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Villaraigosa accused of unfairly slashing city attorney's budget [Updated]

A high-level aide to Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich lashed out Wednesday at Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa over his proposed budget, telling neighborhood activists that Trutanich’s office is being asked to absorb cuts that are larger than those sought at most other city agencies.

In an e-mail titled “Mayor Declares War on City Attorney,” Special Assistant City Atty. Jane Usher said Villaraigosa is attempting to slash the size of the city attorney’s office by an unfairly large amount -- 36% over a two-year period. Usher said Trutanich asked the mayor to allow him to do “more work” on such issues as the collection of unpaid debts and the reduction of workers’ compensation costs.

“To his face, the mayor agrees with Trutanich. In his budget proposal, the mayor shows his true colors,” Usher said in her e-mail. “So bring on those bogus lawsuits. Deal your drugs in our [neighborhoods]. Because this mayor lacks fiscal foresight. He has other agendas. He simply refuses to spend your money intelligently, to protect us.”

The words were especially strong considering that Usher campaigned for Villaraigosa’s election in 2005. She served as his planning commission president from 2005 to 2008.

Villaraigosa Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo said the mayor would issue a comment later today. [Updated, 7:07 p.m: Villaraigosa spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said late Wednesday afternoon that the mayor would have no comment.] But City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget advisor at City Hall, said other agencies are also being asked to make large sacrifices.

In the fiscal year that starts July 1, the mayor is seeking a nearly 25% cut in the Cultural Affairs Department, Santana said. The Human Services Department is being zeroed out, he added.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Comments () | Archives (4)

Well I applaud cutting the City Attorney's budget to the extent he insists on wasting funds on the useless war on drugs like marijuana.

Well, of course this is payback. His little buddy Jack Weiss got thrown out on his keester, and Tru actually has the guts to stand up to VivaLaMecha and his cronies on the City Council.

Go Tru!! And as for Usher...well, that's what you get for voting for him, sweetie. I sure didn't.

With due respect to Miguel Santana, comparing proposed cuts in the City Attorney's office to cuts in the departments of Cultural Affairs and Human Services is very much a case of apples and oranges. For one thing, the City Attorney's office has a much more critical role in the basic functions of city government than those departments. But even more significantly, the City Attorney's office is headed by an elected official who should have a more independent voice in the running of his department, including budgeting and other financial matters. A more apt comparison of proposed budget cuts would be to the City Controller's office, also headed by an elected official, not to departments directed by mayoral appointees.

Some of the City Attorney's activities have been controversial, and he has provoked the ire of some city officials, including members of the city council, as well as some powerful private interests. And the candidate he defeated in last year's election was strongly backed by the mayor. Thus, it is especially important that the public be assured that these proposed cuts are justified on financial and policy grounds, and not tainted in any way by political payback.

Finally, the city attorney caught considerable flak (as well as praise) for the recent jailing of a Hollywood property owner who allowed an illegal supergraphic sign on his building. Unfortunately, the publicity surrounding that event obscured the fact that his office has begun to aggressively pursue the "ill-gotten gains" sign companies and property owners have reaped from illegal billboards and supergraphic signs. This effort holds the promise of bringing millions into the city treasury, albeit not overnight, and certainly raises the question of whether crippling budget cuts might be very short-sighted.

Dennis Hathaway
Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight

All Tony V. would have to do is cough up 1/2 his clothing allowance and his "chasing tail money" and the City would be in the black. How much has the Mayor's budget been cut? By the same amount....or is that all dedicated to filling pot holes, planting trees and his vision of a Green L.A.....which is currently more like a Red Ink L.A.


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