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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
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
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

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.

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7 Responses to Can We Bell the Cat of the City Budget Crisis?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well said, as usual. Nothing changes if nothing changes, or so I heard in an AA meeting once.
    I agree wholeheartedly that the layoffs (of any number) and the associated debate woefully miss the larger point of living within one’s revenue stream(s). Any number of staff reductions is so little and so late, it’s almost a red herring waved in front of the so-called proprietary agencies and the interests that surround them.
    Could it be as simple as taking the time to decide what services to have and how to afford those? Well, maybe, but some will say it’s too complicated for unsophisticated answers.
    My view is if that were true, the problem itself (i.e., spending more than is taken in) wouldn’t be so starkly simple.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ron,I know you will not be invited to the Mayor`s Pre-Oscar party at the Getty. But, I think Bruno should. I know Lu`s dog needs an escort.

  3. Anonymous says:

    YOu know does anyone believe there is a financial crisis in the city? C’mon how can there be with the clowns on city council continue to do nothing and continue to add more and more money to the deficit. IF there was such an emergency and no money why are we all of a sudden finding out about the millions of dollars in slush funds the council members have been hiding? What happened to the dumb ass Mayor coming out and pretending to be a leader saying he was taking over jurisdiction and laying off employees? These politicians are a joke!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Those Council slush funds have always been there and there has never been any accountability. Our Coucilman hasn’t spent a dime in our area of town just where he hails from. Sun Valley must be looking great while Van Nuys continues decline. Gruel should begin an audit immediately.

  5. Bob G says:

    Hi Ron
    A substantial self-sacrifice by the elected officials would at least say something to the people. Right now, that vote to lay off 4000 people looks like brinksmanship, in that the employee unions are supposed to start taking things seriously and negotiate a salary reduction somewhere around 15 percent. In order to gain that kind of concession, everyone on the city council and the mayor himself should at least double that 15 percent cut. Each city council rep would have to scrape by on $125,000 a year or so. Maybe they could also cut back a bit on how many city cars they sign out.
    We should refuse to support any candidate for city council who does not pledge to hold the line on DWP salary increases for his or her entire city council career. In a dozen years or so, the DWP salaries may be more in line with the rest of the country.

  6. A Citizen of LA says:

    Another Ron many years ago said exactly the same thing – government IS the problem. The Garcetti Gang has got to stop spending – every Council meeting contaisn from 2 to 10 items of expenditure – block parties, consulting fees, “arts” group support, book fairs in Mexico, etc….. $20,000 here, 100,000 there, 500,000 over there – you know pretty soon it all starts adding up. When the City deficit is going up over $300,000 EVERY day, just tally up what the Council spent that day to see exactly how much they are overspending. I can’t write a check for more than what’s in my bank account or expected to be there by the time the check is presented at the bank – and that’s exactly what the Council does every time it meets – spend spend spend spend.

  7. I love my pets. Thanks for sharing.

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