Doesn’t the goodness of the people count for anything or is this a godforsaken town beyond redemption?
I believe that the people must count or I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing anymore than thousands of other people from all walks of life who have worked so hard for so long in the face of the imperious indifference of the city’s leadership and the failure of its policies.
We deserve better than what we’ve gotten from the influential and powerful who ignore the desires and values of the people of Los Angeles and sell out the public interest to the various special interests who benefit so handsomely from their mediocrity and pretense of public service.
Starting Monday at 6 p.m. at Van Nuys City Hall, a new era could begin when Bernard Parks’ Council Budget Committee starts a series of hearings around the city on this year’s massive deficit and next year’s shortfall that is even worse.
Bankruptcy is a certainty unless drastic steps are taken that should have been taken a long time ago. The future of the city depends on what those steps are and whether they succeed in regenerating our neighborhoods, rebuilding our economy and repairing the damage they have done.
At Saturday’s joint meeting of the Saving LA Project, and Budget Committee formed by LA Neighborhood Council Coalition and the NC budget advisory group, there was an overwhelming consensus that what the Mayor and Council are proposing will have catastrophic consequences.
At least 1,000 layoffs on top of 1,200 vacant job eliminations and expansion of the sweetened retirement program from 2,400 to 2,763 would compound the impact on public services, especially since they have protected revenue-producing positions at the expense of those that serve the general public.
They threw out a grab-bag of proposals to raise every fee that they can, to transfer every body they can to special funds or proprietary departments, to loot every dollar they can from those same areas and, worst of all, to sell off the city’s assets that provide long-term revenue and public value.
The zoo, golf courses, theaters, parking structures and meters, information technology, property management, the convention center, Van Nuys Airport and Ontario Airport are all on their list for privatization or sale.
They have framed the issue solely as a question of whether or not hiring police officers should continue and they are trying to cut deals with the business and labor communities to support them in their doomed enterprise.
The public is left out in the cold, except for the mayor’s budget survey that makes a mockery of public concerns and the opportunity Monday in Van Nuys, and on Feb. 22 at Hamilton High on the Westside, on March 8 at El Sereno Recreation Center on the Eastside and on March 22 at the CD9 City Hall
Activists at Saturday’s meeting offered dozens of suggestions to reduce city spending, create efficiencies, focus on critical services but much of the discussion was focused on public employees pensions — an unfunded liability that has taxpayers on the hook for $10.5 billion on top of the $400 million deficit forecast for next year, $775 million the year after, $875 million the following year and over $1 billion after that.
What came out of the community meetings was an emphasis on significant pension reform, zero-based budgeting of all departments, an end to gimmicks that mask the problems and, most of all, a seat at the table of power where decisions are being made.
None of that is where City Hall is headed.
SEIU union leader Julie Butcher sent out an email Sunday saying that another letter has surfaced from the Mayor and Council instructing City Administrator Officer Miguel Santana to open talks on Friday with labor on leadership’s plan for “mass privatization, benefit cuts… pension reform.”
“We’ll continue to insist the city act to fully implement our agreement as quickly as possible, to maximize smart ideas, & to act strategically & quickly (yeah, right!)…Collect & investigate all rumors. They’ll be wild & varied,” she said.
A dissident SEIU group is questioning where this is all leading.
“Good grief. Are our contracts with the City written on toilet paper, or what? There are all the indications that our jobs, livelihoods, families and futures are being played with, fast and loosely,” wrote long-time union steward Dan Mariscal
The unions have every right to be concerned and so do ordinary citizens.
LA belongs to all of us. It is not the private property of the politicians, developers or any other narrow interest.
If we want to assert that the people are the bosses, we need to demonstrate we are as serious as the unions and the insiders protecting their interests.
I hope of lot of ordinary people will join the budget team activists at the news conference Monday before the hearing begins and demand that the public, the people who pay the bills, have a right to direct involvement in all talks on how LA gets through this crisis.
The Mayor and the Council have forfeited their right to assert they represent the people by their irresponsibility. If the residents of this city met with the unions and with business to try to figure out what we can do to save LA from the downward spiral it’s on., we would find better solutions to the problems than we will from the charade being put on by the politicians.
This is our LA and if we don’t fight about this and protect our interests, we are as much to blame as anyone.