The City Council will vote unanimously today to give final approval to deals with most of its work force that leave the future of the city seriously in doubt.
The pacts with the 22,000-member Coalition of City Unions and the 10,000-member Police Protective League at best put off for a year or two the day of reckoning in hopes that there will be an Obama economic miracle will get consumers spending freely again and fill the city coffers with dollars.
Leave it to Bill Bratton to put what is going on in clear perspective:
“The toughest issue will be the budget We can survive
for a couple years on lean budgets without really stalling the
momentum, but if it goes on for more than two or three years, the
challenge for the chief will be how to deal with morale, how to deal
with aging equipment, how you deal with facilities that aren’t as
maintained as well as they have been.”
What he’s saying applies to all of city government, not just the LAPD.
City Hall’s strategy, such as it is, involved deferring payments of hundreds of millions of dollars, borrowing every cent it can and spreading out debt repayment, putting off raises to employees, robbing one fund to pay bills in another, time off in lieu of overtime, furloughs instead of pay cuts and selling off revenue-producing assets like parking structures.
It all adds up one gamble compounded by another and there’s no certainty the strategy, such as it is, will even provide enough cash to get through the last eight months of this fiscal year let alone next year when the looming shortfall is twice the size of the $400 million currently facing the city.
“Yes, we are kicking that can down the road. We’re saving the money now
and hoping we’ll have the money to pay it off in the future,” Maritta Aspen, the city’s senior labor relations specialist, told the Times.in an article laying out to the public for the first time terms of the deal with the police union.
The two-year contract is supposed to save $72
million next fiscal year by cutting overtime to just $15 million — equivalent to more than 1 million hours, according to a confidential report
obtained by The Times.
For the 25 percent of officers, mainly patrol and homicide detectives, who work more than 400 hours of overtime a year — expanding their income by a quarter — that is a big hit. Expectations are rampant in the LAPD that many trained officers will jump to other police agencies to maintain their incomes.
What is amazing is that City Hall doesn’t have a clue even now what impact this deal or the one with the coalition for the early retirement of 2,400 workers to be named later will have on services to the public
They are merely buying time and hoping for an economic miracle no economist believes is going to happen.
They have lacked the political will to deal firmly with the problem that city government costs too much and delivers too little. They have soft-pedaled the truth to the public and city workers so when the bills come due, the repercussions will be severe.
For all the mayor’s happy talk about green jobs in the future, LA is losing more jobs than anywhere else in the country and our 14 percent unemployment is near the top. Storefronts and offices are empty, incomes are down, house are worth a third or more less than they were a few years ago.
None of that gives any reason for hope for years to come.
Yet, City Hall keeps on expanding social welfare programs and investing public money in luxury hotels, developments and entertainments.
Leaders of other cities are made of tougher stuff. They have imposed back-to-basics austerity budgets, protected vital services and put the public interest first instead of special interests. They have taken painful and often unpopular steps and jeopardized their political careers.
Only in LA would we tolerate leaders who take the easy way out for themselves no matter what the consequences to the city as a whole.
My only advice, like the wooden plaque with clasped hands on my office well says, is this: Pray for LA.
Pray that business and labor and the civic elite stand up one of these days with the rising tide of grassroots activism and we take back our city, hold those who have failed us accountable and bring some balance to our competing interests in the name of the common good.
Pray that we don’t see a breakdown in law and order as the lack of cops and the demoralization of the LAPD and the city work force sets in.
Pray there’s going to be an Obama economic miracle that makes us all prosperous and happy again.