Often, the most visible elements of a response to disaster are first responders and operational teams; however, behind the scenes are always the financial, logistics, and policy staff who help make disaster preparedness and response possible. Ed Roes (MPA ’86) is one these individuals. Ed serves as a senior member of the City of Los Angeles’ administrative team, focusing on services that support the city’s public safety and emergency services. He has served the city for nearly 30 years.
Ed’s early career focus was on city management, not public safety or emergency management specifically. Prior to GSPIA, he served a three-year term as an elected borough council member in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey and—upon coming to GSPIA—was weighing whether to pursue city management from the political or administrative perspective. Upon graduating from GSPIA in 1986, he was able to explore both.
Ed relocated to Los Angeles, where he first served for four years in the early 1990s, as a Council Deputy for Los Angeles City Council Member Joy Picus. It was a tumultuous time in the City’s history, with the Rodney King case and subsequent civil unrest, skyrocketing gang-related crime, an economic downturn and the devastating Northridge earthquake in 1994. He subsequently transferred to the City’s Department of Transportation to manage the Department’s citywide facilities and its parking enforcement fleet vehicle program. “I got both [the political and administrative] sides during the early years in my career, [and] then decided [to pursue] the city management track,” Ed recalled. In 1998, Ed accepted a position as a budget and policy analyst in the Office of the CAO, who serves as financial advisor to the Mayor and City Council.
In his current role, Ed supervises the CAO’s Public Safety Budget Group, which provides fiscal and policy analysis for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Los Angeles City Fire Department, the Emergency Management Department, the Office of the City Attorney, and the Department of Animal Services. As a Chief Administrative Analyst, Ed works closely with the City Council and policy analysts who develop and monitor the City’s budget processes concerning public safety during the fiscal year. “LAPD’s budget is over billion dollars. It’s pretty huge,” Ed explained. “LA City and LA County are populous [and complex]—topography, traffic, geography… it’s all challenging.”
Since public safety in Southern California is complicated by its natural and built environments, the City of Los Angeles works closely with neighboring cities. This collaboration is also important from a financial and preparedness perspective. “We facilitate discussions with other smaller cities in the L.A. area like Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Long Beach and Pasadena. Bringing cities together is one of our activities to [obtain] grant money [for collective preparedness activities] such as through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI).” Of course, public safety personnel also collaborate closely and share information and resources during actual events like a wildfire, or heavy rain and flash floods. These personnel also exercise and conduct drills together related to threats they may face, such as earthquakes.
Ed is involved in this operational side as well, from a budgeting perspective. When an incident occurs, his team tracks costs right away. If an incident rises to the level to receive a disaster declaration, the City of Los Angeles may be able to recoup some of its response costs from the state or federal government—and tracking costs is essential for this process as well as for transparency and sound fiscal management. “When the Governor declared a state of emergency with the recent wildfires back in December , we had everything ready to submit to the State to get reimbursed. This is always a major endeavor, as we assign staff to the City’s Emergency Operations Center 24/7 to oversee the tracking of costs and to manage departmental expenditures. It’s truly impressive to witness the planning and cooperation of all critical emergency personnel and support staff engaging in a coordinated effort to protect life and property. As I recall from my studies at GSPIA, particularly in Professor Louise Comfort’s classes, we were taught the critical nature of emergency preparedness and the role it plays during the occurrence and aftermath of a disaster or catastrophic event.”
In terms of transparency, Ed said the importance of clear and efficient policy-making and communication are increasingly important in the public sector, particularly in public safety. He believes a more informed and aware public will be better served in the event of a major crisis or disaster. Thus, public safety personnel have to be able to clearly communicate complex information based on accurate and real time information. “Back then [in the 1980s], data gathering was physically demanding and time-consuming to obtain, verify and disseminate. One of the things I got from GSPIA was that aspect of [being] a good policy analyst and a good communicator. “We now have the internet, which makes research and data collection immensely easier, but you still need to have effective analytical and communication skills.”