide renewable energy. I want it be perfectly clear to everyone how these rates will work, who will pay and how much. Electricity rates need to go up sharply over time to encourage conservation, to achieve our environmental goals and to develop green jobs for the future.
The price point is critical to conservation as we have seen with our achievements at reducing our water usage and you have a right to expect value for your money and the goals are being met.
Later today, I will be meeting with the heads of all city unions to lay out the plain truth. We need them to reduce our payroll and benefits costs dramatically to preserve city services and bring our spending in line with our revenue.
To achieve this, taxpayers are going to have to meet them halfway.
We cannot mortgage our future through borrowing or simply sell our assets at a fire sale, laying off workers and cutting services that we all depend on.
A year ago, I talked about the need for shared sacrifice. Then, it was a slogan. Today, it is the operating policy of my administration. I am reducing my salary and staff by 25 percent immediately and calling on the City Council to do the same
These are only the first steps along the road to balancing the city budget, restoring confidence in our city government and making sure that the future of Los Angeles is even greater than its past.
To my fellow Angelenos, I want to say this: I am asking for a second chance from you. I need your help if we are to achieve great things for the city we love.
I’ll take you questions now, if you have any.