Candidate Closeup: Wendy Greuel

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imageThe mayor’s office would bring Wendy Greuel’s long political career full circle: She started in the same room.

The 51-year-old candidate began volunteering for former mayor Tom Bradley when she was still in high school. Greuel is a lifelong Angeleno. Born in North Hollywood, she graduated from Kennedy High School in Granada Hills and then from UCLA. She worked in Bradley’s office for more than ten years and was elected to City Council in 2002.

Her long-term dedication to the city impresses Kaya Masler, who took a break from phone banking at Greuel’s office on Crenshaw and 54th to talk.

“She really loves being in politics, especially local politics, and she loves LA. So that was inspiring to me,” Masler said.

As City Controller, Greuel discovered in 2010 that city agencies left more than 260 million dollars in debts uncollected, mostly in parking tickets. She also published the salaries of city employees after embezzlement in Bell, California made headlines in 2011.

“She’s incredibly genuine, and she is a watchdog. I mean, she’s a fiscal watchdog,” Masler said.

Greuel’s priority is economic growth.

“One, it’s about creating jobs in Los Angeles. It’s about addressing pension reform, and it is about looking at inefficiencies—ways in which we can address waste, fraud and abuse in the city of Los Angeles.”

Specifically, Greuel has promised to dedicate 20 percent of new revenues to the police and fire departments. She wants to hire 2,000 new police officers and 800 new firefighters, which the Los Angeles Daily News says would cost about 200 million dollars.

“We should have a goal of being the safest big city in America,” Greuel said. “If we increase the revenue that is so important to the city of Los Angeles, that a portion of that should be dedicated to hiring more police and firefighters, as well as making sure we have more emergency preparedness and gang reduction programs.”

But this year’s FBI report shows that property and violent crimes have fallen steadily for a decade now. Former Daily News editor Ron Kaye says growing the police force doesn’t need to be the city’s first priority.

“I think the perfect example of what’s wrong with this campaign is Greuel’s posturing that she’s going to get the police force up to 12,000 by taking all this booming new revenue that’s supposedly going to come in,” Kaye said. “The fact is that we’re at an incredibly low point for crime, unprecedented, and crime isn’t the number one problem, cops aren’t the number-one issue in this city. The health of our neighborhoods, the quality of our lives and our loss of faith in a city working for us is the crisis.”

To generate money, Greuel plans to rely on the new City Controller to reduce the city’s budget. In addition to reforming city pensions, she vocally supports the elimination of the gross receipts tax for businesses. Economists say it will probably drive investment, but it may take a decade to recoup the lost revenues.

Eric Garcetti, Kevin James and Emanuel Pleitez support removing the tax, too. Jan Perry wants to keep it in place.

Greuel also opposes the half-cent sales tax increase on next week’s ballot. But Kaye wants more details.

“[Greuel is] against the sales tax in a very quiet voice. They haven’t suggested how they would actually fix the city’s financial problems, and they talk in symbolic language without actually specifying concrete policies that could be critiqued, examined, challenged, questioned.”

If elected, Greuel would be the city’s first female mayor. And after Tuesday’s vote, the City Council might become all-male.

Masler says gender isn’t the reason she supports Greuel, but she would like to see a woman in the top office.

“I’m not really one for tokenism, but she’s hyper-qualified,” Masler said.

Greuel leads the candidates in funds raised, and she’s neck-and-neck with Garcetti in most polls. She’s backed by most of the city’s public workers unions, who in total have donated more than 2 million dollars to her campaign. Detractors worry that such huge fiscal support will oblige Greuel to unions.

“When I’ve challenged it of why, why’ve they’ve jumped aboard, the answer generally is, Wendy’s the easiest one for them to manipulate. And I think it’s true—she has never really stood boldly for anything,” Kaye said. “She is incredibly likeable, everybody likes Wendy, she’s smart and personable… But she’s danced around the hardest issues.”

After more than three decades in LA’s public eye, Greuel is definitely popular—and if polls are accurate, she’ll have two more months to address those challenging issues.

Tiffany Taylor contributed to this report.

Controller Greuel’s Coliseum audit reveals fraud and mismanagement

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Years of fraud and mismanagement of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum have finally boiled over, resulting in an audit by Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel.

The audit comes in the wake of an investigation of several officers of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, including the former General Manager of the stadium, Patrick Lynch.

“What’s clear is that the management controls over the Coliseum spending were weak, or nonexistent,” Greuel said Thursday morning, “resulting in millions of dollars in wasteful spending, fraudulent activity, and misuse of funds.”

Greuel says the largest example of such fraud occurred when Lynch issued hundreds of thousands of dollars in advanced payments to South American companies to have five Uruguayan all-star soccer teams play at the Coliseum.

“Despite paying more than $870,000 in unreturned deposits, none of these events ever occurred,” said Greuel, “and no contracts were ever formally approved by the commission board.”

So if the games never took place, what happened to all the money?

Controller Greuel explained, “More than $75,000 in bonuses were paid to employees outside of the city’s payroll system that were filed improperly to the IRS.”

Lynch even managed to give himself the maximum bonus of $125,000 from 2007 to 2010, despite the Coliseum’s declining profitability. The Coliseum took a financial hit when it dropped four rave concerts popular among USC students.

“The average rent for the four most prominent raves held at the Coliseum declined significantly while those same events’ gross ticket sales increased significantly. They made a lot of money, those festivals,” said Greuel, “The Coliseum did not.”

With such public mismanagement damaging the commission’s reputation, USC could possibly take advantage and throw its hat in the ring for Coliseum ownership. The university has been trying to own the coliseum for years. Greuel isn’t sold on the notion, but knows that some sort of change is a must.

“I don’t know all the details of the USC deal,” Greuel said. “I think what is clear is that the current structure of the Coliseum Commission doesn’t work and that we need to look at other alternatives. Everything should be on the table.”

Controller Greuel may be unsure of the Coliseum’s future, but there is one thing she is sure of: As long as she is City Controller, a crime like this will never happen again.

DWP reaches its renewable energy goal, but some just call it luck

By: Melissa Butler


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image Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel unveiled an audit that revealed how the Department of Water and Power met its goal of 20 percent renewable energy. Yet, Greuel, who headed the audit, says her team believes this had little to do with the DWP’s efforts.

“My audit reveals, for example, that the DWP reached its first milestone as a result of higher than expected wind and hydro performance, abnormally cool temperatures and sometimes things beyond the DWP’s influence or control.”

Ron Nickels is the DWP General manager. He used a basketball metaphor to claim his team still won.

“I feel that we just won the division championship last year from the department’s perspective by hitting our 20 percent last year. And we have an audit here that kind of effectively says, well, we kind of think you stole the championship. Maybe you made that half court shot at buzzer. Think maybe you might have committed a foul that you didn’t get caught on. And you won. And maybe you didn’t quite earn it. Well, I kind of beg to differ. We did win that division championship and a win is a win. We won fair and square.”

According to the audit, DWP would have fallen short of its goal by nearly 2 percent, if temperatures were at expected levels. In the future, it’s possible that the DWP will have to meet an even higher percentage of renewable energy.

“Sitting on the governor’s desk today is a piece of legislation that would make it very clear that it would be a requirement for all utilities, including the department of water and power, that we would have to meet 33 percent by 2020,” Nickels said.

But DWP doesn’t have the funding to reach this goal just yet.

“That I think is the most important discussion; it’s the main point we make in the audit that there isn’t a corresponding financial plan,” Greuel said.

Yet, a financial plan will be made, because she is in full support of the 33 percent renewable energy goal.

These goals are quite admirable and lottable. Renewable energy is more than a worthwhile investment; it’s an essential one,” Greuel said.

But the push to meet an even higher green energy standard still depends on passing legislation and finding funding.