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Greig Smith -- Where Is He Now?

Former councilman is solving solid waste problems, helping the mentally ill homeless, and investigating cold case homicides.

By Carl Robinette

If you asked 10 people how they would spend their ideal retirement you would probably get 10 different answers. You might hear about plans to travel, spend time with family and plans to move to warm places with sandy beaches. What you probably would not hear are plans to solve waste problems in America’s biggest city and build facilities to help California’s mentally ill homeless. Nor would you hear plans to investigate unsolved homicides—that is unless you are talking to retired Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith.

From 2003-2011 Smith represented Council District 12 which serves the neighborhoods of Northridge, Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Porter Ranch and other parts of the western San Fernando Valley.

While in the council seat he made the city’s waste management a priority and spearheaded RENEW LA — Recovering Energy Natural Resources, and Economic Benefit from Waste for Los Angeles. In “retirement” he is seeing the plan through to its final stages as a city consultant in the creation of facilities that will convert trash to energy.

Smith looks to Germany’s waste-energy-program that has practically eliminated the need for landfills, and hopes to eventually see the closure of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill here in the Valley which absorbs tons of trash from the City of L.A.

Clearly his dedication to Los Angeles hasn’t waned, but ask him why he didn’t run for a third term and Smith will tell you it was his age, long years of service and the exhaustion from dealing with stubborn and ineffectual fellow officials.

“I got tired of banging my head against the wall,” he said. Then he gave much simpler reason. “I promised the people that I would serve two terms.”

With 32 years in city service in various capacities, Smith says that the number one crisis facing Los Angeles is still a fiscal crisis. The only way to fix it, he says with regret, is reducing the pensions and payroll of city employees.

“When revenues go down you can either raise taxes, which I think is a bad thing to do in a down economy,” Smith said, “or, you can reduce spending.”

When 90 percent of the budget goes to payroll, then shrinking payroll is the only way to reduce spending, Smith said. This was the “wall” that he could no longer bang his head against.

“Here we are two years later,and they still haven’t fully resolved the fiscal problems.”

When asked about his thoughts on the mayoral candidates and who can best get the job done, Smith said that he has endorsed Jan Perry. "She is a no-nonsense person who can do the things necessary to fix the city," said Smith.

For now Smith focuses his energies on areas where he can make a difference.

Working with Optiflex Properties, Smith is leading the effort in Riverside County to create mental health facilities for people who would otherwise be institutionalized in a county hospital.

This is a deeply personal issue for Smith having a cousin who suffered life-long mental illness and for whom Smith became the legal guardian after her mother passed away.

Not only is it better for the patients but as a privately run facility it will save the county about $9 million a year, Smith said.

And here at home, he makes plenty of time for what he calls his hobby —investigating cold case homicides as a reserve officer for the LAPD. He has solved one case and expects to wrap up another one very soon.

“It’s very ugly to look at murder,” he said. “But I like solving puzzles. Somebody lost their life, and it’s my job to find out who did it.”

In his spare time Smith also volunteers in the effort to restore the Oakridge Estate, which he secured for public use while in office. As if this all weren’t enough, he is also actively involved with the local YMCA and PALs organizations.

Still, the former councilman is a family man first. He still manages to travel with his wife of 40 years, Chris, and there are two people he always clears his schedule for whenever they come around—his grandchildren.

“The greatest part about retirement is you have time to do what you want to do,” Smith said.

-- This article first appeared in Community Connection, http://www.SFVlocal.com, and is reprinted with permission.

Gary Washburn February 03, 2013 at 07:33 AM
Greig is a decent guy and I've worked with him in various capacities since the early 1980's....you can do business with Greig on a handshake because he's someone who keeps his word. Best of all, he's got a great family....Greig is doing something most folks never get to do -- enjoy his retirement and make positive contributions to the community. He presently works with us at LAPD PALS and is willing to do his share...so congrats to someone who has made a difference!!!
Jo February 03, 2013 at 06:52 PM
I agree Gary. Greig was a great council member! LA is too broke to enforce LAMC 56.08; LA laid off 2/3 of Street Services to preserve lavish pensions + retiree benefits that are way more generous than private sector. Greig (R) was the only R. He got Motion 07-0699 unanimously passed in '07. Motion 07-0699 would fine violators of LAMC 56.08 (owners mow & clean their own parkways & sidewalks even behind block walls). $50, $100, then $150. But, LA City Attorney never wrote legislation to implement. Mr. Englander says "there is no political will to make this happen and ACE Program will take care of fining violating owners." Meanwhile, disgusted with the ugly, blighted disgraceful weed- & trash-infested parkways, Northridge Clean Sweep volunteers clean our neighbors' parkways every Thursday 8-12 for almost THREE YEARS with NO END IN SIGHT. Besides performing our neighbors' responsibilities, we also perform LA City's responsibilities by cleaning the sludge & trash from the gutters & storm drains on Tampa, Devonshire, Plummer, Wilbur, Corbin, etc. Do you see Canejo, Santa Clarita and Simi Valley tax payers cleaning their neighbors' parkways and their cities' gutters? Of course not! Those taxpayers pay much lower taxes and receive excellent service; their medians, parkways & streets are beautiful. LA cut street sweeping on open routes from ev. 4 weeks to ev. 27 weeks. Only 3 men clean storm drains for entire SFV. $0 budgeted for sidewalks & tree trimming. Best Mayor=Kevin James

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