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Hundreds show up to speak against L.A. city worker layoffs

February 3, 2010 | 11:54 am

Citycouncil

Hundreds of advocates for police officers, firefighters, the arts, senior programs, AIDS services and other municipal programs turned out Wednesday morning to urge the Los Angeles City Council not to cut 1,000 jobs to balance the budget.

With city officials looking for ways to close a $208-million gap, Council President Eric Garcetti said that council members had received 89 requests to speak on the job-cut plan. That number was expected to rise as more people moved through the council chamber. You can watch the hearing here.

The proposal submitted to the council would scale back the workforce in 33 departments while shielding key positions, particularly police officers. But employees and activists said several other city agencies also play a critical role in protecting public safety.

Backers of the Human Services Department, which is slated for elimination, said the agency’s conflict- resolution mediators have helped reduce ethnic tensions since the 1965 Watts riots. Supporters of libraries said their books and computers keep students out of trouble after school.

“Don’t let our city experience a bankruptcy of spirit, a bankruptcy of culture,” said Roy Stone, president of the Librarians’ Guild within the American Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees Union Local 2626. “That is far worse than the financial bankruptcy you’re considering.”

Other labor leaders argued that officials should drop the layoff plan and go after uncollected debts, which they estimated at $600 million. “Maybe a hundred of those attorneys that are scheduled for layoffs could help,” said Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721.

Whether the proposal will be approved by the council is unclear. At least a third of its 15 members spoke out against the job reductions earlier this week. And Wednesday morning, members signaled support to advocates for various programs and agencies who were in the audience.

Backers of the Cultural Affairs Department, which is slated to lose at least 16 positions, showed up wearing stickers such as “Art Fuels L.A.” and “Art Feeds L.A.” Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents part of Hollywood, quickly grabbed one of those stickers and put it on his own lapel as the testimony began.

Adolfo Nodal, a onetime general manager of the department, urged the council to confer with the agency’s current manager and its volunteer board to find more surgical ways to reduce arts programs.

“They can work with you to make the right cuts,” he said. “But don’t destroy us.”

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Council members listen to City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana give layoff recommendations during a council meeting Wednesday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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