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Firefighters, parks advocates protest proposed Los Angeles budget cuts

May 13, 2011 | 12:30 pm

Photo: Los Angeles City Firefighter Brian Stehmeier and his 14-month-old son Mason joined about 100 other firefighters who marched to City Hall to attend the city council meeting to call on the members to stop a staffing proposal that would eliminate 18 fire companies and four ambulances. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times
Dozens of firefighters in matching white T-shirts packed City Hall on Friday to protest a budget proposal that would cut 18 fire companies and four ambulances from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The proposed cuts are part of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's $6.9-billion budget, which the City Council took up Friday. In all, hundreds were signing up to address the council.

The fire department cuts call for engines or ambulances at about one-fourth of the city's 106 fire stations to be put out of service permanently. A small number of stations would gain services.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Millage Peaks has said that the redeployment plan would save the city more than $53 million in the next fiscal year and put an end to unpopular service "brownouts" the department instituted after the budget reductions in 2009.

But firefighters, who have the support of at least three City Council members, lined up to criticize the mayor's budget.

"He's telling us to abandon communities in this city," said Pat McOsker, the president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City. "We're not abandoning those communities without a fight."

Parks supporters also complained about cuts to the Recreation and Parks Department. 

Judy West, who teaches a class on parenting at a community center, said the city has systematically de-funded the Recreation and Parks Department by charging it for other city services.  

Because a portion of the department's budget is guaranteed in the City Charter, the document that governs the city, neither the mayor nor the City Council has the authority to impose widespread reductions. Instead, they have begun charging the parks department for a growing array of city services, including water, trash pickup and electricity -- a move that has forced parks officials to pare back expenses elsewhere.

The budget will not be voted on until next week, at the earliest.  

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Photo: Los Angeles City Firefighter Brian Stehmeier and his 14-month-old son Mason joined about 100 other firefighters who marched to City Hall to attend the city council meeting to call on the members to stop a staffing proposal that would eliminate 18 fire companies and four ambulances. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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