If the mayor and City Council had the courage to admit they were incapable of fixing LA, the federal bankruptcy judge probably could find no one better suited to clean up the mess they have made than Austin Beutner.
Smart, poised, experienced, Beutner is a specialist in taking over failing enterprises and bringing them back to life. He immerses himself in the details, hires talented people, provides the vision and support they need to do the day-to-day work of reorganizing businesses to run efficiently and successfully.
With the full power of Chapter 9 bankruptcy law, he would have had the ability to renegotiate every contract the city has with its unions and the private sector, and to restructure city government to focus on the services it could afford to provide.
He is in fact doing that as first deputy mayor in charge of everything from homelessness to the airports and harbor and as interim general manager of the Department of Water and Power. He has emerged in just a few short months as the most powerful figure in City Hall — but without the authority of federal law to carry out a thorough overhaul.
In his 90-minute appearance Tuesday before the City Council, Beutner proved he is a force to be reckoned with. Measured, direct, forthcoming, he responded confidently in a matter-of-fact manner to all the posturing and pretenses with clear and forceful answers yet offered few details into where he is going beyond a general view that the business of LA is business.
Brian D’Arcy and the IBEW are his allies in restoring trust in the DWP. Neighborhood Councils and the public in general need to be fully informed and be made partners just as the mayor and Council must be.
It was a stellar performance that should have ended with a standing ovation. Yet it’s hard to say that we really learned anything at all. So I offer you a series of short videos so you can be informed and better follow the Beutner drama as it unfolds.
Personally, I have an open mind about Beutner but I am skeptical, to say the least, that he understands the depth of the problems or that they can be fixed with radical solutions, a new deal with the unions and a vision that restores the confidence of the people in their civic institutions.
Time will tell whether the Austin Beutner Show is a hit or a bomb but there’s no doubt the future of the city is in his hands.