The City Council, faced with stiff union opposition, reluctantly takes up the issue Tuesday of outsourcing bill collection for ambulance services — contracts that could net the city tens of millions of dollars a year.
The unions oppose this although “no layoffs will result from this proposal as the Fire Department will absorb the remaining personnel by filling currently vacant positions in other divisions,” according to top city financial advisers (EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES.pdf)..
This is the dream deal of all time even by the standards of City Hall where sweetheart deals have become an art form, a destructive art to be sure.
How LAFD and other city officials have been unable to find 52 jobs at a time of layoffs, furloughs and job freezes is utterly miraculous, if not fiscally sound.
Even the city’s employee unions — who have yet to make significant concessions at this time of crisis with the city’s, and their own, futures at stake — ought to have a hard time saying no to the deal to outsourcing ambulance services billing to bring money needed to avoid more layoffs, more service cuts, more chaos.
True, the unions have suffered betrayal, endlessly mixed signals and duplicitous pandering by the same elected officials who have turned tough economic times into a fiscal calamity by slashing core services at the same time they have increased fees, taxes and rates and done next nothing about the underlying cost of city government..
Thousands of workers got sweetened pensions to retire or reassignment to other jobs, often with pay raises up to 50 percent, but all the unions have had to do is defer pay raises or at worst pass on raises for a year or two and contribute a little more to their pensions.
They have valid reasons for refusing to make concessions because the mayor and City Council have deceived them about what has to be done for years and now can’t even promise that the cycle of layoffs and furloughs now just beginning will ever end.
Now, the unions are fighting to preserve the wage and benefits deals they were handed at the bargaining table in exchange for electing city officials who do their bidding. Even in this crisis, they resist allowing citizen volunteers to fill gaps in services at the libraries and parks or the outsourcing of programs that have been beset by years of mismanagement by the grotesquely overpaid top officials, elected and appointed.
Among the vast array of managerial disasters that have come to light in the last year is the disastrous performance of LAFD’s ambulance billing and collection union.
A recent audit by Controller Wendy Greuel, in line with previous audits and studies, found LAFD only collected $53 million of the $151 million for ambulance services.
The city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Revenue Efficiency headed by Ron Galperin has done its own research and weighed in heavily in support of outsourcing to two companies the billing and collection of bills for ambulances services.
The Council has been paralyzed by opposition from unions that want a net $16 million investment in giving workers the tools needed to do a better job.
Apart from widespread skepticism about the city’s ability ever to collect any of the hundreds of millions of dollars owed it, there is the problem that the budget for this year — hypothetical and unrealistic as it is — counts on more revenue now from ambulance fees, not a risky investment.
As hard as it is to understand why the unions are fighting this, it is incomprehensible why the Council has stalled a decision this long and why there is so much doubt about how they will vote Tuesday.
It is a no-brainer that even the most brain dead Council member ought to be able to see.