Home USA News Mejia pushes back on the Mayor Bass’s initiatives

Mejia pushes back on the Mayor Bass’s initiatives

Mejia pushes back on the Mayor Bass’s initiatives

Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s David Zahniser, offering up the developments of the past seven days at City Hall and beyond.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has had her hands full in recent months, working to clear homeless encampments, ramp up hiring at the Police Department and finalize her strategy for erasing a shortfall in next year’s budget.

Across the street, in the building known as City Hall East, City Controller Kenneth Mejia has become increasingly outspoken on each of those efforts.

Mejia, a fierce critic of LAPD spending, has repeatedly taken aim at the package of police raises negotiated by the mayor, which is supposed to help with recruitment but also has increased the size of the budget shortfall. He recently promised to conduct a “focused” audit of Inside Safe, the mayor’s program to move unhoused people indoors, even as some at City Hall question whether he has the legal authority to do so.

Mejia has begun warning Angelenos that the city is now in a budget crisis, using flashing red siren emojis to accentuate his point. And he is portraying himself as something of a Cassandra at City Hall, forecasting disaster only to see things get worse.

“Our Office WARNED City leaders about the city’s financial health before this budget deficit came about,” Mejia said last month on X. “Now we have hiring freezes, eliminating job positions, & raising fees for Angelenos to tackle our budget deficit due to the city’s decision making.”

If Mejia keeps it up, he could become a serious thorn in the mayor’s side. Her 2024-25 spending plan is scheduled for release later this month.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl declined to comment directly on Mejia’s approach, saying the mayor’s office remains “focused on the work that has resulted in thousands more Angelenos coming inside last year than the previous year, a record number of LAPD applications, and finalizing a budget in partnership with our city department heads that will be balanced and protect services for Angelenos.”

Mejia, for his part, declined interview requests from The Times. On Wednesday, his team offered to make one of his aides — Chief Deputy Controller Rick Cole, a former Pasadena mayor himself — available for questions.

A day later, his office canceled that interview.

Mejia has offered other sharp-tongued assessments of the city decision-making, saying in recent weeks that a proposal to eliminate nearly 2,000 vacant city positions “hints at panic.”

For months, Bass has endorsed the general idea of cutting vacant jobs, saying the reductions can be accomplished in a way that will not seriously affect services. The city’s “critical” unfilled positions, such as those budgeted for police officers, firefighters and trash truck drivers, will not be touched, she said.

Mejia, on the other hand, blasted the reductions as shortsighted, saying city services are already “visibly deteriorated.”

Among the list of targeted positions are 30 unfilled jobs in the controller’s office, which are now being recommended for elimination. Mejia responded to that possibility with more flashing siren emojis, calling on supporters to contact the elected officials who have the power to approve or reject any cuts.

Mejia also said the city is looking at “defunding” the Bureau of Street Services, which repairs streets and sidewalks, and the Department of Animal Services, which operates the city’s network of animal shelters.

The mayor’s team has been offering a different perspective. Asked about some of Mejia’s remarks last month, Seidl dismissed what he called “theatrical exaggeration and doomsday projections” about the city budget. Bass’ team said the reductions are being pursued, in part, to ensure that workers across city agencies receive meaningful pay increases, allowing them to afford to live in the city.

“Predictions that city services will be impossible to deliver as a result of not filling non-critical, already vacant positions are simply false,” Seidl said last month.

The back-and-forth comes at a critical moment for Mejia. His office is one of several seeking to ensure that the city makes a smooth transition to a new payroll system for its workforce later this year. Appearing recently before the council’s budget committee, Cole attempted to lower expectations.

“It’s just literally impossible to guarantee that there will be accurate pay for every single person the first time out, so we need to be prepared for that,” he told the panel.

Then, there was the data dump on homelessness deaths.

Last week, Mejia blasted out the news that 900 homeless people died in L.A. last year, issuing numbers that showed a decrease compared with 2022. A day later, after receiving questions about those numbers, Mejia’s press team sent reporters a “correction” email indicating their initial death data were incomplete.

The email said Mejia’s office had only obtained information on closed cases, not total cases, and would be conducting a new analysis in the coming months. The walk-back prompted some at City Hall to voice fresh doubts about Mejia’s judgment.

Mejia, for the time being, is focused on his office’s upcoming town hall on the budget, which is meant to inform the public on ways they can weigh in on city spending. During that event, he may be asked to show his cards and finally reveal the steps he thinks are needed to balance this year’s budget.

Until now, Mejia has relied on broad statements, saying the city needs to “strategically reallocate resources.”

The Times asked Mejia’s team what cuts he would suggest to erase the shortfall. Mejia spokesperson Diana Chang responded by saying the city controller wants the budget to be prepared on a two-year cycle, instead of just one.

“The city needs to use a long-term, strategic approach to the budget in order to determine what is needed,” she said.

State of play

— TUNNEL VISION: Construction crews have finished the tunneling work for the extension of the Metro D Line subway from Koreatown to the Westside. The first leg of that extension, heading as far west as La Cienega Boulevard, is scheduled to open next year, with the second segment reaching Century City in 2026.

— BACK TO REALITY: At the same time, Metro is scaling back expectations for what it can build in time for the 2028 Olympics. Under former Mayor Eric Garcetti, Metro had been pursuing “28 by ‘28” — a plan for completing 28 major transportation projects in time for the Games. As it turns out, Metro hasn’t lined up even half the $40 billion that would have been needed to pay for them, The Times reports.

— SO LONG, SPORTSMEN’S LODGE: The City Council cleared the way for a developer to build a 520-unit residential complex in Studio City, replacing the historic Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel. Councilmember Nithya Raman, who represents the area and recently won reelection, voted in favor of the development.

— THE UNION LABEL: The Sportsmen’s Lodge project drew opposition from Unite Here Local 11, the hotel workers’ union, which argued that it would result in the demolition of one of the city’s earliest unionized hotels. The group found one ally at City Hall: Councilmember Hugo SotoMartínez, a former Unite Here organizer himself. He cast the lone vote opposing the project.

— JUST SAY NO: The council’s superprogressive voting bloc — Raman, Soto-Martínez and Eunisses Hernandez — joined forces to vote against a package of raises for the LAPD’s command staff. (It passed 8-3.) Meanwhile, Hernandez and Soto-Martínez voted against proposals from Councilmembers John Lee and Imelda Padilla to bring more police resources into their respective Valley districts. Each of those passed 11-2.

— GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT: Residents in L.A.’s Fairfax neighborhood have been at their wit’s end over mounds of trash that accumulated in front of a residence on Martel Avenue. The situation got so bad that Bass visited the property, vowing to have the trash removed. By Friday, city crews had cleaned things up.

— ULA AT YEAR ONE: Measure ULA, the voter-approved tax on high-end property sales, has been in effect for one year, but its impact on the city remains a subject of major debate. Supporters say it has generated funding for affordable housing and provided a crucial lifeline for renters behind on their payments. Detractors say the tax is generating far less than projected, while putting a chill on the construction of new housing units in L.A.

— UNARMED RESPONSES: Three City Council members — Soto-Martínez, Blumenfield and Monica Rodriguez — celebrated the launch of a pilot program to send unarmed response teams to 9-1-1 mental health emergency calls. Since March 12, those teams have been deployed to more than 300 calls that would have otherwise been handled by police, Rodriguez said.

— DUI ON THE 605: An off-duty LAPD lieutenant was charged with felony DUI this week after rear-ending another vehicle on the 605 Freeway, authorities said. Matthew Ensley had a blood-alcohol level of 0.2%, more than twice the legal limit, according to a report from the D.A.’s office.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.


  • Where is Inside Safe? The mayor’s signature initiative to combat homelessness did not launch any new operations this week. However, Bass’ team did begin posting records from the program on the city’s website, as part of a much larger effort to provide greater transparency on homelessness spending.
  • On the docket for next week: As we mentioned earlier, Mejia has scheduled a Thursday town hall meeting on the upcoming city budget approval process. Bass must release her annual budget no later than April 22, mayoral aides said.

Stay in touch

That’s it for this week! Send your questions, comments and gossip to LAontheRecord@latimes.com. Did a friend forward you this email? Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Saturday morning.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here