CITY HALL COULD USE SOME OLD FASHIONED VALUES
I was raised on a farm in Ireland, so I’m no stranger to hard work and know the value of being resourceful when “throwing money at a problem” simply isn’t an option. Justine and I are raising our 4 children in Los Feliz with the values given to us by our parents. Put in an honest day’s work, mind your pennies, care for the land, save for a rainy day and look out for your neighbor.
I came to the United States with $80 in my pocket and was lucky enough to meet Justine, a California girl and we began our life together restoring old brownstones in Hoboken, New Jersey. We look back with the fondest of memories of those long days of woodworking. We designed and built our family home in Los Feliz with our own hands and we hope that it will remain in our family for many generations to come.
We live within our means. We think City Hall should do the same. We worry about the kind of city that our children will inherit. While the other candidates are very nice people, we simply think that because they are from city hall, they will be unable to make the changes that are clearly necessary.
CREATE A CITY THAT IS FISCALLY SOLVENT
LA has the highest paid Council Members in the nation, whose salaries are $180,000. I will start by halving mine. Only if our leaders are fiscally responsible can they ask our city family to contribute more towards their retirement and to embrace innovative workplace practices.
A council member has a 20 person staff, 8 cars and $1M in discretionary funds. I will use my own car and I will switch to a 40 person part time staff hired from our neighborhoods. They will ensure that local concerns about development are heard loud and clear at City Hall.
CITY HALL CAN DO SO MUCH MORE WITH LESS
Of DWP’s 10,000+ workforce, 60% of them take home over $100,000 per year. This is unsustainable. The average LA driver spends $832 per year (71% more than the average American) on car repairs due to poor streets, while the Bureau of Street Services spends over 43% of its salary costs on administration. I will do better.
A great example is our 311 customer service system: it costs $4.2M per year, yet 30 percent of the calls are dropped & it closes daily at 4:45pm. Each call costs you, the tax payer, $6.30, while the City of Houston manages to do it for $2.79. I can transform this using smart coding to get you to the service that you need faster and cheaper. Simply put- what good is a service if they are not available for the customer? The hours and operation of the customer service line should reflect a desire to hear from our residents without being of any inconvenience to them. Lets not delay the change to this process any longer.
TRANSFORM THIS CITY WITH INSPIRED DEVELOPMENT
Huge development projects are ruining our neighborhoods, and City Hall is giving away the store with variances and loopholes. I am completely independent. I receive no contributions from developers or unions. I worked with both the developer and neighbors on pastoral Fredonia Drive to create a design that fit with the street. Everyone was happy! I am completely independent. 80%+ donations from CD4 zip codes and no money from unions or developers! I will not approve projects that are out of scale with our neighborhoods.
DELIVER A WORLD CLASS PUBLIC EDUCATION
I have a track record and built in self-interest. I will create an education desk staffed with parent volunteers. We will partner with our schools to attract grant funding, stimulate parent involvement, and build private public partnerships.
MAKE LOS ANGELES THE GREENEST CITY IN AMERICA
Our DWP solar program is mired in delays, while Germany presently produces half of its energy from solar. We can do better! As we rebuild our crumbling streets, I will ensure we use smart swale design practices to capture rainwater to replenish our aquifers instead of polluting the ocean.
MAKE LOS ANGELES THE MOST HUMANE CITY IN AMERICA
Many of our youth are unaware of the responsibilities of caring for a pet. Our planning laws give little consideration to protection of wildlife corridors. L.A.U.S.D and Recreation and Parks are using dangerous pesticides and rodenticides. We can do better. I will bring an extra schools, ensure our general and specific plans include wildlife protection and ensure responsible abatement practices.
Continual transportation and confinement of elephants, tigers and other animals is cruel. These animals are made to perform silly, confusing tricks; are carted across the state in cramped trailers; are caged in depressing enclosures; and are separated from their families and friends- all for human entertainment? Our bull hook ban is not enough. I will ensure that Los Angeles joins the Brazil, Spain, Canada and Mexico in banning the use of wild animals in circuses, roadside shows and private parties.
Despite having many amazing employees, the LA Animal Services Department is without transparency, innovation, accountability and inspiring leadership. 11,600 adoptable animals were euthanized in 2014. I will change the culture at LAAS. We can redirect resources to the supply side of the crisis. We can have robust and inexpensive social media outreach programs, strict enforcement of our existing puppy mill, spay/neuter and illegal animal sales/breeding laws, a new volunteer deputy unit, spay and neuter mobile units and real-time public data access. We can and I will.
For many, animals have become loved and adored members of our families. Our pets have given many of us an inside look as to how delicate and serious the situation is when it comes to care and well-being of animals. The way in which wild and domesticated animals are cared for and “trained” is nothing short of inhumane. Ignoring these issues any further will resort in a costly outcome that will destroy, not only the animal population, but also the human.
A FRUGAL AND EFFECTIVE COUNCIL OFFICEA council member has a 20 person staff, 8 cars and $1M in discretionary funds. I will use my own car and I will switch to some part time staff hired from our neighborhoods. They will ensure that local concerns about development are heard loud and clear at city hall.
The revised citywide sign ordinance now being considered by the City Council’s PLUM committee restricts new digital billboards and off-site signs to special sign districts in 22 areas zoned for high-intensity commercial use, such as L.A. Live, parts of Hollywood Blvd., Universal City and others. i will ensure they are restricted to these special sign districts in those high-intensity commercial zones? Read More
MY COMMITMENT, MY WORD
I promise honesty, hard work, efficient local government, and unprecedented transparency. I promise to use my can-do attitude to help make this a greener, safer and more fiscally responsible city. You are my employer. I will never forget that. You have my word. Tomas.
CYCLISTS & PEDESTRIANS
The level of safety felt when traveling through our city should not be lessened due to the method in which we decide to do so. Whether we are using four wheels, 2 wheels or 2 legs, there must be a form of comfort once any of us or our neighbors are in transit. Now is the time for better choices that integrate all forms of transportation. We can do this without pitching cyclists against drivers. READ MORE
Our city is coming together in the formation of a greener and economically smarter environment. Several services that employ the benefits of car and home sharing and gives relief to those who take advantage of their availability. We can do this better. Implementing new protocols will continue the advancement that others have made to the community. We must regulate this though to protect our neighborhoods. We can do this properly. House sharing is here to stay. Bad actors are not.
My vision is simple. We can have an environmentally and economically sustainable city whilst being fiscally responsible.
Let me be more specific.
City Hall, without question, is in crisis. My “Leading by Example” platform can begin to fix that. I will start by cutting my own salary in half so as to begin a conversation with the wider city family about contributing more to retirement plans and health care. I believe that by working WITH our city family rather than criticizing them, we can introduce new and innovative work practices that get more product out the door for the same cost. From introducing new technology to street services, to using this technology to eliminate wasteful clerical positions (it’s 2015 out there) and redistribute that manpower where it would be more valuable, to using volunteer assistance at police stations so we can get more officers out in the field, we can utilize creative methods to make our city more efficient.
My fiscal blueprint will require City Hall to come clean with the voters with regard to how much we are investing versus how much we are spending. Balancing a budget at the expense of investment in our infrastructure is NOT a sustainable way to function. If we clean up our act and cut waste, then and only then can we ask taxpayers to contribute more.
As we build out a 21st century mass transit system and rebuild our aging infrastructure, I will not allow this city to miss a golden opportunity to incorporate smart and sustainable design. We should be utilizing rainwater capture methods, solar resources, and encouraging bike and pedestrian friendly streets.
See below to explore more in depth my vision or Los Angeles and please feel to call me on my cell at any time with questions or comments – 323-377-6320.
The City of Los Angeles is increasingly failing to invest in its citizenry (public education, quality of life, parks, environmental sustainability) its infrastructure (streets, pipes, buildings, parks, environmental sustainability). Whilst we often hear that the city has “balanced its budget,” all that has really happened is that it is investing less in its citizenry and its infrastructure. Our City’s assets, for example our infrastructure, do not last forever. We have to invest in them just as I have to repair or even replace the roof of my house from time to time. If I fail to spend a few dollars every now and then on repairing my roof then eventually water is going to come in my home. The City is not repairing the roof.A perfect example is the amount of our yearly budget the city must spend on retirement costs. It was a paltry 3% of the budget in 2003, and it’s now 18% percent and growing rapidly, and yet that is not even enough. That is thus 15% of our budget that we haven’t invested in repairing and replacing our deteriorating infrastructure. If we don’t do something about this soon, our city will literally fall apart.We are already experiencing the first symptoms – pot holes, bursting pipes, and of course on the citizenry side, reduced library hours, lack of parks and clogged streets.
A Fiscal Blueprint for Los Angeles
This is going to hurt.
There’s no question that we will need to raise revenue, but that must be in concert with reducing costs. We can do this!
A new pact between customer (constituent) and service provider (government).
The City of Los Angeles:
- The City of Los Angeles must come clean with the public in regards to our retiree obligations.
- The City of Los Angeles needs to adopt a projected earnings percentage of less than 7% to take it closer, for example, to someone like Berkshire Hathaway which assumes apx. 6%.
- The City of Los Angeles and it’s workers, and that includes our police and fire personnel, need to come to terms with contributing more towards their retirement and retiree health care.
- The City of Los Angeles (notwithstanding the recent very promising work at the controller’s office) needs to create a truly independent “cost and consequences office” along the lines of the Congressional Budget Office. This independent division’s only mission is to tell the truth. Policymakers and Public alike can get answers to questions regarding:
- How much does each labor unit actually cost when you include healthcare, retirement commitments, workers compensation, etc.
- The cost of a budget passed in a particular year as it effects later years, this would shine a harsh light on shenanigans such as banked overtime at the LAPD.
- When we balance a budget by reducing street repair, for example, what is the long term cost in reduced productivity and the cost to the asset itself. The more you put off maintenance, the greater the cost down the road. Here is a perfect analogy. I discover a very slow leak around the faucet in our shower upstairs. The leak is leaking behind the tile-work. If I fail to pay to fix the leak this year, and instead wait for say 2 years down the road, the leak will eventually damage the tile-work and even the ceiling below and may even cause mold. My cost later will be much greater. Our deferred maintenance of cracked and holed streets are not only increasing the car repair bill of our citizens but are causing long-term damage to the base beneath. No engineering degree required here. A little common sense.
- The City of Los Angeles needs to build a culture of innovation, efficiency, and personal responsibility throughout every department. This, of course, must be jump-started at the very top. The City Council and the 3 executives, Mayor, Controller, and City Attorney, in concert, must deliver an urgent message to the rank and file – we must clean up our act and lead this city by example. Credibility can be built by the gang of 18 cutting their own salaries immediately, spending a little bit more time on actual policy and boring detail work, as opposed to awards, openings, and speeches, contributing more to their own retirement and healthcare plans, and frankly by being a little bit more inquisitive about the nuts and bolts of our City government operations. Rank and file then must do their part to find faster, smarter, and cheaper ways of getting their products out the door, which must include adoption of off the shelf simple communication technologies and an attitude of “we own this, we are all in this together.” Workers and leaders alike must question whenever their time is wasted and take action to fix the problem
Here is a good example. I attended an amazing Earth Day event on Apr 27, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. organized by the all-volunteer Toluca Lake Neighborhood Council. As the Executive Director of EnrichLA, I and a volunteer hosted an edible gardening booth. We set up our booth, chatted with our customers, and at the end of the day, packed away our booth and went home. Our neighboring booth was the DWP with a booth on water reclamation. A crew of three arrived early to set up their booth, and later another crew of three arrived to man the booth. When they had finished, yet another crew of three arrived to dismantle the booth. I shudder to think of the cost to the taxpayer on that Sunday afternoon for the DWP booth. Additionally, a street services operator arrived early in the morning with some garbage bags and cones in his pick-up truck, and then sat in his truck for the duration of the event and then removed the garbage bags and cones at the end. The Council member, Tom LaBonge, and his entourage of deputies, presumably there to take pictures of His Highness, presented his usual awards and certificates and even walked away with a few of his own. If he was upset or concerned or bothered by the employee sitting in the truck during the event, or the multiple D.W.P crews required for one 12 by 12 booth, he did not show it. In contrast, the all-volunteer neighborhood council had most of its board present setting up, manning, and cleaning up after the event. Everyone ought to be bothered by this. I am using La Bonge as an example of a wider problem.
- Must get over their apprehension toward outsourcing. Outsourcing creates “managed competition,” a good example is the charter school movement, whose very existence has made our regular schools better. The amazing teachers and parents of King Middle School, a number of years ago, shrewdly recognized the drumbeat of charter school expansion , and because of this “managed competition,” King not only improved its act but blew the numbers out of the water. If the City can find a fairly paid crew who can fill a pot hole cheaper, then it ought to include that in its toolbox for fixing our streets. If the Fire Department doesn’t have the response time for ambulance services given its resources, then the City ought to look at non-fire operators. If we find indeed that the fire department delivers a better apples to apples product then all services ought to stay within.
- Must welcome and empower volunteers. The Los Angeles Unified School District has increasingly relied on a massive volunteer work force to not only offset decreasing budgets but to disrupt its old ineffective ways of doing things. It has worked, and in fact wherever you find a great school in this city today, you’ll probably find that volunteers are a part of it. 3-1-1, the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Bureau of Street Services, the City Clerk, the Controller’s office, the Mayor’s office, every department has an ability to cash in and welcome the wealth of volunteer assets that are clearly available in this city. We built the nonprofit EnrichLA on the backs of Los Angeles volunteers. The citizens have sent its City a message – we are here to help. Just look at our 90+, all volunteer Neighborhood Councils. Volunteers tend to have very little patience for the waste of money or time. Their presence alone can have a disruptive ( innovative disruption ) effect. What do you mean we have to do it that way?
The voters will:- After a probationary period of 1 to 2 years, the City must present its case to the voters and all 18 of our leaders must leave their egos at the door and do so in concert as a committee. The Mayor and City Council president can show their maturity by allowing one of the other 16 to take the podium. Every little example is symbol of a new order. When the city has completed the above, and now, in order to adequately fund our retirement commitments so that our children and grandchildren are not saddled with them, and in order to adequately repair our infrastructure above and below the pavement, they will hereby ask the voter through ballot to pass a property tax increase for same. The measure would include this independent office of cost and consequences.In closing, we are all in this together, and we are really almost at the end of the road. Our future requires the city family and the voters to act like grown-ups.
Police DepartmentWalk in to any police station and you will find multiple uniformed and armed police officers at the front desk. We can use volunteers to assist at the front desk and reduce the amount of uniformed officers to one at the front desk for each station, freeing up these professionals to do what they do best – patrol our streets and our neighborhoods.A Los Angeles Police Officer recently lamented to me that a typical DUI arrest takes them 5 to 6 hours to process. That is 5 to 6 less patrol hours for our professionals. The reason for this is a haphazard and unstandardized system of forms and paperwork and little or no digital tools to speed up the process. We can do better. Tomas and his team of coders wrote revolutionary new software for this campaign and we can gather the best and brightest minds in this city to follow the example of the Manhattan Beach Police Department, where many of its processes are digitized and point and click. Our Los Angeles Police Officers deserve an advanced and streamlined bureaucracy to allow them to do their job.Take a look into a patrol car and ask them to see their binder on homeless services. It’s not there. Despite all the rhetoric about our homeless situation, we haven’t even attempted to pick the low hanging fruit. Each patrol car at a minimum should have a written binder of services and protocols to empower our police officers to direct the homeless to the nearest facilities where they can get the assistance they need. Of course a new Council District 4 office armed with innovative and inquisitive staff will ensure the creation of a pilot program where each police officer has a digital handbook that is updated in real time to help them help the homeless. This digital hand tool would show available beds, telephone numbers to available services, and quick and easy communication tools.
Customer ServiceOur 3-1-1 system, hardly a symbol of great customer service, operates from 8am to 4:45pm. Most customers, and that is you the constituents, would benefit more from that system when you are not at work. We can develop a hybrid system, just as many modern systems engage in, where 3-1-1 calls are routed to volunteers throughout the city. The neighborhood councils and their selfless board members are perfect candidates for this system. There can be disclaimers to ensure that it is clear to any customer that any information given is advice only from a volunteer and not a City official, and there can be systems in place to ensure privacy. The software is there, we just need to utilize it.
Department of Water and PowerThe Department of Water and Power has an existing good idea in place – they will give you $10 if you go paperless. It is simple, environmentally sound, and would save our utility a ton of money if everyone availed to this offer. Los Angeles is one of the most creative cities on the planet, and wherever you have creative people you also have competitive people. We should be using this competitive streak to our advantage.The DWP presently has electronic data on every customer; how much water they use, how much electricity they use, etc. Some of this is reflected on your bill. We should have the DWP safely and selectively open their portals so that the best and brightest of our City can code an “app” with new functions.Bear with me here….Imagine that with your next bill you receive an automated letter that shows your usage compared to 50 other people within your zip code with similar usage. A simple click on your app would allow you to enter into a competition with some other willing neighbors. The competition would be to to reduce your usage over a 3 month period compared to the 49 other people. If your usage declined the most, then your next bill would be free, and the other competitors would each share a cost of your bill. Many people would be up for the challenge, agreeing to a little risk with the possibility of great reward. The app could provide digital daily updates as to where your usage is and how close you are to the winning position. This could be a fun thing for the family to do and a great way to get kids involved and educated about reduced water and power usage; children would be excited about turning off their lights or stopping the running water while brushing their teeth. Each family could create their own incentives to inspire change in their household, with the app at the center of that. This is what I like to call a revenue neutral idea with full choice for customers. They do not have to engage in the competition of they don’t want to, but if they can there is the opportunity for financial benefit for them, and reduced usage, less reliance on fossil fuels, and less importing of water. We need to think outside the box.
Streamlining BureaucracyIn terms of technological development, Los Angeles lags far behind other major cities like New York. New programs like Mayor Garcetti’s Open Budget Program have been a huge success: we need to adapt these same advances for paying our taxes, applying for business licenses, and building permits. We can save the city huge amounts of money, and promote growth by driving down the cost of dealing with government. Tomas is an avid technologist and an amateur programmer, and has the skills and network to bring these plans into action.
A Fiscally Responsible CityWe can no longer ignore the facts: Los Angeles is financially ill. We must get the city’s finances under control. Tomas, as a successful entrepreneur and community activist, has the skills and courage to bring the city’s spending under control by privatizing some city functions and cutting pork and wasteful spending. Tomas says: “You can throw money at something all day long, and it isn’t going to fix it.”
Green SpacesParks are the lungs and lifeblood of our city, and are key to the health and well being of LA’s residents. Tomas believes in giving the city new life by turning old spaces like the Figueroa land bridge into vibrant parks, and making sure that treasures like the Barnsdale Art Park are kept clean and safe for all.
Sustainable SharingThe sharing economy is here to stay, whether you are a supporter or an opponent. Car sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, have revolutionized the way that we get around and home sharing services such as AirBnB have revolutionized the way we share what is for many the most expensive investment in their life. As with any new industry there are issues with the sharing economy that need to be addressed. Smart regulation by this city can help “hosts” obey generally accepted rules such as being a good neighbor, addressing parking concerns, etc., and also root out larger industrial actors that have no place in our residential communities. I will work very diligently to make sure that city regulations protect neighbor, host, and guest.While there are reasonable concerns, I believe regulation would lower the impact on the neighborhood and the affordable housing supply, protect responsible sharing, and above all reduce bad actors. An idea that I support is to require ‘Community Rules’ that are universally applied across all listings in an area. “If we’re serious about sustainability, government should help the people who are willing to share what they have to obey local laws.” The truth of the matter is, the vast amount of so-called home sharers are incredibly respectful of their neighbors. They need to play a significant role in rooting out bad actors. Hosts will have to come to terms with paying some form of hotel tax and adhere to rules that protect our neighborhoods. We can do this smartly.
Make LA a leader in SustainabilityBy keeping up LADWP subsidies for renewable energy, and encouraging the development of solar and wind companies through tax credits, we can create jobs, lower the cost of power, and make our air cleaner. But sustainability starts with common sense policy, like streamlining the permitting and installation processes. Greening our city shouldn’t be a burden.
Improve our Schools through Community InvolvementWhile Executive Director of the non-profit EnrichLA, Tomas transformed King Middle School by fostering a sense of teamwork by involving parents and community leaders in extra-curricular activities and after school programs. If elected, Tomas’s office would continue this work with a dedicated education liaison that would incentivize parents and other community members to get involved in their local schools.
A Friend to Cyclists and walkers
I have advocated for bike and pedestrian friendly options for the City of Los Angeles for years. It is silly to believe that future generation of Angelenos will be driving everywhere. We need to start investing now in options that will encourage people to get out of their cars and to explore our communities by walking, cycling, public transportation, etc.
Safety is most important. We all deserve to feel safe no matter how we choose to travel.
It is important that we have choices when it comes to traveling through our city. Traveling by rail, bicycle, and our own two feet must all be viable transportation options if we are going to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce traffic and create a sustainable Los Angeles. We can do this smartly.
Our neighborhoods are places where people should feel comfortable jogging, walking, pushing a stroller, traveling in a wheelchair, bicycling and more. There is a direct economic link between walk-ability and economic growth.
Imagine if our children did not all automatically buy a car. We can imagine this very easily. We can do this! My daughter could be the first generation that chooses to NOT buy a car IF we give her the infrastructure to make that choice easier!
In order to provide efficient transportation, we must have a reliable and connected network that incorporates rail, bicycling, buses, etc. We should implement the Bicycle Master Plan, creating bicycle paths that make sense and get us where we want to go.
What important animal protection legislation was passed in the UK, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Ireland, and Mexico (just to name a few) but not yet in the US? Can you guess?
It’s a ban on wild animals in circuses, in private parties, and in roadside shows. Circuses still come to make money in Los Angeles, one of the most progressive cities in the country. Though the L.A. City Council recently passed a ban on using bull hooks on elephants, this ordinance does not prevent animal enterprises from abusing them outside city lines. Behind the curtain is this: The bull hook legislation is woefully insufficient for all other kinds of abuse heaped on elephants and other animals. It’s not enough to ban one instrument of torture – we need to do what lawmakers have done in Mexico, Colombia, Panama, and El Salvador. We need someone who is brave to take a stance and set the tone for other major metropolitan areas in the U.S. As a world class city, we need to get up to speed with legislation that’s in place even in developing countries. I support a ban on the income from, use of, or abuse of wildlife species in circuses, private shows, and roadside shows. We can make LA an even better city, one which protects animals and participates in their conservation.
MAKE LOS ANGELES THE MOST HUMANE CITY IN AMERICA
Many of our youth are unaware of the responsibilities of caring for a pet. Our planning laws give little consideration to the protection of wildlife corridors. L.A.U.S.D and Recreation and Parks are using dangerous pesticides and rodenticides. We can do better. I will bring an extra-curricular animal educational program to our public schools, ensure our general and specific plans include wildlife protection, and ensure responsible abatement practices.
BAN THE USE OF WILD ANIMALS IN CIRCUSES IN LA
The conditions in which elephants, tigers, and other animals are transported and confined are cruel. They are carted across the state in cramped trailers, separated from their families and friends and forced to perform silly, confusing and dangerous tricks — all for human entertainment? Our bullhook ban is not enough. I will ensure that Los Angeles joins Brazil, Spain, Canada and Mexico in banning the use of wild animals in circuses, roadside shows and private parties.
CREATE A CITY THAT CARES DEEPLY ABOUT ITS ANIMALS
Despite having many amazing employees, the LA Animal Services Department is without transparency, innovation, accountability and inspiring leadership. 11,600 adoptable animals were euthanized in 2014. I will change the culture at LAAS by redirecting resources to the supply side of the crisis. We can have robust and inexpensive social media outreach programs, a new part-volunteer deputy unit for strict enforcement of our laws regarding puppy mills, spaying/neutering, and illegal animal sales/breeding. This will bring in new revenue for more spay/neuter mobile units.
I will have real time data access. The public has a right to know how many of our pets are being lost to euthanasia.