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City elections near

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 1/28/2009, 5 p.m.

Los Angeles, CA - On March 3, in addition to voting for Mayor, council members and other city government officials, Los Angeles residents will weigh in on five measures that cover subjects ranging from survivor's benefit payments through the fire and police pension plan to creating jobs through solar energy development. Following find the details:

Charter Amendment A. Fire Department Independent Assessor, would give the five-member appointed Board of Fire Commissioners the right to hire an independent assessor, who would be responsible for auditing, assessing and reviewing the activities of the department. This includes the handling of complaints of misconduct against fire fighters and civilian employees.

The assessor would be a civilian employee reporting directly to the Fire Commission, and exempt from civil service rules. Currently the department investigates itself, and the Fire Commission has no authority under the city charter to hire an independent auditor.

Approving this amendment would create an additional annual cost of $500,000 for the assessor's salary and administrative support.

Charter Amendment/Proposition B. Solar Energy and Job Creation Program. This legislation amends the L.A. city charter and administrative code to create the Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles Program that will be administrated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Through the program, solar power generating equipment will be installed on properties throughout the city and on city-owned airports to produce at least 400 megawatts of electricity. Private property owners will be paid for the use of their property. Additionally, the LADWP would develop a training academy to teach department employees and recruits how to install and operate solar power installations.

The cost of this measure is still being worked out by the LADWP, but preliminary estimates are that it will take $1 to $2 billion to implement the program. That price tag does not take into account tax breaks, state or federal grants, nor other assistance from the federal government.
Funding for the program will primarily come from DWP revenues, but the agency is also looking at grants and other financial incentives to help underwrite the cost.

Campaign organizers say at this point no fee increases are anticipated for DWP customers.

Charter Amendment C. Disabled Children Survivor Benefit of the Fire and Police Pension Plan is seeking an amendment that would allow a dependent child to continue to receive survivor benefits if the child marries or is adopted.

Currently the survivor benefits, which are provided to individuals under age 21 who become disabled and unable to earn a living, terminates when the survivor marries or is adopted.

Additionally, this measure would allow survivor benefits to be paid into a special needs trust to insure that payments will be used appropriately.

According to the impartial financial analysis, this measure would cost the city very minimal additional money because only a limited number of people would be able to take advantage of this benefit.

Charter Amendment D. Survivor Benefit Purchase Programs for Retirees of the Fire and Police Pension Plan. Currently if a pension plan member marries or registers a domestic partnership after retirement, the individual cannot obtain survivor's benefits for the new spouse. This proposal would change that and enable pension plan members to purchase the benefits as long as the retired member survives at least one year from the date he or she elects to provide the benefit. The marriage or domestic partnership registration must be in place, when the survivor benefit election is made. This selection can only be done once.

Because the retiree pays the fees, only minimal administrative costs would be incurred.

Charter Amendment E. Economic Incentives for Business Development will amend the city charter to allow city officials to offer economic incentives to keep businesses in the city or to attract new companies. The incentives must result in clearly identifiable public benefits such as job creation, new facilities that deliver public services ( e.g. parks) or generation of new revenues.

There is no specific impact on city revenues as a result of approval of this amendment. But there could be cost based on the actions the city council or mayor take, if this proposal is approved.

These types of incentive programs are already offered, but are not expressly provided for in the city charter. This amendment changes that.