LADOT misses out on $15 million in revenue

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image There are significant issues of waste, and there are financially irresponsible decisions made by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation — at least that’s what City Controller Wendy Greuel found in a recent investigation of the department.

Greuel found that the city missed out on nearly $15 million in revenue this past year. The report that Greuel’s office issued shows the Department of Transportation failed to impound or put boots on three-quarters of vehicles with five or more unpaid parking tickets. The city calls these particular offenders “scofflaws.”

“We believe just slapping another ticket on someone who has 20 tickets, and saying they might pay the ticket now because it’s the 21st ticket, is not a way to do things efficiently,” Greuel said.

The controller’s office said the Department of Transportation didn’t use its License Plate Recognition equipment, which could have caught repeated ticket offenders.

The department’s Interim General Manager Amir Sedadi said they didn’t use it because management decided to shift staff away from enforcing these particular laws. But now, he says that will change.

“I assure you our traffic officers at LADOT will be out there every day, every month, every year using the latest technologies in the fight against scofflaws,” Sedadi said.

Greuel said it was a “goof” not to aggressively punish these offenders.

City approves plans to redevelop hotel in downtown Los Angeles

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The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to approve plans for a massive redevelopment of the Wilshire Grand Hotel. After two years of planning, a 13-1 vote approved plans for a groundbreaking development in downtown Los Angeles. The estimated $1.2 billion project will include a 45-story reconstruction of the Wilshire Grand Hotel with an accompanying 65-story office building.

image “I’m really amazed at how anyone could be opposed to this,” Councilman Dennis Zine said. “How anyone in their right mind would be opposed to this project that’s going to bring jobs, economy and help downtown Los Angeles.”

The agreement is between the city and two private companies, Thomas Properties and Korean Air. Council member Jan Perry says the project will bring in $22 million a year for the city’s general fund in 2015. Developers say it will bring in more than 7,000 construction jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs. The head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Maria Elena Durazo, is in full support.

“We ask you to not only support it, but to hold it up as an example that we want all employers and all developers to follow,” Durazo said.

The city council’s plans were met with some skepticism. Digital signage and LED lighting would cover the two huge buildings from top to bottom. Barbara Broide of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight said the signs could create a safety hazard to motorists on the 110 Freeway.

“You have abdicated your responsibility to protect our safety from these signs that are designed to catch the attention of all who pass,” Broide said.

The vast majority of the audience in city hall, however, was excited about the redevelopment.

“I just spoke to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and they both support this project,” said Kevin Norton, member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The existing Wilshire Grand Hotel is set to be demolished in December as part of the approved agreement.

Bell City corruption case continues at Los Angeles County Superior Court

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The preliminary hearing in the Bell City corruption case resumed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Some current and former officials are accused of stealing money and creating fake government agencies to collect salaries for doing nothing.

Former City Manager Robert Rizzo will stand trial separately, along with former Assistant Manager Angela Spaccia. The accused are being referred to as the Bell Eight. The only councilmember not charged with a crime testified Tuesday against his former colleagues.

Bell City Councilman Lorenzo Velez took the stand Tuesday in what is being called the largest case of public corruption in California. Velez testified that Rizzo ran the city and required authorization for nearly everything the council did. In his testimony, Velez said he had no idea what his colleagues were earning until he read about it in the Los Angeles Times. The article showed the accused council members were making nearly $100,000 a year for part-time work.

Velez testified that he only made about $600 a month. He also said they created commissions and collected money for serving on them despite not actually doing any work. Prosecutor Edward Miller referred to Bell’s Solid Waste authority as a “solid waste of money.” The prosecution asked Velez about a closed-door session where he questioned the other council members about their salaries. Judge Henry J. Hall stopped that line saying, “I don’t want to unlock any doors that should not be unlocked.”

The defense contends that Velez knew much more than he admits and will attempt to undermine his testimony on Thursday. All defendants are out on bail except for Victor Bello who sat in the courtroom handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit. The defendants turned down a plea bargain Monday that would have put them in prison for two years along with paying restitution.

Testimony in the preliminary hearing is expected to last through Thursday. Judge Hall will then decide if there is enough evidence to try the six defendants.