Council President Herb Wesson Taps Mickey Kantor To Study L.A.'s Budget Woes

In the wake of the failure of a half-cent sales tax increase, L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson has recruited Mickey Kantor, the former U.S. Commerce Secretary, to head up a commission to examine L.A.'s troubled finances.

Kantor is putting together a group of business and labor leaders to study the city budget, with the aim of delivering a report by September. Though the commission's roster has yet to be finalized, among those said to be in the running include former mayoral candidate Austin Beutner and Brian D'Arcy, the head of the powerful union that represents L.A. Department of Water and Power workers.

In an interview, Kantor declined to discuss names of potential commissioners. Kantor said he hoped he could get a group together to "describe what the problem is" and offer solutions.

"It's easier for a group of citizens who don't have the same pressures, concerns and agenda (as city council members have) to come together and do these things," Kantor said. 

Kantor also said the idea had originated in January, well before the sales tax increase was defeated on the March 5 ballot. 

The commission's recommendations could conflict with the agenda of the next mayor. Either Councilman Eric Garcetti or Controller Wendy Greuel will be sworn in on July 1, and presumably either would bring their own ideas about how to address the city's budget deficit. Kantor said he hoped the next mayor would adopt many of the commission's recommendations.

"Whoever the next mayor is, they'll make their own decision," Kantor said. "We hope, if you do this, you do it well enough that whoever the next mayor is will want to pick up much of it."

Wesson's spokesman, Ed Johnson, said that Wesson wants to get "fresh eyes" on the city's fiscal problems from an independent source. He also said that Wesson is not trying to undercut the next mayor.

"There's certainly no intent to do that," Johnson said. "Whatever input and advice the commission offers is something that will be there for the next mayor to consider."

The commission is expected to be announced sometime next week. In addition to Beutner and D'Arcy, those said to be in the mix for commission spots include Robbie Hunter, leader of the L.A. and Orange County building trades union; Hilda Solis, the former Secretary of Labor; and Tom Sayles, a USC vice president.

D'Arcy could be a controversial pick, given that he has led a $2 million campaign to elect Wendy Greuel. Kantor is also a Greuel supporter, though he said that has nothing to do with his participation in the commission. D'Arcy could not be reached for comment.

Greuel hailed Wesson's effort in a prepared statement.

"Council President Wesson's approach is refreshing," Greuel said. "I am proud to already have earned the support of a diverse coalition of business and labor leaders and look forward to working with the Commission as Mayor to get our fiscal house in order and bring businesses back to Los Angeles."

Garcetti's campaign has yet to respond.

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