The City Council is meeting every day now to wring their hands and cry “Woe is us” as if the global recession, the abysmal failure of their colleagues in Sacramento or some act of God were responsible for the calamity facing LA.
The closest anyone at City Hall has come to taking any responsibility is when the mayor inadvertently slipped up Tuesday and admitted during his Council appearance: “We all took too long. They took too long in their negotiations, and saying ‘no’ to virtually everything. We took too long in not making a tough decision.”
It’s hard to believe anyone could tell so many lies around one little half-truth in so few words.
Took too long? Three years isn’t too long, it’s an eternity when housing prices have been dropping by 40 percent and thousands of people are losing their homes, when hundreds of thousands of residents are losing their jobs, when businesses are going bankrupt by the hundreds, when the lines are going around the block at food banks.
Let’s be clear, the unions didn’t take too long. They negotiated for a year with city officials before a sweetheart deal was cut for early retirements. They didn’t say ‘no’ to virtually everything. They proposed dozens of ways to cut costs and raise revenues.
It’s the mayor and Council who didn’t say ‘no’ to virtually anything.
They were told over and over in public and in private by city budget experts that revenues were falling sharply over a long period of time and wouldn’t recover for many years.
The mayor knew with absolute certainty that the ERIP deal he signed on June 26 was unaffordable. And so did the Council. They knew the budget deficit would only get worse year after year, growing to more than $1 billion with more than $10 billion in bills coming due for pensions.
They knew in August just how bad the retirement deal was and spent the next six weeks cutting another deal with the unions that was even worse, promising to make them whole financially within five years for giving $78 million in concessions to close a $500 million deficit.
Just how bad it was is only coming out now thanks to the letter the unions sent to the mayor and council on Wednesday. In the face of looming catastrophe, they promised the workers the moon and stars to give them a fig leaf to cover the shame of their failed leadership.
Their failure to act decisively stalled any savings for months as the deficit grew by $1 million a day to $2 million a day even as revenue estimates were shockingly off the mark by huge factors.
Now, the mayor has the nerve to claim they didn’t realize there was a problem until December. It’s just another lie.
The biggest lie of all is that they “waited too long in not making a tough decision.”
They still haven’t given the slightest indication they intend to make any tough decisions.
They are still taking the easy way out.
They are pretending to lay off workers when the deal they cut in September requires them to be transferred to special funds and proprietary departments whether their services are needed or they are qualified for the jobs.
They are preparing to borrow billions of dollars that mortgage the city’s future even as they sell off parking structures, parking meters, the zoo, convention center, Ontario Airport and everything else they can, stripping the city of its future revenue sources.
They are scheming to raise taxes, fees and rates and even strip the public of basic civil liberties turning every kind of violation and citation into an administrative action that denies the right to a trial.
This would be the stuff of farce if the consequences were not so tragic.
Gutting public services, punishing the poor, driving away good jobs — we are on the road to becoming a city of stark contrasts between rich and poor, subsidized luxury hotels and entertainment districts and slums, a city without a middle class, a failed city.
We all share in responsibility for this with our indifference and apathy, our ignorance and our selfishness. Business interests, the community, the disabled, the artsy crowd — they are all lined up begging to protect their own interests just like the unions.
They are playing right into the hands of the mayor and Council who will do anything to avoid taking responsibility for the harm they have caused.
They are shameless and incompetent. They are liars and self-servers. They have betrayed the public trust and the public is complicit.
Woe is us.