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EFFICIENCY NOW THE AIM AT CITY HALL.

Byline: Dan Laidman Staff Writer

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to fund his ambitious agenda for Los Angeles by making City Hall more efficient rather than by cutting services, his finance director told a business forum Thursday.

Deputy Mayor Karen Sisson acknowledged that tackling big issues like transportation, education and public safety will not be cheap, but she said there is money to be harvested in the city's existing $6 billion budget.

``We need to look at how we can do things better, faster and cheaper by trying to eke out some additional resources through efficiency,'' Sisson said.

The mayor's chief of ``Finance and Performance Innovation'' spoke to a panel at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce's annual ``Access L.A. City Hall'' event, which drew more than 400 business leaders.

Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who represents the eastern San Fernando Valley, told the crowd at the budget issues forum that she would push for continued business-tax reforms.

Greuel also joined Sisson's call for rooting out inefficiencies, citing several examples from recent years.

The city has been able to save by eliminating ``1-800'' phone numbers that overlapped with the catch-all ``311'' service, she said, as well as by having traffic enforcement officers tow abandoned cars rather than drawing on police resources.

Greuel also pointed to the ``50-50'' sidewalk program that began in her district in which the city and residents share repair costs.

While officials need to examine every level of city government to find such savings, Greuel noted that police and fire costs make up 65 percent of the budget and ``you're not going to see us cut that money.''

Greuel said she and her colleagues would try to pay for more police officers with existing city funds before going to voters to seek a tax hike.

West Valley Councilman Dennis Zine said that while crime is down citywide, the business climate is still hurt by not having enough police officers.

``It's the perception of safety,'' said Zine, a retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant.

City officials were joined on the panel by Ann Marie Wallace, regional representative for the League of California Cities.

In the state budget cycle, she said, Proposition 1A, which limits the money California can take from local governments, has made ``a world of difference.''

However, Wallace said city officials are ``on pins and needles'' because they are afraid of how the state will make up for the lost money. She warned that the state may try to take it from redevelopment agencies.

``That could be a big blow to economic activity,'' she said.

Dan Laidman, (213) 978-0390

dan.laidman(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 30, 2005
Words:437
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