Drought, Earthquakes Part of LA Mayor’s State of City Address

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's speech comes as water districts wrestle with Gov. Jerry Brown's call for cutbacks in the fourth year of California's drought

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti credited a back-to-basics approach for a decline in crime and an increase in the city's productivity while unveiling a slew of new initiatives during his State of the City speech Tuesday.

Garcetti said jobs have been added at "the fastest pace in more than a decade" since he took office.

The mayor said he is urging the City Council to pass a new minimum wage law in the immediate future, and he is calling for a boost to $13.25 by 2017.

Garcetti rolled out initiatives that will see the city partner with traffic app Waze to create a more drivable city; he also said plans are in the works to allow ride-share companies Uber and Lyft to begin picking up passengers at LAX.

He also touched on the ongoing challenges of the drought.

"We'll get through this drought because we are a resilient city ... a city that prepares for disasters, instead of being caught off guard," Garcetti said.

The drought, now in its fourth year, and municipalities' responses to the water shortage appear to be among the more pressing issues after Gov. Jerry Brown called for a 25 percent reduction in water use. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday is expected to restrict water deliveries to its members agencies by 15 percent — only the third time in 25 years it has enacted such limits.

Garcetti last year asked residents to take voluntary steps to cut the city's water use 20 percent by 2017, but city officials are now looking at more drastic measures such as imposing new rules that would restrict outdoor watering to two days a week, instead of the three-day limit already in effect.

The mayor also discussed his earthquake resiliency plan, which calls for strengthening the city's water delivery system, improving the local communications network and requiring that buildings prone to collapsing during earthquakes be retrofitted.

The speech also allowed Garcetti to discuss several new plans.

He announced in December that he want the city to purchase 7,000 body cameras, enough to outfit all Los Angeles police officers. He will include funding for them in his upcoming budget proposal, which is expected to be released next week.

The mayor also touted his Clean Streets Initiative, to cut litter and waste on city streets.

Garcetti delivered the speech amid a growing labor crisis, with thousands of city employees recently voting to authorize a strike as contract talks stall. Garcetti said last year that in order to eliminate future budget deficits, the city needs to hold the line on city employee wages and get workers to agree to contribute a higher percentage of their health care costs. City employee unions have so far resisted such concessions.

Also remaining to be answered is how the city plans to fund improvements to its water infrastructure, including the replacement of deteriorating pipes. Garcetti said during last year's State of the City speech that he would delay water rate hikes while the Department of Water and Power works to gain the public's trust amid the troubled rollout of its new billing system and long customer service call wait times.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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