Tuesday, February 02, 2010

City Council still trying to find the budget solution; Zuma Dogg's video is on target.

[Updated on Feb. 3, 2010]
The Monday meeting was an 11-hour long session and there still were only a few decisions made. Packing the council chambers were Neighborhood Council members from all over the city, employees, appointees and patrons of the departments that were slated for reduction or elimination, including Disability, Human Relations and Cultural/Arts.

One particular objection to cuts came from CM Bill Rosendahl who said the Calligraphers on staff were not to be cut. And this cost has been reported to be around $500,000 per year, but I have not seen it form myself, but it's still a lot I am told . Of course the CM's won't cut this out since it is a FREE (to them) service to keep them in office. How? You give out the awards in the form of these handmade certificates to people and an organization for whatever reason you choose and you have just bought some votes in the next election. Get these going out to community members often enough and you have a good base of voters. THIS should be the first item to dump but it's a purely selfish decision of Council Members that is paid for by the taxpayer, so it will stay.

There's a report with some important comments and facts on the Monday Budget and Finance Committee meeting in the L.A. Times, "Some L.A. Council members resist spending cuts, layoffs - A majority of the council's Budget and Finance Committee has refused to sign off on the plan to cut 1,000 jobs, a key component in the plan to plug a $208-million shortfall." By David Zahniser and Maeve Reston, February 3, 2010, http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-la-budget3-2010feb03,0,7778047.story

Tuesday's full Council meeting was not quite so long, but there was a much livelier debate. CM Richard Alarcon jumped all over the CAO Miguel Santana about not getting more jobs for the federal stimulus money instead of cutting jobs- but Santana is the administrator, not the guy with the decision making power- apparent even now since the Council is DECIDING what to do with the RECOMMENDATIONS/REPORT of Mr. Santana.

Eric Garcetti, Council President, was quick to take up the theme, "We are a family." Well, maybe instead of a family, if it was treated as a business it wouldn't be so fouled up. Trying to look good to all sides is what the council people try to do. Appeasing the work force and the tax payers at the same time is tough to do and maybe not possible, but "votes" is the precious commodity they constantly strive to amass. That motivates them to spend more and more and say "No" to program funding less and less. The Mayor started the ball rolling down the path to disaster by approving all the DWP's inflated pay scale salaries and raises when he took office after defeating Jim Hahn in Antonio's second run for the Mayor's job.

The difference in pay for DWP jobs is about 20 to 40 percent above comparable positions in the city's other departments. The union, the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) more or less runs the show there at DWP, and they were just given raises in the past few months while other city employees were being furloughed. (See: L.A. Times, "L.A. council unanimously approves raises for DWP employees," December 11, 2009, -- David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall , http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/12/la-council-unanimously-approves-raise-for-dwp-employees.html

The city's Engineers and Architects took a hard hit for not getting on the bandwagon with the Mayor and were and will be punished for causing trouble, with furloughs applying to them in a very generous share.

The Coalition of Unions, another group that got a really good no-layoff deal for making some concessions is now digging in its heels against the city's plan to re-negotiate the terms and implement layoffs of their members. A strong letter that states the city is in breach of their agreement went out last week and it looks like the city is in for a big fight. The only significant change here is will come just about when it's bankruptcy time and all the deals and agreements are thrown out and everything is restructured under a bankruptcy court judge's supervision.

All a sad outlook for a lot of people, and especially the people of the city.

I saw Zuma Dogg's stickcam video that recapped Monday's budget hearing- "Zuma Dogg Recaps Budget Hearing (IT'S OVER!)" - 02/02/2010 - http://www.stickam.com/viewMedia.do?mId=187472900 and it's something to listen to even though I am in the game for supporting Neighborhood Councils and DONE (Dept. of Neighborhood Councils), especially since that's about volunteers, not a paid workforce as contrasted with other objectors to the funding cuts.

The video is 18 minutes and gets off to a quick start and keeps up the pace so that time moves quickly. Even just hearing a part of it will tell you that the city management is not looking up to the task that it has. It is pretty insightful as Zuma Dogg usually is, but if you have a sensitivity to profanity, you are forewarned. Nevertheless, it is loaded with very specific criticisms and comments as well as coming down to the seriousness of the case.

A point I want to bring out is that Zuma Dogg HAS been saying all this stuff for years that the Council has just come to realize. He told of these dangers to THEM, the CMs at council meetings for so many times over the years. Even the Mayor's April speech on "The State of the City" incorporated projections and actions (all later ignored by Tony himself).

The ZD video is very candid and vivid. You might not like it but even with that viewpoint, the whole city situation is addressed in the blunt, often tactless style used by ZD- but that is so refreshing and colorful while getting to so many points and mini-evaluatons of the actions in the city. Entertaining, but I think it's also got a lot of correct assessments all through it.

And now to Wednesday and another try for City Council to make cuts. By the way, the share of the budget the departments and such that are included in the recommendations is 30% and the part that fire and safety (Police and Fire Department) have is 70%, so, as was stated at the Monday hearings, "all is on the table," that is, all except for then nearly or above 200-person workforce Tony Villaraigosa hired as his staff that originally was in the 70's. And STILL it doesn't help get him on any thing close to the right course for being a real mayor and getting a job done. See Steve Lopez' column in this weekend's L.A. Times, ("A Fresh Start" at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lopez31-2010jan31,0,5864779.column ), the mayor, after all, is personally at a "good place" or whatever he says on personal self-assessment, to bypass any handling of the reality of the city problems with any tenacity.