Three (Bronx) cheers for Antonio Villaraigosa — he boasts today that his decision to kill the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the central reform that went into the new City Charter a decade ago, will save $2 million.
Only $210 million to go by June 30, $483 million to go next year, and $773 million to go the year after.
Of course, the deficit will be $2 million higher by the weekend so it’s not clear he achieved anything except to make it perfectly clear that his escalating assertion of powers he does not have under the Charter is as much a sign of things to come as his intention to keep Neighborhood Councils as weak and irrelevant as possible.
If the consequences were not so serious, you can have a laugh watching the City Council call in one department after another and express amazement, as they did today in their brief Monday meeting, that there are not enough mechanics to maintain police, fire and other vehicles and utterly no coordination between the many departments that service their fleets themselves.
One after another, Council members take the microphone to demand reports and studies, consolidation and reorganization.
The bureaucrats assure them that they are doing all they can with their great staffs and will set up a task force to achieve every new task assigned them even as more of their workers retire, transfer to the DWP and get layoff notices.
The same was true of the reports from the IT technocrats except they had to admit it will take years and millions of dollars to fix the dozens of different computer systems that can’t communicate with one another.
It’s just a made for TV unreality show so don’t take any of it too seriously.
Like the mayor’s elimination of the Environmental Affairs and Human Services departments on Friday and DONE on Monday, nothing is really achieved except savings on paper from the supposed elimination of jobs.
For the general managers of city departments it’s a nightmare.
Last Friday, the mayor sent them a missive that requires a semanticist to understand. As best I can figure he was telling them to come up with a list of people to fire to reduce staffing by 4,000 and report how their departments would operate with up to half as many people.
And on the other hand, he said they shouldn’t bother. He and the City Administrative Office would tell them which jobs and services to eliminate.
It is all chaos which should inspire Wall Street to lend the city the billions of dollars it needs to pay its bills over the next few years.
And why not? The city has assets — many of which will be sold off in the next few months at a fire sale — which can be seized when it fails to meet its debt obligations.
Already, many inside City Hall are murmuring that selling the P in DWP would bring in enough money to keep LA from sinking into bankruptcy.
Nobody is supposed to care about any of this as long as the garbage gets picked up.
With tree trimming, parks and youth programs, libraries, building code enforcement, community planning about to join street and sidewalk paving as obsolete city services, the average person isn’t likely to get much more than that out of the city for years, if not decades, to come.
Fortunately, the mayor is protecting the cops and firefighters for which we should all be grateful since they will likely be needed more than ever as the quality of life declines, jobs keep disappearing and the poor become ever more restless.
If this was a stock market crash instead of a city burning in the failure of its leadership, you would be hearing cries across the city from homeowners and business owners of sell, sell, sell.
But who is there to buy?