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
young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought
meet the case.
“You will all agree,” said he, “that our chief
danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy
“Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could
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
should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she
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
The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old
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.