The Great Houdini was the master of illusion, performing magic tricks like no one before or since, exciting the imaginations of the gullible and even the skeptical by escaping from handcuffs, strait jackets and especially from his “Chinese Water Torture Cell” where he was suspended upside down, his legs in stocks, in a chamber filled with water.
Houdini had nothing on the mayor and City Council who are about to treat LA’s four million residents to the greatest trick ever — escaping from the clutches of bankruptcy, and making a $500 million budget deficit disappear with a single cry of “Presto!” or is it “Aye, Aye, Aye…”
And they are doing so without laying off a single city worker or even reducing spending by more than a piddling sum. In fact, they are suddenly so flush with cash that they think they can fully restore gang programs and child care for the poor, keep libraries from closing two days a week and leave lots more to make us forget how badly served we are and have been.
Of course, you have to consider who the backers of this sleight-of-hand are: Wesson, Koretz, Huizar, Alarcon and Hahn. Not exactly the brain trust but you have to give them credit — something City Hall is going to need to go on its borrowing binge — for wishful thinking that money will rain down from heaven and city unions will suddenly get religion and give up all the sugar from their sweetheart deals.
Living less rich fantasy lives are Parks, Garcetti, Perry, Smith, LaBonge, Reyes and Rosendahl who are leaving the possibility of 761 layoffs on the table but counting on surviving this brush with budgetary death by prayers for tax windfalls and $53 million from parking lot leases that might prove more difficult to achieve than they have the collective courage to admit.
That leaves Krekorian, Zine and Cardenas sitting on the fence, three Valley guys whose constituents tend to be so negative about City Hall that more than half of them voted to secede a decade ago before pay-to-play exposed the scandalous goings-on at City Hall, before water and power rates, taxes and fees started to skyrocket and before the depths of our elected officials’ fiscal and managerial incompetence was so thoroughly revealed.
Those were good times, relatively speaking; these are bad times, in absolute terms.
The irrelevant mayor even admits that the budget he proposed and is set for adoption with few changes of real significance is just “one vision of our
In the next breath, he said: “We can do
better and avoid some of the cuts in services before us. If we are
willing to share in the sacrifice, we can do better.”
The man who lives like a multi-millionaire in a mansion with servants, chauffeurs, bodyguards and drinks $1,000 bottles of wine bought for him by people with real money who seek to enrich themselves even more at the public expense talks of sacrifice. By that, he means other people’s sacrifices while he retains an army of people doing his bidding on other people’s money.
Going into his sixth year as mayor of a once great city, he dares to admit the vision of our future that he has put forward is a dark one where streets and sidewalks crack and crumble, where trees go untrimmed and libraries and parks close, where valuable assets are sold to insiders, where neighborhoods deteriorate and slum housing gets worse because the only planners and inspectors left are working for fees from developers.
He dares to propose slashing bus services and raising fares, gouging ratepayers to pay off unions and create a hundred jobs in China for everyone in LA, and papering over budget problems that only get worse in coming years as if there were no tomorrow.
And so at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, the Council will meet to quibble and whine, to plead for the citizenry to voluntarily fill the vast gap left in services even as they see their money going to waste when all that matters to those in power is to please the unions that get them elected.
They set the stage last week with a remarkable trick that turned all that talk about 4,000 layoffs on top of the 2,400 early retirements as just a misunderstanding by us stupid little people who have allowed them to preen and posture for so long.
They never meant layoffs, they said, and coerced the bureaucrats who serve at their pleasure to nod their assent. They never meant anything except eliminating 4,000 jobs through retirement, transfers to the DWP and other special funds and squeezing the last dollar out of the public to keep everyone at City Hall happy.
Hollywood dramatized the story of Houdini by having him die submerged in his watery torture chamber but that never happened. He died of a stomach injury.
The mayor and Council fully intend to do as Houdini did and survive their dangerous tricks with the public’s money. They only care about themselves, the rest is just show, and not a very good one. Where Houdini was the master of illusion, city officials are more given to self-delusion.
What is in doubt is what will their vision of our future produce when the tricks run out and the bills have to be paid. In that regard, they probably know exactly what they are doing in protecting the cops and programs to keep violence from exploding.
When it comes to your money or life, which would you choose?