Mayor unveils $6.9-billion budget
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled his $6.9-billion budget Wednesday during a brutal recession, yet in many ways the 2011-2012 spending plan continues or even expands key city services.
The proposal unveiled at the Central Library calls for elimination of a $457-million shortfall while expanding staffing at the Fire Department, increasing pothole repairs by 20% and adding more library hours, all while hiring enough police officers to maintain the current size of the Police Department.
"We're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, not just at our libraries but for the rest of the city as well," Villaraigosa said.
He said the increases were possible, in many cases, through staff redeployment and budget-cutting elsewhere.
Still, they were accompanied by a demand for civilian city workers to make financial concessions by contributing more of their salaries toward their healthcare when they retire.
In exchange for those concessions, the city would drop its plan to impose between 26 and 36 furloughs for non-public-safety employees, Villaraigosa said.
Mariscal, a union steward, said he no longer trusts the mayor on such matters as furloughs and layoffs.
"We gave concessions. We were promised the same thing in 2009, when they said we would have shared sacrifice and they didn't follow through on what they promised," said Mariscal, who has been calling on his co-workers to reject a proposed deal between Villaraigosa and the Coalition of L.A. City Unions.
A ratification vote on the coalition deal is underway.
Villaraigosa's budget includes a small cut to the city's system of neighborhood councils and a reduction in the amount of money for arts grants at the city's Cultural Affairs Department.
It also calls for an animal shelter in San Fernando Valley to be turned over to a private operator.
But it avoids some of the more drastic cuts suggested earlier this year by the city's top budget advisor, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.
In a 400-page report, Santana advised the the mayor and the City Council to consider various reductions, such as the elimination of the Board of Public Works, a five-member panel of Villaraigosa appointees whose members earn more than $100,000 annually.
Santana also pushed for an end to the Department on Disability and reductions of up to 25% for certain programs, including graffiti removal and senior centers.
Villaraigosa's spending plan heads to the City Council, which will begin holding hearings next month on the document.
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attends the 22nd annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Westin Bonaventure on April 10. Credit: David Livingston / AFP/Getty Images