Faced with the prospect of closing libraries on Sundays and shorter hours of operation the rest of the week, Santa Clarita is moving to turn operation of its libraries over to a private company.
Officials believe it will reduce costs by a third and allow them to use the money to expand the collects of books, audio books and other materials.
Los Angeles has different ideas about how to deal with its budget crisis — confusing and contradictory as its policies might be.
Libraries were the first to go. More than a third of the staff was fired and libraries reduced to only five days of operation and hours shortened.
In the case of city-owned parking garages which have huge debt burdens and generate a fraction of the income they would if well run, LA is looking to lease them for 50 years to one or more private companies.
As things stand now, the city expects to get $53 million upfront and would use the money to keep a few thousand employees in their jobs until next July when the estimated $320 million deficit that looms will force even more drastic cuts in services and layoffs of workers.
The opposite approach is being taken with regards to the golf cart concession at city-owned golf courses.
Since 1975, the J.H. Kishi Co. — thanks to the heavy political influence of Michael Yamaki — has held the concession despite a couple of fires in its golf cart barns, complaints about aged carts and questions about whether the city was being paid its full share of the proceeds.
For the last eight years, Kishi has held the contract on a month-to-month basis while city officials dickered and dawdled about new lease terms.
In 2008, the Recreation and Parks Commission agreed with a staff recommendation and awarded the contract to Michael Bernback’s Ready Golf, operator of the driving range at Balboa-Encino in expectation of increased revenue to the city and brand-new carts with GPS. (See earlier stories LA’s China Syndrome and Death of a City).
But the Council — even in the midst of soaring budget deficits — preferred to play politics and pander to special interests over serving the public so the contract was nixed and Kishi kept the concession month-to-month.
On Wednesday, the golf cart fiasco took yet another turn.
His recommendation: “Reject all proposals received on July 24, 2007, for the Electric Golf Carts Rental Concession … terminate Concession Agreement No. 227 between the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and J. H. Kishi Company … Direct staff to self-operate the electric golf cart rental operation.”
The commission unanimously adopted his proposal with Chairman Barry Sanders admitting that “if I were a potential contractor under these rules, I would think twice” before submitting a proposal
That’s exactly Bernback’s take: “They don’t have the budget … They don’t have the experience. And the union employees are so
much more expensive than the nonunion employees.”
They are un-privatizing the golf cart concession even though city labor costs are far higher than those of Kishi or Ready Golf, which means less revenue to the city treasury for other services like parks programs for kids that are about to be gutted because of massive layoffs of Rec and Parks workers.
They don’t even have a plan for how city workers would run the golf cart concession and may hire some or all of Kishi’s workers who would be delighted to learn they would be paid twice as much, have full health care and lifetime pensions of up to 75 percent of their highest salary.
The likely case is that all 40 of Kishi’s employees will be fired and other city workers facing layoffs will get their jobs and keep their salaries and benefits.
None of this serves the public interest. It only serves the political interests of the Council and mayor who get to keep the contract with Kishi indefinitely while a plan is worked out and to pander to the unions by protecting their jobs at the public expense.
But what’s the Rec and Parks GM Mukri to do?
Like other department heads, he is subject to frequent bullying and threats from the mayor’s minion and being overruled by the obedient commissioners the mayor appoints.
This is no way to run a city.