Antonio’s Budget Fairy Tale —

It is a sign of the times that the mayor has actually been forced to engage the public in discussions, preliminary as they might be, about how LA is going to survive as a city even as it brings spending into balance with revenue for the first time in years.

A sign of his own weakness and the failure of the city’s leadership, to be sure, but a positive step toward actually coming to respect the public and share power with the civic, business, labor and community leaders.

Deputy Mayor Larry Frank, assigned to co-opt and calm the anger of Neighborhood Council members, was assigned the unenviable task of meeting Saturday with Budget LA, the group that has been brought dozens of community activists together every Saturday for weeks to try to develop a strategy for saving the Charter-created civic empowerment movement from destruction.

The mayor has fired the head of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and plans to eliminate the department entirely with the full support of the City Council to reduce this year’s $212 million deficit by $2 million.

It is Frank’s job to make it look like this is being done in the name of efficiency and cost saving, to hide the truth that it is being done because they fear the growing influence and organization of community groups across the city.

Frank, in a lengthy and detailed explanation, laid out the mayor’s plan such as it is to fix the massive budget deficit as if he were talking to fourth graders.

But it’s nonetheless instructive because it’s the first time anyone from the mayor’s office has actually tried to explain why nearly 7,000 jobs of people who run the parks and libraries, do the community planning and building code enforcement, and provide dozens of other basic services to the general public are proposed for elimination.These are more than half the jobs in those positions.

I know most of you will not actually watch these videos and see for yourselves what a fairy tale Frank spun for the Neighborhood Council people on Saturday, a fairy tale that does not have a happy ending.

So here’s the takeaway: Setting aside the obfuscations and outright false statements, the mayor’s plan is to slash basic services, sell off valuable assets like parking structures and the Convention Center to his pals, and borrow billions of dollars just to get through this year and next.

He has no plan to deal with the $775 million deficit the year after or the more than $1 billion deficit equal to more than 25 percent of the city’s operating budget the year after.

If you believe in miracles, economic miracles in this case, everyone will live happily ever after. If you don’t, maybe you better watch these videos and know for yourself what is going on.

Somebody Has Got to Pay for This DWP Outrage


EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the consultant’s report recommending massive DWP
electricity rate hikes at OurLA.org.


You don’t
know nothing if you didn’t know this was coming: Massive DWP rate hikes.

 

How else
did you think they were going bail out the sinking ship of the city except by
socking it to you?

 

It’s all
been a setup, planned for a long time and now it’s being executed: 800 percent
increase in the “energy cost adjustment factor” pass-through on April 1, 20
percent increase in the next 12 months, 33 percent with last year included.

 

And from
there, you can be 100 percent certain your power rates will keep going up and
away, doubled and tripled.

 

You are
sitting in the DWP’s electric chair and they are about to pull the switch. I’ve
been telling you this was coming for months so don’t be shocked when your
electricity bill soars higher than your mortgage.

 

Don’t kid
yourselves: It’s the people who have mortgages that are paying the bulk of
these rate hikes.

 

They
jiggled the rate tiers to punish the 40 percent of residents who live in single
family homes while keeping bills low for most apartment dwellers and tripling
the number of customers with heavy subsidies to 250,000 households – a sixth of
DWP’s customers.

 

They
squandered tens of millions of dollars pretending to go green but have the
worst renewable energy portfolio in the state so they are desperate to buy wind
and solar power from anybody who has some no matter what it costs to meet the
20 percent goal mandated by the state by the end of this year.

 

They have
painted themselves into a corner and don’t know any other way except to slug it
to the middle class, from those just getting by on two family incomes to those
in the upper middle class who have seen their wealth decline sharply and their
incomes fall.

 

This is
their cockeyed theory of municipal socialism laid bare, a redistribution of
wealth that gives pennies to the poor and feeds the insider culture that has
feasted so long on the public treasury.

 

The DWP
is the city’s cash cow. It has hired 1,400 workers since the recession began
and now has transferred 300 city workers facing layoffs to its payroll with
most of them getting raises of 20 to 40 percent.

 

When
other city workers gave up raises, City Hall rewarded DWP employees with 3.25
percent lump sum cash payments and guaranteed them raises of up to 4 percent
for the following four years – raises for people who already are the highest
paid utility workers in the nation.

 

Somebody
has got to pay the bills for all this featherbedding and over-indulgence, and
that’s you.

Somebody
has got to pay for all these sweetheart contracts for contractors, consultants
and power purchases, and that’s you.

 

Somebody
has got to pay the bills to rebuild the water and power infrastructure that is
bursting and blowing up from neglect while they put the money into the pockets
of workers and insiders, and that’s you.

 

And every
time you pay more, don’t forget that nearly 20 percent of your money goes
straight into the general fund to bail out City Hall from its deficits that
total billions of dollars and are going up every week by millions of dollars.

 

Somebody
has got to pay, alright. I say make them pay. If you want to help me do that,
go up to the right-hand column of this page and see how you can donate to OurLA.org,
my non-profit community news and networking site so I can hire a reporter who
will work full-time to penetrate the secrecy of the DWP and expose where your
money is really going.

 

Or you
can just get used to paying more and more of your hard-earned money for less and
less.

Here Come’s the Bill: DWP Wants Massive Power Rate Hikes

The long-awaited consulting report on pass-through electricity
charges was released Friday, calling for an immediate 800 percent
increase in the energy cost adjustment factor and increases every
quarter that will raise overall power rates by more than 20 percent
within a year.

The massive increases are being sought as DWP
officials face intense pressure to have a revenue sream to be able to
lose at least four deals to buy solar and wind energy to meet the
stand-mandated goal of 20 percent renewable energy by the end of this
calendar year.

For the year ending June 2009, the residential rate
was 11.8 cents.

For the year ending June 2010, the residential
rate per the budget is projected to be 13.1 cents.

A 2.7 cent
increase is a 20.6% increase based off of the 2010 number, or 22.9% off
of the 2009 number.

If you add the 2.7 cent increase to the 13.1,
you arrive at 15.8 cents — a 33.9% increase over the 2009 rate.

Click
here for the full report by PA Consulting.

Even Whitewash Can’t Hide the Truth: How County Supervisors Improperly Influence Planning Decisions

The charges leveled by fired LA County Planning chief Bruce McClendon a year ago got credence from a just completed outside consultant’s audit of alleged improper influence in decisions on development by Supervisors and their staffs.

It’s how politics works in the insiders’ game of public policy in both the city and county.

Yet, the report largely whitewashes what went in, citing the fact county employees were not under oath, feared for the loss of their jobs and McClendon didn’t record private conversations.

Those reasons for the failure of the report to come to a clear conclusion ought to justify a Grand Jury investigation — which is what should have happened from the beginning.

Here’s the link to the Times report and you can read the report yourself at OurLA.org.’

Can We Bell the Cat of the City Budget Crisis?

Once upon a time, there were mice  who lived in a house and were terrified of the cat who lived there too.

So one day, the mice all got together to figure out how to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at
last a
young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought
would
meet the case.

“You will all agree,” said he, “that our chief
danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy
approaches
us.

“Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could
easily
escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be
procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this
means we
should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she
was in
the neighborhood.”

This proposal met with general applause, until an old
mouse got up and said: “That is all very well, but who is to bell the
Cat?”

The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old
mouse
said: “It is easy to propose impossible remedies.”   

I share this fable that a reader sent to me because of all the talk about firing 4,000 city workers in a manner that will force parks and libraries to close and many of the services we all pay for to be sharply reduced even more than they have been, from tree trimming to street repair.

It is easy for the Mayor and City Council to toy with such an impossible remedy because once elected, they think they have cushy jobs for life and don’t have to care about what the people say anymore.

They all know, or at least most of them do, that they massive elimination of all those jobs and all the early retirements affect only the 20 percent of the city workforce that provide direct services to the public for the most part

Police and Fire, revenue producing jobs, jobs that support the system itself are exempt from this remedy and the shutting down of public services will make LA even less attractive to business and lead to even more unemployment and decay.

So they look for ways to avoid the 4,000 layoffs by padding the payrolls of the Harbor, Airport, DWP and special funds.

But that too is an impossible remedy. It might save many of those jobs but the services they now provide will still be lost and the financial burdens those transfers impose will simply be passed on to business and the public, particularly in DWP rate increases.

The mice who are our leaders keeping trying to bell the cat of the budget deficit created by their mismanagement of the city’s business.

The system itself has failed. We cannot any longer afford the nation’s highest paid elected officials or the sweetheart contract that have cut with unions, developers, contractors and consultants who have put them in office and kept them there.

The remedy that is possible, that is within their ability, is to share power with labor, business and the community, to bring us all to table. It is only way that faith in government can be restored, the only way we can work out the only solution to the problems that threaten the future of our city.

Firing or transferring thousands of workers doesn’t solve anything.

Only by city workers, particularly in those drawing exorbitant salaries in elected office, top positions and the DWP, must take a step backward financially — pay cuts and pension reforms.

Workers would be fools to accept such a deal after getting the runaround for the last year unless it was part of deal the provided long-term job security.

It’s my belief that, despite the skepticism about the public’s willingness to accept new taxes, taxpayers would step forward and agree to share the sacrifices if power were really shared.

The mice can’t bell the cat because mice can’t work cooperatively for the common good. We the people aren’t mice. We are capable of cooperation. Working together as equals, we can do the impossible. We can bell the cat and remedy the city’s financial crisis.

Bruno, LA’s Watchdog: Let’s License Everybody in City Hall and Send the Losers to the Pound

They’re coming after me and my four-legged brethren to help solve the city’s financial crisis!
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bruno4.JPG
After perusing the Dog Trainer and Green Sheet this morning, I saw an LAWeakly story highlighted on the Westside White Guy’s blog that the dog catchers think could fetch an additional $3.6 million for the city by going after unlicensed pooches.

And who would rat them out? DWP meter readers! Apparently these guys have something called a  “doggie database.”  Sure, the homeland security folks can’t do racial profiling, but when it comes to dogs, the DWP can be Gestapo-like in their record keeping.

I knew there was a reason I didn’t like those guys, and the pool guy, and the mailman, and the UPS deliveryman, and the.   Well, I don’t really like anyone coming near the house.

I am a watchdog, after all. And a good one! Ask Ron and Saint Deb last time someone burglarized RonKayeLA.com central.

My favorite part of the LAWeakly story was Tom LaBonge, one of the 14 city council members who got us into this financial crisis (Krekorian gets a pass cause he’s new), had to get his dog a license. Had it not occurred to him before?  Someone might remind him – ex-motorcycle cop Dennis Zine’s the perfect candidate – that he also needs a driver’s license.

There is, of course, no mention of cats.  I guess the DWP doggie cops don’t notice them.  

Here’s a suggestion:  let’s license everybody in City Hall and make it contingent upon them doing their jobs.  And if they screw up, put them in one of our overcrowded animal shelters.  I’m sure it will give them a new appreciation of our “no kill” policy.

Woof!!

The 4,000 Layoffs Document: Proof of Their Neglect of Duty and Crimes Against the City

I’m holding you all responsible — you elected these people and look what they’ve done to you. It’s a crime.

And since it’s a crime we need to look at what they knew and when they knew it and, more importantly in this case, what did they do about it.

The specific crime in questions — among the long list of allegations having to do with destroying our park, library and museum systems among dozens of others — is the 4,000 layoffs that has City Council members tearing their hair out and bleeding on their laptops as if the only people suffering hard times are city workers.

At least, they are the only people the politicians care about since the city workers with help help from developers, contractors, consultants and political operatives put them into office.

On Tuesday, Ed Reyes and Jan Perry sneered and snarled at Paul Krekorian who had the guts to ask how the Council could go into a back room session at noon for a catered lunch six days ago to discuss firing 1,000 workers and come out to announce a “technical change,” as Perry put it, that would result in 4,000 layoffs.

On Wednesday, Bernard Parks, Greig Smith and Perry once again carried on and on about how everybody knew as long as 18 months or two years ago that the city had to eliminate 4,000 jobs because of the deepening budget deficit. So newcomers like Krekorian and Paul Koretz should just shut their damn mouths and so should the liars among the press and public who can’t get their facts straight.

Methinks they protesteth too much, so I got hold of the document which they seem to think proves their innocence. In fact, it does the opposite. They are guilty as hell.

The 4,000 layoffs document (4000layoffs.pdf) actually dates to Dec. 17, 2008, 14 months ago, and came from Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller and Interim City Administrative Officer Ray Ciranna with the title Structural Deficit Mitigation Measures.

They referred to the economic “meltdown” that was occurring and the likelihood things would get much worse, noting that the steps taken days earlier to erase an $86 million deficit involved one-time savings to paper over the problem.

The mayor’s own proposal on Dec. 12, 2008 spoke to that, calling for “a combination of budget reductions, expenditure deferrals, and expediting of revenue receipts to the current year.

The CLA/CAO report said tougher measures were needed:

Continue reading The 4,000 Layoffs Document: Proof of Their Neglect of Duty and Crimes Against the City

A Few Moments of Truth in a Sea of Lies

Don’t miss this video of exchanges between Ed Reyes, Paul Krekorian and Jan Perry — a rare few minutes where City Council members actually mix it up.

The issue is how the Council leaped from 1,000 layoffs that they opposed to approving 4,000 layoffs without any public discussion, study or documentation — a scheme Krekorian had the courage to vote against.

If you’re too lazy to actually watch this, tough. It proves that video says more than a thousand stories. You’ll never understand why LA is in so much trouble without seeing the level of leadership we have — and how a single Councilman can make a difference.

I know it’s hard to believe that Reyes and Perry think they are making themselves look good by telling the world that a report nearly 18 months ago said 4,000 layoffs were needed to balance the budget so it wasn’t a number plucked out of thin air.

They seem oblivious to the fact they ignored that advice and did nothing to balance the budget even in theory until now and self-righteous over Krekorian having the courage to break the code of silence by pointing it out.

The rest of the budget discussion Tuesday was even worse with Janice Hahn tormenting one of the city’s best managers in Rec and Parks’ Jon Kirk Mukri over the obstacles to her plan to have goats mow the loan in parks, and Alarcon foaming at the mouth against greedy capitalists and Koretz displaying his complete ignorance of just about everything.

Watch these videos and decide who is doing the better job, bureaucrats or politicians?

“We Shall Not, We Shall Not Be Moved”

What’s going on in LA is a calamity of historica proportions — not the kind that causes catastrophic destruction like the day the levees broke in New Orleans. But the kind that just as surely damages a city physically and spiritually like a slow water torture.

Maybe that’s why I’ve spent the day watching City Council members prattle mindlessly and ignorantly about the city’s finances, posturing and preening as if they were both blameless for what has happened and had any answers on how to fix what they have broken.

The dark side of my soul took over and all I could see was the bleak outlook for the city I love if left in the hands of these foolish and selfish people.

And then I listened to the good and decent people, who unlike the nation’s highest paid and most pampered city officials, give their time and energy out of love, not money, to make their neighborhoods and their city better, appeal for a small measure of sanity.

They came before the Board of Neighborhood Councils for a special meeting just 24 hours after the Mayor had exercised powers he does not have to abolish their department — the central reform enacted 10 years ago to empower the community.

If it were me I’d have tried to get the more than 1,600 members of 90 Neighborhood Councils to resign in mass and tell City Hall to take their lousy money and shove it. Like homeowners and other community groups, they don’t need to be under the thumb of people who treat them with contempt even as they fear them.

But that isn’t how these people handled this crisis.

They have been meeting every Saturday for weeks and emailing all day long to generate ideas on how the movement they are part of can gain strength no matter how many obstacles are thrown in their way.

They were polite and constructive and persuasive and the BONC commissioners agreed with them in every regard to push forward even in the face of the treatment they are receiving.

Then, they took their message to Paul Krekorian and Dennis Zine on the Elections and Neighborhood Committee and spoke sincerely from their hearts about what they believed, even when they didn’t always agree.

Krekorian and Zine heard their message and voted to go forward with official elections of NCs that start next Tuesday.

The full Council will take up that issue on Wednesday and other aspects of the attempted assassination of the community empowerment issue in the days ahead.

To be honest, I’m just an old softie and tears came to my eyes at times as I listened to these humble voices of the people and I thought a time long ago when I was young and thousands of us stood together in protest and gave ourselves strength with songs of solidarity.

Once again, I came around and knew deep in my heart that I have never lost and never will lose my faith that the good does prevail over the evil, someday.

LA Love It or Leave It — Are There Other Choices?

They’re protesting at the school board, they’re storming the City Council, they’re mad at the mayor, the teachers hate the charters, the charters hate the bureaucrats, the unions and the people hate everyone in government, the whole world of LA is festering with unhappiness.

With liberties from the Kingston Trio’s “They’re rioting in Africa,” it seems to me just about everyone who is even half aware in LA is mad as hell at someone.

It’s about time.

There is no mystery. It’s been building a long time through successions of mayors and City Council members and school boards and school superintendents, endless attempts at changing the forms of governance, studies, task forces, restructurings.

It’s still the same old, same old. Nothing really changes. We approved bond issues for schools, colleges, libraries, parks, police stations and things only get worse until now the bills have come due. There is not enough money for any of it. Such are the inexorable laws of karma.

When the interests of the few prevail over the interests of the many, it is a certainty that sooner or later things are going to fall apart.

Sweetheart deals and giveaways to developers, contractors and unions; policies that pander to poverty and punish the middle class; leaders that pay lip service to public policy and serve only themselves and the circle of lobbyists, consultants, operatives and PR manipulators who channel cash into their campaign chests — for too long that has been the nature of LA’s political system.

And yet, with the community in an uproar over plans to slash services, fire thousands of city workers, pad the payrolls of the proprietary departments, sell off the city’s assets and mortgage the future with massive borrowings, the mayor and City Council still admit to no failure and engage in a charade to protect themselves no matter how many get hurt.

People should be mad, a lot angrier than they are.

They pay the bills. They do the work. They care about each other.

The unions have sat at the table and bargained for the deals they got and suggested hundreds of ways of fixing what is broken.

Community leaders have come forward with reasoned and moderate solutions only to find what passes for a dialogue with officials is nothing but a sham.

What officials have set in motion has blown up in their faces for the last six months and it will keep blowing up because what they are doing only makes matters worse.

More and more people will wake up to this reality when they find parks and libraries closed, when there’s no one to respond to neighborhood eyesores or problems because city agencies are in chaos from loss of staff without any coherent strategy.

It’s already happening in little ways like the closure of Mulholland Drive because the city can’t afford to make the road safe even as they keep on spending on things that flatter their overblown egos.

The future is as clear as day and it’s not a pretty sight.

The only question is when — not whether — the anger that the school board and Board of Neighborhood Commissioners faces this afternoon and the Council faces in the days ahead boils over.

Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later because the damage they are doing gets worse every day.