Today in L.A., the task was left to Ray Ciranna, the interim City Administrative Officer, to outline a plan to cut spending on libraries, the zoo, tree trimming, new police cars, left-hand turn signals and hiring in the City Attorney’s and Controller’s office.
Those cuts would only save $55 million, half the current deficit, and not make a dent in the $400 million shortfail for next year — both low-ball estimates of how serious the city’s money problems really are.
So you ask why was this left to acting budget numbers guy? Where was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa? Isn’t this a crisis that calls for bold leadership?
It’s not like Villaraigosa isn’t aware of the problem. He was briefed on the crisis and did issue a statement which said “immediate and dramatic budget adjustments” are needed but it’s not his job to take the heat..
“The revenue picture for the city is grim, and it is nearly certain to get worse before it gets better,” Villaraigosa said..
In contrast, Bloomberg stuck his neck out and is feeling political heat because he wants to cancel a promised $400 rebate to taxpayers, cut 1,000 police positions and raise the city income tax by as much as 15 percent.
In L.A. the solution to a dire budget crisis is to stop buying library books to save $1.45 million out of a $79 million library budget and $800,000 from tree trimming.
Here’s more items from the LATimes report:
* $1 million from the crossing guards program — a 20 percent reduction.
* $650,000 less for installing left-turn arrow signals.
* $1.92 million from the LAPD’s plan to older squad cars. The city had budgeted $4.3 million to replace 118 black-and-whites but 53 older cars will stay in service.
* Transferring $1.14 million from a Los Angeles Zoo trust fund — money set aside for the long-delayed Golden Monkey exhibit.
I know the detailed savings don’t come close to adding up to $55 million but you get the gist of the penny-pinching proposals that do nothing about the overspending problem.
There’s also that favorite cash cow, the Department of Water and Power which is overflowing with cash from all its rate increases so you be sure those funds will be raided and the infrastructure allowed to continue to rot.
It will be amusing to see the council grapple with this and to see if they actually pay attention to the details supply an overall vision for the city’s economic future.
That would entail bringing up the problem which is the payroll and benfits costs of the city are out of whack with the city’s financial reality. Police and Fire unions already are demanding the same 5.9 percent raises DWP workers just got and the city still is paying for every type of community event even though they said they would stop.
L.A. doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. Taxes, rates and fees have gone up and up to the point that there’s nothing left to tax. You can see City Hall can’t find anything else to cut much.
So that leaves the one place where spending has gotten out of control: Wage and benefit costs. But to stand up to the unions would take political courage and require the mayor to take a stand where he’s the Mayor of City Hall or the Mayor of Los Angeles.
Bloomberg took a stand in New York. He ordered the heat turned down in city buildings to save fuel costs and when criticized for it, responded: “Wear a sweater if you’re chilly.”
Council members accuse Boomberg of taking a “let them eat cake” attitude. But his taken a stand in public and facing the criticism.
In L.A., it’s just the opposite. City Hall’s attitude to the people is “let them eat cake” and the mayor is invisible on the subject of what must be done.