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Blueprint for Bankruptcy: Hearings Start on City Budget, LA’s Future at Stake

The future of LA hangs in the balance of 12 days of City Council budget hearings that get under way at 9 a.m. Monday but only a fool like me would hold any hope that the nation’s highest paid — and most overpaid — municipal elected officials will actually deal with the grim realities.

As proposed by the mayor with his rhetoric of “shared sacrifice” and “reinventing” LA’s middle class, the budget is a blueprint for bankruptcy.

The real sacrifices beneath the surface of the mayor’s proposal are lopsidedly the public’s, the reinvention a recognition that decades of misrule have destroyed the vibrancy of the city’s middle class that will not be restored by selling off future revenue streams, raising fees, rates and taxes even higher or providing a few thousand make-work “living wage” jobs.

The surface itself is a list of possible temporary wage reductions and “deferral” of some wage increases to deal with the estimated $530 million deficit that will be far higher by July 1 and is likely to get as large as the entire general fund budget within five years unless drastic steps are taken now to reduce payroll costs and eliminate wasteful spending and unaffordable programs.

In truth, the mayor — for all his emphasis in public on the sacrifices
being asked of city employees — has proposed
in closed-door negotiations with unions an early retirement plan that
will cost the public tens of millions of dollars and add to future

Already, it has had the negative effect of causing hundreds of employees to delay filing for retirement in hopes of padding their pensions with five more years of credit. The situation will be even worse if his scheme is carried out since he will eliminate a critical layer of managers — some of whom are “deadwood” as the mayor describes workers over 50 and some the experienced talent that have held the system together.

In truth, for all his talk about delivering on his commitment to reach the arbitrary number of 10,000 cops, the LAPD on his watch has grown by only 2 percent — barely 200 overall — with sworn officers doing the work of 600 unfilled lower-cost civilian jobs. There are no more cops on the street and the tripled trash fee has been used to inflate the rest of the city workforce by 10 percent or so and delay the impact of falling revenues and rising costs.

And so we come to the budget hearings, the public’s last chance that the worsening crisis will be dealt with honestly and with courage.

Our hope for genuine reform rests with Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Parks and committee members Councilmen Jose Huizar, Bill Rosendahl, Greig Smith and Controller-elect Wendy Greuel.

As I said, only a fool like me would hold out hope.

With the exception of Parks, who has a bead on the mayor’s police hiring plan for reasons as much personal as professional, none of the committee members has shown more than an occasional moment of independent thought and action.

And they don’t help matters by relegating public comment to the end of each day’s budget hearings schedule so that even if we the people had some thoughts about what needs to be done, we’ll have to call on the indefatigable Zuma Dogg to present them.

Still, I hold out hope. It’s my nature to always look at the way things are and develop a theory on how things could improve. It’s why I’m usually on the losing side but hope springs eternal and keeps me young in my outlook.

I don’t see how any sane person can look at the LA’s financial situation and not come to the conclusion that the situation is going to get worse in a hurry.

Unemployment in the city already is officially at 12.5 percent — that’s one in eight people.  The unofficial rate is roughly twice that, one in four. And more people are certain to lose their jobs in the coming months and nearly everyone is certain to see their incomes decline.

Home prices are down 40 percent or more so more people will lose their homes, Taxes are soaring so there’s even less money to spend in stores. And the increases being put in place — sales tax, water conservation rate hikes, stormwater parcel tax — are all regressive.

They add to the burdens of working people who have lost or live in fear of losing their jobs, their homes, their security, their futures.

The budget hearings involve a parade of bureaucrats who spend hours making the case for more money for their departments. At the end of each day, there’s public comment.

We should know early on whether these five council members are prepared to rise to the occasion and face up to the challenge of seizing this opportunity to restructure city government while there is still time.

The options will be far worse months from now than they are today.

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12 Responses to Blueprint for Bankruptcy: Hearings Start on City Budget, LA’s Future at Stake

  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe other than Parks, I do not believe this Mayor or the Council has felt in their heart and soles the long term damage they have done to the City of Los Angeles.
    They are no better than the gangs who do not take personal responsiblity. A very self centered, morally corrupt gang.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Parks as hero?? He’s the one known as “Bitter Bernie” for attacking Chief Bratton whatever he does because he can’t get over the fact that he was fired as Chief for reducing morale, efficiency, community support and everything else. Which seems hard to believe from a black man but look at how he’s championing the name “Parker Center” over the objections of most everyone else. I could respect him for NOT following racial expectations IF he were right.

  3. Disenfranchised says:

    ” It’s why I’m usually on the losing side but hope springs eternal and keeps me young in my outlook.”
    Never forget “Measure B” – you were not on the losing side of that one.
    The only way that I see any change happening in this City is for the people to carry some petitions – get their own issues on the ballots.
    Reverse the third term. Require cut backs of high paid City official’s salaries and their pensions (if they are excessive) – put those salaries into the hands of the people instead of letting the City Council vote on their own salary raises.
    Tie the Mayor’s hands. Craft language about Mayoral appointments and City perks.

  4. Does the City Council have the power to make substantive changes in the Mayor’s proposed budget, especially in the budget busting pension plans?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Humphreville, Why do we even have a City Council? This Mayor has taken away the powers of City Council who are supposed to be responsible for our city’s business in every way and has given the power to the union bosses (d’arcy, etc.), No one ever elected those bosses. Ron is right, we have a gang-rule in our city. Now, that we know what is going on, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

  6. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor has not taken away the power of City Council and given it to any union. The charter we voted for in 1999 actually took a lot of power away and gave it to the Council.
    The Mayor can’t do anything about the pay raises that Council voted to give themselves except for ask them to make cuts the way his office is doing and you must give him credit for that.
    The Mayor cannot take away the Council’s exempt, tax-payer-paid-for cars like he did to his own staffers. No council member is worthy of a car, although there are staffers who drive around the City due to the nature of their jobs that should have one. They should each have a few cars and have people check them in and out like library books. Somehow I doubt Wendy Gruel will come in and dig out that particular waste.
    The Mayor’s office is run by the Mayor’s people and the Council people run their own offices. This is separate money.
    When you’re going to bitch and moan, at LEAST have it straight WHO you’re bitching and moaning about. It’s one of my pet peeves, listening to bloggers blame the Mayor for what Council did, or the Mayor because the press follows him around, or when you question that the Mayor has given his staff a pay cut with no cost of living raises, or deny that he has laid off anyone.
    You seem to get confused over who is responsible for what. Or else you’re just loud, name-calling, rebel wannabes who don’t care if they’re right or wrong as long as they’re yelling.

  7. Anonymous says:

    THANK YOU RON FOR BEING ONE OF THE FEW VOICES OF REASON. The Mayor has 93 staffers, now 17 deputy Mayors which all earn over $125,000, 4 press peopke, attorneys, consultants and Los Angeles is the only city in this horrible economic mess that is yet lay off ONE PERSON. GO FIGURE!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    How about a 10% across the board cut in all city expenditures, everything, including salaries. No golden handshakes, no fee increases, no selling off parking garages. Better the city take some tough medicine now than make it worse with phony fixes.

  9. vic says:

    A lot of people for a lot of years have said the city’s elected officials are corrupt. The majority of the people consistently has turned a deaf ear, and now what do we have?
    A city council that would rather play ping pong than do it’s work.
    NO ONE on the city council is on the people’s side, and that includes Park. And that includes my council representative the trash tax king Smith.
    If they truly cared they would take a 25% pay cut right away, ask their staffs to do the same. A hiring freeze across all city jobs except emergency response. Use half that to balance the budget use the other half to spur growth, tax incentives or govt stimulus projects that DON’T include union jobs.
    Then cut 2% from each department. That could equal to less paper and printouts, maintaining older computers, having maintenance in their offices 2 times a week instead of everyday, or job cuts.
    It’s interesting how a lot of businesses in LA have seen 20-30% drops in revenue this year but are still around.
    The city should follow that model.
    Oh yeah, Greig Smith, stop sucking on your thumb while the mayor pokes around in your a hole.

  10. anonymously says:

    Two key points on early retirement;1) If your going to fill the position(which the city will do)your paying twice for the same position;2)No one has talked yet about the percentage of the base formula which need to be factored into the true cost of the positions;example 1.oo position x the % of benefits ,46,.36 or what/That’s your true cost. As to lapd staff being placed in clerical positions these jobs have to be covered on the post assigment schedule on a o.t.basis.

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