The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion introduced by Councilmember David Ryu on Tuesday, seeking to establish an Inspector General for Land Use and Development. The proposed office, dubbed the “Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency,” or LA ACT, would oversee, investigate and subpoena City officials, with a focus on preventing corruption and increasing transparency in land use and planning decisions.
“It is beyond clear that we need more oversight in City Hall, and more accountability and transparency over planning and land use decisions,” Ryu said in a press statement after the vote. “Cities across the U.S. have Inspector Generals that investigate and root out corruption before they become federal crimes. It’s time for an Inspector General in Los Angeles.”
The motion, seconded by Councilmember Paul Koretz, cites similar offices in other cities, like the Inspector General’s Office in Chicago, which has 100 staff members investigating potential fraud, abuse and corruption. The proposed office could exist on its own, or within the Controller’s Office or Ethics Department. According to Ryu, the number of fraud investigators in Los Angeles’ Controller’s office has been reduced in the City Budget from four investigators in 2008 to just one today, which Ryu argued in a letter to the Budget Committee is far too low.
The Chief Legislative Analyst, City Administrative Officer and City Attorney will now report back to the City Council on the feasibility, funding and structure of such an office in City Hall. Councilmember Ryu first introduced the motion on May 19th, amidst a sweeping FBI and DOJ probe into corruption around real estate development and the abuse of land use power in the City of Los Angeles. That probe has led to the arrests of Councilmember Jose Huizar and former Councilmember Mitch Englander, and implicated the former General Manager of the Department of Building and Safety, among others.
Councilmember Ryu has also put forward legislation to remove the power City Councilmembers have to interfere in specific development projects being considered by the City Planning Commission. Last year, Ryu’s ban on donations from developers currently doing business with the City was signed into law. Ryu is the only sitting City Councilmember to have a citizen-run discretionary funds task force and to publish all discretionary spending and meetings with developers online.
Also on Tuesday, Ryu introduced a motion to establish a wage replacement program in the City of Los Angeles. The motion proposes using up to $100 million in CARES Act money allocated from the federal government to help small businesses hire back employees that lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
“People are out of work and struggling to put food on the table,” Ryu said. “We must do everything we can to keep people on payroll and keep our small businesses afloat. If we don’t do more to support Los Angeles workers, we risk a total collapse of the local economy and irreparable harm to countless families.”
Alexandra Suh, Executive Director of KIWA and a member of the Healthy LA Coalition, said “It is heartening to see the Los Angeles City Council leading and supporting both our vital small businesses and our city’s workers so that we get through this crisis, and work hand in hand towards a more sustainable and just recovery.”
“Many of us know a small business, restaurant, or street vendor that didn’t get a PPP loan. Los Angeles has an opportunity to create a program specific to the needs of the most impacted entrepreneurs and workers,” said Lyric Kelkar, Senior Associate at Inclusive Action for the City, member organization of the Healthy LA coalition.
The motion, if passed, would establish a program similar to the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but specific to small businesses in the City of Los Angeles. That PPP provided money to help businesses across the country keep employees on their payroll, and avoid layoffs that hurt business and cut people out of a paycheck.
The latest jobs report from City Controller Ron Galperin showed that job losses were severe in Los Angeles, which has so far lost more than 200,000 jobs during the pandemic. The losses were greatest in Council District Four, which lost 21,565 jobs, primarily in the information, accommodation, and food service industries.