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Are We There Yet? Do City Hall’s Piecemeal Solutions Solve Anything?

Let’s start with the City Council taking up the heavily-subsidized Wilshire Grand Hotel project today as a matter of urgency on a special agenda with 24 hours notice and then look at yesterday’s “landmark” deal with six city unions.

They have one thing in common: They are offered as piecemeal solutions to big issues, one involving what downtown will look like in the future and other whether the city will survive its enduring financial crisis.

The Wilshire Grand deal provides $54 million to $79 in hotel tax rebates to the developers to build a skyscraper plastered with five-story digital billboards built into the structure itself and possibly a second even taller office/residential tower similarly adorned.

It is an example of spot zoning, making new rules for individual projects that become precedents for other project without a comprehensive analysis and public discussion of the implications of what we are doing.

In this case, there is no public discussion to speak of.

The Chief Legislative Analyst only released his report on what’s called the “subvention agreement” — subversion might be more apt — on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Council scheduled the special meeting and today will unanimously approve it unanimously after a perfunctory discussion.

Other downtown property owners and developers will demand similar subsidies and authority to put up giant digital billboards and get what they want by offering no public benefits other than “project labor agreements that ensure all workers involved are
members of unions.

The result will dramatically affect the future of downtown for better or worse. The only certainty is that is will be a brighter future — by millions of flashing LED lights.

The deal with the six civilian city unions announced Thursday with such great fanfare and hyperbole by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Council President and wannabe mayor Eric Garcetti is similarly a piecemeal solution to the much larger problem of city government costing far more than it has money to pay for.

What exactly the deal means in terms of solving even a portion of the budget crisis is far from clear as the numbers reported the LA Times, Daily News and Wall Street Journal wobble in various ways like the number of workers involved, the deficit for next year and the actual savings.

The mayor’s website offers its own set of numbers.

“The City and the Coalition of LA City Unions reached a tentative pension
and healthcare reform agreement that will produce $204 million in
savings to the General Fund and $396 million in total savings over the
next four years,” it reports in the opening paragraph.

It ends with this information: “The increase in employee contributions to retiree healthcare alone will
save an estimated $64 million over the next three years, $317 million
over the next 15 years, and $634 million over the next 30 years.”

How those numbers fit in with the City Administrative Officer’s report last week on looming budget deficits is far from clear: $350 million next year, $446 million the following year, $513 million the year after, and $548 million in .2014-15.

The mayor, for his part, mocked KPCC reporter Frank Stolze for being ignorant when he mentioned the deficit next year is $350 million — $500 million, the mayor insisted, suggesting he knows something the rest of us don’t.

The sound bite the media jumped on was this mayoral quote: “This is a watershed moment, make no mistake.”

His own website is even richer in hyperbole:

“Today, Los Angeles has a message for Madison, Columbus, Indianapolis,
and every city or state capital where public employee unions have been
vilified as the cause of budget problems and economic woes: Collective
bargaining works,” said Mayor Villaraigosa.  “Instead of railing against
our union workers and their rights to bargain, we invited them to the
table because they know — absent these concessions — our current
benefits are not sustainable.  Unions are our partners, not our enemies,
and I am pleased to announce that the Coalition of LA City Unions has
stepped up to the plate, worked with us, and done their part.”

“Landmark,” “watershed,” “historic” or whatever it is, the deal to nearly double the pension and health care contributions of 19,000 or 22,000 or whatever number of city workers it is from 6 percent to 11 percent doesn’t really solve anything by itself.

Wage increases negotiated just a year ago are being deferred, not eliminated, in exchange for ending the furloughs of one day every two weeks. But layoffs may or may not still be needed.

Deals with police, firefighters and thousands of other civilians workers still need to be negotiated, and nobody even talks about the bullies of City Hall, the DWP’s IBEW union, which keeps on getting big raises and never is asked to make concessions even as water and power rates keep soaring.

Then, there’s the question of what it means in terms of public services that have been so severely cut over the last three years.

Rick Orlov in the Daily News reports Garcetti “said the city will be able to return to the service levels it previously had” thanks to the deal.

“What this means is we can fill the potholes, we can repair the fire trucks and get them back in service,” Garcetti said.

But will the libraries reopen, parks programs be restored, tree trimming resumed? He didn’t say because he doesn’t know. Nobody knows.

There’s no comprehensive plans to solve the budget crisis or for downtown development or for anything else for that matter — at least none that any of us ordinary citizens are allowed to know.

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22 Responses to Are We There Yet? Do City Hall’s Piecemeal Solutions Solve Anything?

  1. Anonymous says:

    The rank and file are being asked to take a 10% cut in salary. This coming after Beck cowards to the illegal immigrants and helps them not have their cars impounded knowing they are breaking the law. Beck stands up for illegals just like the Mayor but not for the rank and file who make them look good. Crime will go up since fewer cops on the streets and why bust your ass when your own Chief, PPL and idiot politicians don’t give a shit. Rank and file contribute to their pensions. Voted to help out this election more with pension issue. Rank and file 17th in salary across the nation. And AGREE what the hell did the IBEW contribute and in fact they were the only ones who got a RAISE. Mayor continues to have over 200 staffers and over 16 Deputy Chief of Staff’s making over $135,000

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here’s an idea
    Rahm Emanuel considers cutting City Council seats in half

  3. Hank says:

    Ron – there is good news – I just received my e-mail notification that the City is accepting applications for the position of golf starter. Obviously the budget crunch has now been resolved.

  4. Another window-dressing moment for the mayor and garcetti. It’s insulting that they believe citizens can’t do the math and realize the deal only makes a dent in the budget deficit.
    They are banking on most people not paying attention to the depth of the problem and focusing instead on claims of $400 million in potential savings without realizing they are spread over several years.
    For that matter, the net savings may be much less if furloughs are off the table.
    I belive the mayor’s objective was to give the public unions a talking point to make it appear they made a “sacrifice”.
    I will revisit this subject in my blog next week, but must focus on the Richmond Spiders in the Sweet 16 for now.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Paul’s right. And the problem truly is that the Mayor and gang know that the public really doesn’t care to know the details because they don’t care enough to vote. All these clowns have done is bought themselves more time – time enough to run for another office before it all comes crashing down. The city’s bankers aren’t as gullible as the public.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Unions don’t have a problem negotiating higher pension and health premiums, cause they are out of an employee’s pocket. But they will fight the much needed lay-offs that affects their dues.

  7. Katie says:

    Apparently the LA Mayor disapproves of state governments actually standing up to the unions.
    “Today, Los Angeles has a message for Madison, Columbus, Indianapolis, and every city or state capital where public employee unions have been vilified as the cause of budget problems and economic woes: Collective bargaining works.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    The fool, whom we are forced to call a Mayor, is a nightmare for the city. While we can’t recall him, make sure that his dumb twin, Garcetti is never elected to another position.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Employees hired prior to 1986 were paying only 2% of their pay into the retirement system, which was corrected starting this fiscal year. Now everyone has to pay the price because of the reactive idiots in-charge of the city. Let the pain be on someone else’s watch, so their elections are not affected. As the recent elections showed, people in this city simply don’t care enough to pay attention to local politics. It should follow that they should not complain about lack of services either. They will complain alright.

  10. Anonymous says:

    * “Wile E. Coyote. Super genius.”
    * “Genius, that’s what it is. Sheer genius!”
    * “Brilliance. That’s all I can say. Sheer, unadulterated brilliance!”
    * “A wise decision, my friend. You have saved yourself from a fate worse than the frying pan.”
    * “Being a genius certainly has its advantages.”
    * “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wile E. Coyote. Genius. I am not selling anything nor am I working my way through college. So let’s get down to cases. You are a rabbit and I am going to eat you for supper. Now, don’t try to get away. I am more cunning, faster, and larger than you are, and, I’M A GENIUS. While you could hardly pass your entrance examinations to kindergarten. So, I’m going to give you the customary two minutes to say your prayers.”

  11. anonymous says:

    What’s a golf starter do?

  12. Watch Dog says:

    oh happy, bitter days…

  13. Anonymous says:

    What do the following two scandals have in common?
    The embezzlement of $1.4 million by the now-convicted former principal at NEW Academy Canoga Park charter school. (LA Times Dec 15, 2010).
    Housing Authority of the City of LA (HACLA) commission members double-dipping and claiming illegal travel reimbursements of $150,000.
    Both occurred under the watch of Bea Stotzer, President of NEW (which created the NEW Academy) and Chair of the HACLA Commission.

  14. Anonymous says:

    C rafty….H eretic….S hallow

  15. hank says:

    A Golf Starter registers and schedules players at a City-owned golf course; receives, refunds and accounts for cash from fees, rentals and sales; explains and enforces rules and regulations; and patrols courses to expedite play.

  16. hank says:

    Here’s the bulletin – if you want further info – quals, pay rate, how to apply, etc.

  17. Anonymous says:

    $79 million in rebates to a wealthy developer, one among many, but cutbacks on employees who provide basic services, even as LAPD & LAFD are left intact. The Mayor’s mouthpiece, LA Times advocated no cuts to LAPD. How did our major paper turn into a rag.

  18. Wayne From Encino says:

    I like all the union protests “ROUND THE WORLD.”
    But you all missed the biggest pile of crap heard this year on the media.
    Take a listen to this weeks “Champions of Justice” with guest JANICE HAHN! This pile of trash, heard on KRLA and KABC, is sponsored by some lawyers, and they spent the whole time ASKING FOR TAXES TO REMAIN IN PLACE “Until we get out of this mess.”
    Hahn is running for Congress! If anyone reading this is a voter in that race comming up in May, DON’T PUT THIS CLOWN IN POWER OVER YOUR LIVES!!
    Save YOURSELVES in Redondo Beach, and the other beach cities! This LIBERAL TSUNAMI is headed your way for YOUR WALLETS–VOTE IT AWAY!

  19. anonymous says:

    Thanks Hank.
    I guess that takes a little know how. I was hoping to qualify so I can make more money as a city worker.
    I remember when the city took over the golf cart course jobs from the private sector at city golf courses. I’m not sure how that saved the city money, but I’m sure they figured it out.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Its a known FACT throughout the Nation we have a Failure of a Mayor. Why is Channel 7, LA Slimes keep kissing his ass. The Gangster Mayor in a suit was so pissed the LA Slimes reported City Council voted to freeze police hiring he put out another press release contradicting saying “LAPD Maintains Police Hiring in April etc. etc.
    The Mayor should realize no one believed his bullshit figure of 10,000 on police force. Cops can’t stand the Mayor and cringe when he or any politician are around. It seems everyone in the city is hurting except the Politicans and their over paid staffers. The corruption in City Hall alone is mind bloggling. But where are the FEDS or Controller Chiang on it?

  21. Anonymous says:

    An interesting article in LA Slimes today about the collapse of Detroit. I bring this portion to everyone’s attention because of the similarities of what the Mayor and idiots like Jan Perry are doing to LA–”Their flight was augmented by government policies that, in the 1970s and 1980s particularly, forced municipalities and states to compete with each other for jobs by offering corporate tax breaks and other inducements to keep or draw business investments, a bit of whipsawing that helped companies profit at the expense of communities”.
    I’m sure the civic leaders were as dumb as the ones we now have who were cheered on by an equally dumb newspaper like the one reporting this. LA is headed towards a collapse with one major difference. 1.1 million people out of a population of 1.8 million deserted Detroit. Here the middle class will disappear but not the parasites. Villargoisa and his political ilk will still populate the city and drain it of what is left.

  22. Wayne from Encino says:

    In Detroit, which was mentioned earlier, keep in mind they built brand new NFL and MBL stadiums a mere 5-7 years before 25% of the population fled!
    The Pistons owners moved the team out of Detroit in the 80′s to a suburb way out of Downtown Detroit–and kept their season ticket holders too!
    Now visit the NFL stadium/Convention Center scam of 2011—these Clowns don’t care that the whole thing is certain to go to bankruptcy–they just want to build it NOW for the JOBS and VOTES.
    Villar will run for Feinstein’s seat in 2012–he NEEDS that NFL/AEG deal to go through to have a chance. What will happen to this “deal” when all the middle class flight from L.A. really gets going?
    The Times is all for the deal—can’t they just see themselves in that FREE VIP OWNER’S BOX sipping the Dom Perignon for the next 20 years?

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