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Villaraigosa rejects budget advisor's advice, wants City Council to salvage parking garage lease plan

February 14, 2011 |  1:54 pm

Looking to salvage one of his main strategies for addressing the city's financial crisis, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged the City Council on Monday to resurrect a plan for leasing nine public parking garages to a private company.

In a two-page letter to council members, Villaraigosa said he still believed that a parking deal could be reached before June 30, just in time to generate $53 million for city coffers for the current budget year. The prospects for a deal were thrown into disarray last week after no firms showed interest in submitting a bid.

By sending the letter, Villaraigosa brushed aside the advice of his top budget advisor, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who said that the city should look for other ways of closing this year’s $54-million shortfall. Santana warned last week that it would be financially irresponsible to count on the money in the current budget year, which is already in its eighth month.

Villaraigosa said he did not agree with Santana’s assertion that the parking deal could not be finalized before June 30. “I reject the CAO’s conclusion,” he wrote, referring to Santana’s advice, “and I urge you to do the same.”

Councilman Greig Smith said he considers another attempt at reaching a parking garage deal to be a “waste of time.” Nevertheless, he said the mayor and his colleagues were welcome to keep trying -- as long as they don’t assume that the proceeds from a deal will solve this year’s budget crisis.

“What happens on June 30 when the money is not in the bank? Do we raid the reserve fund until it’s zero?” he asked.

The City Council reworked the garage plan last month after hearing complaints from businesses in Hollywood, Westwood and elsewhere. Villaraigosa said those changes should be rescinded. He also said that unless the garage deal is completed, the city will need to impose more furlough days on its workforce.

The council's Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to review Santana's report on Monday afternoon. Shortly before that meeting, dozens of city workers held a Valentine’s Day rally on the South Lawn of City Hall to announce their opposition to additional cuts.

RELATED:

L.A. financial crisis deepens as bidders shun proposed parking garage deal

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

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