Inching toward the point of no return at the edge of a steep cliff, the City Council for the fourth time in two years was moving forward Wednesday on the sale – or as they prefer to call it the 50-year lease — of city-owned parking lots downtown and in Hollywood, Westwood and Sherman Oaks.
There was some grim satisfaction in watching them squirm so uncomfortably into various verbal contortions as they wrung their hands and beat their breasts as they endured two hours of residents, city workers and business leaders telling them that what they were considering doing was idiotic, counter-productive and failed to do anything to fix the budget crisis except buy a few more months time.
The criticisms from all quarters applied equally to proposals for more furloughs and layoffs and cuts in public services as to the futility of the fire sale of grossly mismanaged city assets.
There was Parks hitting in them in the face with their imprudent decision to put $53 million in revenue in this year’s budget from the parking lots sale that may never happen and their failure to start laying off city workers in October as envisioned in the budget.
But then he waffled about what to do next, noting the city faces a $350 million deficit next and already has trouble borrowing money — a big problem since they need fully $1.5 billion in loans on July 1 to have cash for next year, starting with the $900 million payment to employee pension funds. .
Smith echoed what Parks said but in more egotistical and angrier language before selling out and suggesting he’d probably go forward with the sale even though it was the wrong thing to do.
Rosendahl actually touched on the truth, saying the only real answer wasn’t one-time savings from furloughs or fire sales or even layoffs that hurt those who lost their jobs as well as the public in general.
The best answer was for the entire city work force to take cuts in pay and benefits so the problem could actually be solved once and for all — the way Jerry Brown has proposed fixing the state budget crisis much to the displeasure of our mayor and Council.
But since that was unlikely, he thought selling the lots and avoiding any pain for workers sounded like a best choice they had.
And so it went around the horseshoe with Reyes’ apocalyptic warning that a lousy $1 million cut to the Planning Department would suspend all work except for those that developers pay fees for to expedite approval of their projects.
The entertainment as always was provided by LaBonge who was so clueless he kept waving his arms like John Walsh and urging everyone to see the big picture, but not think outside the box, and come up with some really new ideas no one ever heard before so they don’t have to make any hard decisions .. unless they have to.
It seemed like he had overdosed on his psychotropic prescription more than usual but he’s such a great guy who has total recall of so many irrelevant details of LA’s history, it’s hard to hold it against him.
At least, that’s what the Council seemed to feel since nobody even bothered to laugh at him for a change.
Mostly, it was Garcetti’s show, spewing streams of double-talk with a fixed smile, taking all sides of all questions but leaving no doubt the Council would green light seeking bids from the 19 qualified banks, parking lot companies and bottom-feeding hedge fund types. .
He empathized totally with the merchants of Hollywood and Westwood who say free or at least cheap parking keeps the cash registers humming and this deal will send parking charges soaring and leave them uncompetitive with businesses neighboring towns from Santa Monica to Burbank and Glendale
But then he got CAO Miguel Santana to pointedly note that any conditions imposed on the sale to keep rates low would make the deal worthless.
Sounding more and more mayoral — or at least like the current mayor — the Council President talked about the need for sacrifice by everyone, well almost everyone.
With that, they went behind closed doors to eat catered lunches and talk among themselves in private on just how to manage the situation to avoid infuriating their constituents to the point they get thrown out of office.
The plain fact is it will take a miracle or the greatest Houdini trick ever for them to escape the windowless, door-less box they have created around themselves — a box that looks more and more like a coffin so tightly sealed even blood-sucking vampires could not escape.