At the end of a long day of hearings on the city budget crisis, officials of the Board of Public Works and the mayor’s office admitted Monday there was no “urgency” to efforts to quadruple the storm water runoff tax and it wasn’t a budgetary problem.
The stunning admission, coming just days after the idea suddenly popped up before the City Council, came as community groups were already activating a campaign to defeat the tax measure as they did Measure B. (Earlier item)
The reasons were similar. It was not presented to Neighborhood Councils, no case was made for the tax in public, it was being rushed before voters without any facts that allowed for full debate.
In this case, there was even a subterfuge involved to use a mail ballot to the three-quarters of a million property owners and allow them 45 days to respond while officials, backed by a campaign undoubtedly well financed by contractors and unions, sought to sell on the public on paying more for something they already have agreed to put up $500 million for.
It was nothing but an attempt to get more money out of taxpayers to avoid facing the crisis caused by overspending and underperforming.
The mayor’s representative left open whether the tax hike would come back in several months, presumably with a more methodical approach and hopefully a more honest argument.
David Zahniser in the Times today quotes City Council President Eric Garcetti as saying he feared the tax would face the same fate as Measure B.
“It’s going to get killed, for now,” said Garcetti after discussing the plan at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said she and her colleagues were troubled by
the speed with which the proposal had moved. “A lot of questions
couldn’t be answered to show that it was ready to go.”
And Public Works Board President Cynthia Ruiz said her agency would now develop a public
outreach plan promoting the
Bureau of Sanitation efforts to remove pollutants from storm water.
What’s really appalling is that Ruiz — like other members of the board draws a six-figure salary — admitted she was pushing the tax to raise nearly $25 million a year to buffer the impact of the department actually having to come up with a 10 percent cost reduction because of the budget crisis.
In other words, the storm water tax had nothing to do with the storm water runoff program anymore than tripling the trash fee had anything to do with hiring more police officers as the mayor claimed.
It’s all about charging the public for basic services so they could pour the money into sweetheart contract and programs that they city can’t afford.
I’d suggest the first step the Public Works Department should take to reduce costs is eliminate the salaries of the board members, the only paid city commissioners. There’s never been any justification for these salaries except to create plum jobs for political insiders.