So I’m out of work and my nest egg for retirement is cracking with my home worth 25 percent less than a year ago, my Social Security check doesn’t go very far and I’m being hit with a lot of extra bills as I try to start a new life.
And now I find out the city, county and state want a lot more money from me.
Don’t cry for me L.A. I’ve lived modestly within my means and i’ve got a little put away to tide me through these rainy days.
But that’s not true for a lot of people and it’s certainly not what the city, county or state did during the recent years of soaring revenue. They spent their money — I mean our money — even faster than it came in. The result is they are facing huge deficits, mostly caused by giveaways to contractors, developers and public employees.
I got nothing against those classes of people personally. They’ve just been acting out of the force of a habit that developed during decades in which their inordinate power allowed them to feast on the public treasury without regard to the public interest.
No, the problem isn’t them. It’s the politicians who have gotten away with violating their oaths of office, their vows to serve the public for too long, who squandered all our money and worst of all, didn’t solve any of our problems.
And now as thousands of people are losing their jobs and gas is nearing $4 a gallon, the politicians are telling us their only answer is for us, the taxpayers, to pay more and get less in public services.
The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, has put it most nakedly: For every dollar he raises in new revenue from taxpayers, he wants to cut $1.50 in services to the public.
It’s a really quite ingenious scheme. He only needs to raises taxes, fees and rates high enough to generate $200 million and then he can justify $300 million in service cuts to cover the $500 million deficit created under his leadership.
That way he can afford to deliver on the pay raises of 5 to 7 percent a year recently given to city employees in the face of a collapsing economy, avoid cleaning up the city’s sloppy contracting practices and keep on subsidizing massive development projects by Arab oil sheiks and American billionaires — projects the public doesn’t want like Grandiose Avenue.
And still have enough change left over to to hire a few hundred more cops and keep his campaign pledge to add 1,000 cops to the LAPD’s ranks – something that is an absolute necessity for him to get re-elected next year since he hasn’t done much else to distinguish his administration from the lackluster Hahn administration that preceded him.
Higher water rates, higher power rates, higher garbage fees already are in place and today Mayor Villaraigosa will announce new ways to gouge the public when he releases his budget plan for the next fiscal year.
Don’t expect what’s announced to be clear and transparent. It will take weeks if not months for the press and concerned citizens to actually wade through the morass of obscuring rhetoric and vaguely worded footnotes to actually see the true impact.
The only certainty is that the rich and the poor will be least affected while hard-working people struggling to keep their middle class status or reach the middle class will take the brunt of this assault.
So wake up alll you little people out there. You can either throw up your hands and take it in the chops again or get mad as hell an do something about it.
What is to be done?
You could call, write or email your City Council member or the mayor. But how much good has that ever done.
If you really want to make a difference, here’s a few suggestions:
1. Talk to your friends and neighbors about how mad you are about what’s going on and get them fired up.
2. Get involved with them in your neighborhood councils and other community and civic groups in your area and work hard to reach out to everyone you can to join together to take action.
3. Put aside irrelevant ideological differences that don’t mean a thing in local politics and band together with other community groups to form a broad coalition to demand City Hall pay attention to what’s important to you.
I guarantee that if enough people start participating in our civic life, the insider culture of City Hall will collapse into rubble as if hit by an earthquake. Nothing but greed holds the self-servng political culture of Los Angeles together.
People power will bring it down faster than the Berlin Wall.
In the meantime, sound off about how you feel in the comments box at the top of this item. The time is right. People care about what’s going on. It’s time to stop grumbling and do something about it.