Antonio and the Budget Catastrophe
The city budget crisis that has grown in the city budget catastrophe because of City Hall’s wretched leadership finally is found noteworthy today in Jim Newton’s LA Times column.
Giving Antonio Villaraigosa credit for “some laudable moves,” having “a talented team” and how he’s proved himself “willing to make difficult choices” — a trio of virtues invisible to so many — Newton nonetheless admits the mayor’s past decision “helped create” the worsening financial problems.
With the mayor’s new budget plan due out later this week, Newton says “his actions today are constrained by two decisions from earlier in his tenure that limit his options.”
He points to the mayor’s approval in 2007 of “a five-year package with the coalition of unions representing most civilian city workers that promised 5% raises each year” and how when the economy crashed, he “ tried to minimize the impact of cutbacks by shifting city workers from jobs paid for by the general fund into those that are supported by their own revenue streams — sanitation, for instance.”
Actually, Newton blames “the mayor and other city leaders” for bad decision No. 1 and “Villaraigosa and other city leaders” for bad decision No. 2. That’s true enough but surely the buck stops at the desk of the man who writes the budget and signs it into law — not the mental and moral midgets who pass themselves off as the City Council.
What is never mentioned are the words Department of Water and Power. It was the DWP raises of 6% a year that the mayor signed off on in 2005, shortly after taking office, that expanded the wage disparity with other city workers and led him to reward everyone with outrageous increases two years later.
It was to the DWP — not sanitation — that most city workers were transferred to in order to get them off the general fund payroll., at least those who were removed by letting them retire early with 12 percent increases in their pensions for the rest of their lives.
Nuch and the District Attorney’s Race
In the Daily News, Christina Villacorte provides a thorough look at the District Attorney race with Chief Deputy DA Jackie Lacey and top prosecutor Alan Jackson getting the most favorable treatment while City Attorney Carmen Trutanich can’t catch a break despite getting 11 paragraphs at the top of the story.
There’s that problem he has about his promise to serve out his full term as City Attorney: “That was a mistake. Things change. I’m guilty of not having a crystal ball — not lying.”
Then, there’s the one about giving $100,000 to LA’s Best after school program and taking out a full-page ad in the Times if he ran for DA this year.
And, of course, the problem he had trying to call himself “Los Angeles chief prosecutor” as his ballot designation — something a judge toned down to “Los Angeles city prosecutor” when his rivals objected.
So why is he running for DA? Because his job as “city prosecutor” is too small time since it “does not give him enough power to keep the public safe,” Villacorte reports.
“Right now, I can’t change the way City Hall is operated, because they’re my clients,” Trutanich said.
“I can’t prosecute mortgage fraud and bank fraud and those who are wrongly foreclosing on homes; I can’t take down the banks that are creating securities and lending issues and breaking pension plans and losing millions of dollars; and I can’t go after child molesters, gang members and other predators, because all of those involve felonies.”
Reasonable readers might wonder what bankers, molesters and gangsters have to do with Trutanich’s desire to “change the way City Hall is operated” but what the hell it’s just the way politicians talk.
For her part, Lacey — who has gotten the endorsement of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and shared the endorsement of the Peace Officers Research Association of California with Jackson– gets strong praise from long-time DA Steve Cooley who is backing her and not Trutanich who he helped win the City Attorney’s race three years ago.
“Jackie Lacey is easily, easily, very well qualified to be DA based upon her experience in the office, her temperament, her acquired skills, her judgment, and her ability to collaborate with others in the criminal justice system,” Cooley said.
Clearly referring to the well-funded Trutanich, the only elected official in the race, Lacey suggested voters “do not want a politician in the DA’s office.”
“Can you imagine someone so political in charge of the Public Integrity Unit? That person would be susceptible to using that unit to go after their enemies.”
Alan Jackson noted his courtroom skills — successfully prosecuting tough cases like Phil Spector and the mastermind in the killing of racing legend Mickey Thompson – as one of his qualifications.
“The retirement of Steve Cooley would create a vacuum at the top of the office, and I think that vacuum should be filled by a tried-and-true veteran, seasoned prosecutor who understands what it means to perpetuate the mission of the office, which is ultimately to seek public safety for the community we serve.”
Deputy District Attorneys Bobby Grace, Danette Meyers, and John Breault get less coverage in the story that ends with Mark A.R. Kleiman, professor of public policy at UCLA, defining what makes a good District Attorney — qualifications that would seem to advantage Chief Deputy DA Lacey.
“This is the largest prosecutorial office in the country, so the most obvious qualification is managerial competence,” he said. “That’s the difficulty with prosecutorial offices – they tend to be run by lawyers rather than by managers or by people who are interested in crime policy. So you wind up with somebody who has very good skills in persuading a jury and assembling evidence, but is not necessarily a very careful thinker about how to reduce crime.”