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OVROM WILL RESTRUCTURE REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Staff Writer

Six weeks after he was lured from Burbank to spearhead redevelopment in Los Angeles, Robert ``Bud'' Ovrom shook up the Community Redevelopment Agency on Thursday by announcing a restructuring plan designed to make the agency more efficient in the face of expected budget cuts and layoffs.

Ovrom's plan, in essence, would create a series of mini-Burbanks throughout the CRA's project areas, breaking down the agency into seven semi-autonomous regions that he hopes will be small enough to be efficient while still benefiting from the agency's overall size.

``When I was going through the recruitment process, the big battle cry from everybody I met with was, 'You gotta do for North Hollywood what you did to Burbank,''' Ovrom said. ``OK, let's make seven reasonable redevelopment agencies rather than one unreasonable redevelopment agency.''

The plan is also driven by the need to reduce staffing because of expected state budget cuts. Ovrom said he expects to reduce the agency's current budgeted staff of 220 to 208 within a few months, and possibly to 180 by next summer, because of expected state cuts of at least $7 million.

The plan drew fire from the CRA employees union, which charged that Ovrom plans to raise salaries of top managers while laying off lower-paid employees.

Cheryl Parisi, business representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 36, said the plan would more than double the number of people making more than $100,000 a year, from 23 to 50.

``We're just outraged,'' she said. ``We represent the managers (who would get raises) and we're saying no to these raises. We think jobs need to be saved.''

Ovrom and other agency officials, however, disputed Parisi's figures, saying it is simply not true the plan would increase the number of people making six-figure incomes.

According to Patricia Francisco, CRA director of human resources, the agency has 42 people making more than $100,000 a year, including 16 project managers. That number is likely to go down, depending on whether current employees fill the new positions and other factors.

Parisi said Ovrom violated the contract by announcing the plan without full discussions with the union. She said she will file a grievance today.

Ovrom said he had several discussions with the union and made changes as a result. Further talks will be held.

The contract calls for him to meet and confer but he said he can restructure without union approval, only agreement from the CRA board and the City Council. Mayor James Hahn is reviewing the plan.

David Farrarr, chairman of the CRA commission, said Ovrom was not specifically told to restructure the agency but that he likely would get strong support, since the agency has been criticized for years as being ineffective.

``We hired him based on all of our perceptions that he ran a very efficient organization (in Burbank),'' Farrarr said. ``And we were all mindful of the fact that the CRA over a number of years was not perceived widely as being a very efficient organization.''

Under Ovrom's plan, the CRA's 35 projects will be grouped into seven geographic areas, each headed by a deputy who will be the redevelopment administrator for that area. The seven deputies who now report directly to Ovrom may be eliminated and replaced by these seven new regional administrators with some positions likely to be filled from outside.

Two other deputies will report directly to Ovrom, one to manage the seven project areas and one to oversee the agency's internal administration. Ovrom said he has too many bosses above him - the 15 City Council members, seven commissioners and the mayor - to also have seven people underneath directly reporting to him.

``We will live and die in the trenches of what we do in these seven areas and the leadership we can get for these seven areas,'' Ovrom said.

Ovrom started working for the CRA on March 1 after serving as Burbank's city manager for 17 years. He has been credited with transforming that city from the butt of jokes to a thriving retail and commercial center.

San Fernando Valley cityhood supporters often cited the contrast between Burbank and neighboring North Hollywood as the difference in efficiency between small and large cities.

``The cityhood effort was driven by a desire for local control,'' said Richard Close, one of the leaders of the secession drive. ``This is a creative way to bring the decision-making concerning the redevelopment of North Hollywood from downtown to the local community.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 11, 2003
Words:754
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