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L.A. city layoff proposal advances but fails to win committee support

A plan to close Los Angeles’ budget gap by eliminating at least 1,000 positions in Los Angeles city government is headed to the full City Council for consideration Wednesday, but it failed to win majority support from members of the council’s budget and finance committee. 

In addition to a $208-million shortfall this year, the city is facing a $484-million deficit in the 2010-11 fiscal year. The city’s top budget analyst, Miguel Santana, has warned council members that credit rating agencies are closely monitoring their actions and that the daily cost of delaying layoffs ($338,000) is equivalent to four more positions that will need to be eliminated to balance the city’s books.

But on Monday night, three council members said they were not ready to vote for cuts of that magnitude. Only the committee’s chairman, Councilman Bernard Parks, and Councilman Greig Smith supported advancing the layoff plan.

Councilman Jose Huizar said he believed layoffs were inevitable, but still needed to do “a little homework” to understand the proposals.

“I’m not there yet; I may be there on Wednesday,” he said.

At first, Councilman Bill Rosendahl voted in favor of the layoff plan, but moments later he switched his vote, stating that he needed further clarification about whether jobs could be preserved in several departments, including human services, disability and environmental affairs.

Throughout the evening, Councilman Paul Koretz said he was not comfortable with eliminating 1,000 positions “until we actually have our priorities straight.”

“When we’re still hiring in some areas of the city budget and we’re laying off in others -- we’re hiring police and laying off firefighters, I don’t think we have our act together,” Koretz said.

Santana clarified that while his proposal would do away with 64 firefighter positions, those firefighters would be moved out into other vacant jobs in the field.   

Frustrations flared during the 11-hour session that ended after midnight. Rosendahl and Koretz led efforts to block the elimination of the city’s human services, environmental affairs and disability departments. At one point, Rosendahl warned city budget analysts that doing away with the disability department was “pennywise and dollar foolish.” 

Several minutes later, when Rosendahl and Koretz again teamed up to oppose dissolving the environmental affairs department, Smith questioned whether his colleagues were ready to show leadership on the “tough choices.”

“I’m seeing an erosion of being willing to do the hard things that we have to do in the next few months,” Smith said. “We’ve talked about it a lot, and now we’re presented with those opportunities to do those hard things and people are saying, ‘I don’t want to do this; I don’t want to do that.’”

“It’s the reality, folks, that’s where we are right now,” Smith said. “If you want to start picking and choosing every single department that comes here and complains, then we’re going to come out of this right where we were expecting to be on July 1st: We’re going to be out of money, out of cash, and bankrupt.”

-- Maeve Reston

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Comments () | Archives (17)

There won't be any layoffs period. They will probably raise garbage collection fees, parking fees etc. L.A. is no different than Sacramento. Let's use scare tactics on the public so we can con them out of more tax money. Go ahead, lay of police and fire, I dare you. Geeze, these people think we are stupid or something.

Cali Wake up... We are broke ...It is beyond me the fact that we keep illegal immigrants in Prison whom we spend on $ 1 billion a year. As a human speaking I would be better off as a free legal man in my country than illegal immigrant in the American Dream. Liberals I am one of you but wake up, get in touch with reality, we want to save the world yet we are burrying ourselves. Soon all our friends and families will be illegal immigrants in other countries... We are not untouchable, WAKE UP

As a 27-year City employee, I have always been dismayed at the level of "fat" within the ranks as well as the inability (or lack of effort on part of management) to quickly get rid of problem/lazy/low-performance employees. During my career, I've had to fire several people that fell under those categories before their 6-month deadline, but the amount of paperwork and levels of approval needed were grueling and took me away from core business -- reducing my effectiveness and overall ability to manage. I can see where managers simply ignore procedure and allow these problem employees to propagate.

There are MANY good, conscientious, hard-working employees within civil service but unfortunately, many get "beaten down" from the lack of accountability and oversight from upper management and the bureaucracy involved to do their own jobs efficiently. The real shame is that many of the good employees are new and/or young but are usually the first to be laid off during a budget crisis (due to the seniority system) while the "entrenched" stay -- along with their fat salaries and pensions -- and lousy attitudes.

I know the public enjoys bashing government employees, but if they knew or could see the those who take real pride in their jobs in serving the citizenry, they'd have a change of perception. Simply put, the system NEEDS to be changed in order to make it a "lean machine."

There is a very simple solution to the budget problems. We can go back in the books, maybe five or 10 years ago, before the budget was bloated and corrupt, and much smaller. The 1999 L.A. City budget worked fine, and it can work once again. By embracing a smaller old budget, we will solve the budgeting woes, and the City Council will no longer need to cut, but learn how to fit resources to solve a problem.

Indeed, this is a very different philosophical approach. Make it work, instead of scale it back.

It's the "children, the firefigthers, the policemen...."
Oh please. Just lay off the cubicle beaurocratic lazy butts who get paid way too much for doing way too little. We don't need you. YOU should try to find a job in the real, private, sector. See how successful YOU'LL be at that. You've had way too much job security as it is in comparison to all the other "little people" who are trying to grab on to any job that is still out there to grab.

They have already furloughed your 911 operators...did y'all know that? No...they kind of forgot to mention that one. If they have their way, every City Council member and the Mayor will keep ALL of their pet projects (can we ask Mr. Mayor just how much they spend on the Community Redevelopment Agency every year...and do we really see a benefit from that?), but they'll for sure reduce your access to emergency services if they can get away with it - 911 call answer time, longer time for police and fire response to emergencies. I understand that we don't make any money for the city, but we're the ones you depend on to be there when you need us...but it seems that access to the arts for the poor, contributions to every neighborhood council, etc, etc., is more important...

"As a 27-year City employee"

I would say a 27 year city employee is as useless as a bottle of ketchup in a Mexican restaurant. The bad thing about all this stuff is that a 27 year city employee would be among the last to get the ax. Charlton Heston would be screaming "you finally did it" in front of the broken down semi-buried Statue of Liberty, and this person would still get a paycheck twice a month . That is the real shame!!!

Look, you can blame anyone you want, but the truth is; the rank and file employees run the services we all depend on. I say get rid of anyone who makes more than $100,000 a year! That would include all those elected to office, but who diddly squat for the City, EXCEPT spend money we don't have. It would also do away with 50 out of the 51 deputy mayors we certainly don't need! That means no more trips on our dime, no more security on our dime, no more slush funds or perks! Just think of the savings!

Los Angeles is chock-full of extremely prosperous citizens. Why not raise taxes a bit to maintain L.A. at a world class level until the economy improves? Dirty streets, untrimmed trees, increased crime and slow response times by fire and emergency medical personnel can only make a bad situation worse.

I think it's time for a new City Council after we make these layoffs. We need some people that know what they are doing and this crew ain't it. But we need more layoffs. If anyone ever has looked at a crew of city workers fixing a street, 7 out of 10 are standing around. I think that's a good ratio to start at. Cut til there is only 30% left. If we miss them, we can hire more back.

Legalize Marijuana

You'll need less police, less guns and vests, less paperwork, less gang intervention, less jail, less guards, less court time, less city attorneys, less welfare workers, etc.

To "A_City_Employee":

We don't need 27-year public employees and I certainly don't want to pay your pention. You didn't do anything for me. Actually, you and your beaurocrats probably made it much harder for me to function in this city.

Why do I have to pay your retirement while I don't have anything after working in the private sector?

Infuriating.

Hmm. Idea: If the city does go bankrupt then all the union contracts will be null and void and the city can actually fire all the full time workers and hire part time workers to carry out its day-to-day business without having to pay them a pension or health benefits. Also, the mayor and city council members won't be bought off by the corrupt unions. I say let's wait!

In what way would eliminating rank and file positions assist the budget? Those are the people who actually bring money into the coffers of the City. It is the elected elite who keep spending like money is water! We have the highest paid council in the country, and the highest paid mayor! Their staffs get huge salaries, and all of them get expense accounts that would choke a horse! And would someone please explain to me why the city needs 51 Deputy Mayors, 24/7 security, 8 cars and taxpayer paid trips around the world for the electeds, reserved office space in Washington DC and other states, and several hundred reserved hotel rooms in Bishop, California? Take a good look at where the money is really going and you'll find that it isn't the rank and file employees that are to blame. And remember for all the money taxes reportedly pay into retirement account, the employees pay into them too. The City Council still insists on waiving fees for special events, meaning that the money to pay for extra personnel comes out of the exact fund they keep saying is exhausted. And that so-calle retirement incentive? The incentive part of that is also paid out of the general fund. . .remember that's the one Santana keeps saying has no money in it. Cut rank and file, and the Mayor and city council will just keep spending. I say start the cuts at the top, and cut very,very deep!

Wow, Horizon...while we're at it, why not replace the police with privatized security officers and the fire department with volunteers... oh, and all 911 calls can be answered by student workers, senior citizen volunteers, part time soccer moms, etc... let's put our lives and safety in the hands of minimally trained, minimum wage employees and volunteers. Not that there aren't some major reconstructions that need to take place in both departments (like moving officers out of administrative positions and back into the field, and moving underutilized civilian employees into these positions), but to suggest that ALL positions within the City be slashed is quite short-sighted.

The cops are spending all their time chasing around some stupid plant, so they have plenty of time apparently.

Also, they are spending tons of money on influencing the laws thru a zillion special-interest groups.

That's our money they are spending to fight us.

Start firing cops!

While some of these comments like A City Employee's are valid, there sure is a lot of ignorance being shown as well. Take a look at this article by the Mayor of San Diego in reagrd to public employee pension benefits, debunking some of the myths being pedaled here.
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/31/debunking-bankruptcy-myth/
The sooner you deal with reality, rather than voice uninformed ranting, the sooner you can solve the problem. The real solution lies with a combination of higher employee pension contributions, use of fewer consultants (who don't contribute to the system), different benefit packages for new employees, and furloughs.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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