have long been thought of as a universal language. The vast majority of
cultures today use the exact same numeric symbols to communicate quantities of
goods and wealth. Mind you, this was a long-drawn-out process, the shift from
literal quantities to numbers.
appears that the City of Los Angeles
is still, even today, struggling with numbers. Controller Wendy Greuel’s most
recent audits of the city’s use of ARRA funding to create jobs is a perfect
example of how the city fails to accurately account for just how much money is
spent to achieve a specific outcome – namely creating jobs.
me to temper what I am about to say with the following personal confession – in
the interest of honesty and transparency – I am a lowly unemployed journalist
struggling with bouts of cynicism and depression. I mention this because after spending a year
working with a man once described as the “crazy pirate ship captain of the
Daily News” on his OurLA.org project, I am wondering if there are ARRA funds enough to create me a job
somewhere in Los Angeles.
In her audits, Controller Greuel focuses
solely on the Department of Public Works and the Department of Transportation.
In just these two city departments a mere 55 jobs were created with $111 million
in federal stimulus money. The controller outlines some of the ingrained dysfunction in
both structure and process that accounts for this gross misuse of funds but the
problem is larger still.
The City of
Los Angeles has
reportedly received a total of close to $600 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act funds to be used by a variety of departments in a number of different ways.
Back in February, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana issued a memo in response to requests from
the Ad Hoc Committee on Economic Recovery and Reinvestment in which he made
clear that the city had created or retained only 347 full-time jobs, 860
temporary summer jobs, and 67 jobs in the private sector using ARRA Funds.
Contrast these numbers to those spit out by the city’s LA Recovery website, which is supposed to monitor and provide
records of how the city is utilizing ARRA money, that says the city’s ARRA funding
program was originally expected to create or retain 8,118 jobs with $55 million
of the amount received.
those job numbers were called into question and the city reduced this estimate
down to 4,763. The Mayor’s Office (tellingly) stated that further reductions
might be necessary. This was then followed up by the CAO’s Office reporting
that the funds would create or save 2,822 jobs.
confused yet? Good. You’re not alone.
numbers are puzzling as they are all over the place. But more importantly they
are worrisome. They illustrate just how little is being done to create jobs in
the City of Angels.
it like this: Over 14 percent of people are unemployed in this city and 25 to
30 percent of Angelenos have given up looking for work or are severely
the city is cutting services in a desperate but ineffective attempt to save
money. The number of layoffs and furloughs continue to grow and shift, as the
city is poised to walk a rather short path toward bankruptcy.
story of number confusion and financial turmoil is not unique to L.A.
There are billions
of dollars in stimulus funds floating around all over the United States. Los Angeles is merely a
microcosm of federal stimulus dysfunction. Ever changing rules and means for
counting money and jobs created do little to help people looking for work and
an opportunity to get their lives back on track.
City Controller and now State Inspector General Laura Chick who was appointed
by Governor Schwarzenegger to oversee the state’s stimulus spending responded
to Greuel’s audits saying:
“It is distressing that the City of Los Angeles is
bogged down in bureaucratic red-tape and unable to spend the stimulus funds in
a timely manner. The state has worked to expedite getting the Recovery Act
funds out to local communities and those dollars were meant to create new jobs
for people who desperately need them.”
now is the time to cut some of that red tape – to take things a step beyond
simply streamlining and short-circuiting plans to assess and allocate funds and
just spend some of this damn ARRA money.
may not make sense, but they don’t lie. Something is not working at City Hall or in Sacramento or Washington and that leaves this frustrated journalist and a large portion of the population not working, too.