Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Tempers heat up over council's move to freeze Villaraigosa's LAPD hiring

May 14, 2009 | 11:16 am

Things are about to get nasty in the City Hall budget debate, and the man at the center of that fight is Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

Last night, Rosendahl  provided the tie-breaking vote on the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, which split 3-2 to halt Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s LAPD hiring plan as a way to avoid layoffs. Although he is a longtime Villaraigosa ally, Rosendahl bucked the mayor by agreeing to halt the effort to continue expanding the department by 1,000 officers.

Rosendahl, who represents the city’s coastal neighborhoods, described last night’s vote as the toughest of his four-year political career.  But he said he felt a need to end the “smoke and mirrors” in the budget.

“What put me over the top was, where are we going to get the money to run the city?”  Rosendahl said this morning. “I don’t want to lay off 1,200 workers, and I don’t want to furlough people 40 days. We need basic city services, and we don’t need to fire all these people.”

Rosendahl took his vote after the council’s policy analysts said that every new hire, at the LAPD or elsewhere, would cause the city to pursue a layoff elsewhere. Rosendahl was joined in his vote by Council members Bernard C. Parks and Greig Smith. Two Villaraigosa allies – council members Wendy Greuel and Jose Huizar – voted against the LAPD cut.

The mayor has have scheduled an 11:30 a.m. news conference to respond. But even before Wednesday’s vote, Villaraigosa’s office accused council members of putting “slush funds” ahead of safety.

Villaraigosa has argued that money could be found by privatizing the city’s parking garages and parking meters. Council members have resisted efforts to privatize those assets, whose revenue stays in each council member’s district, and doubt that such complicated agreements could be finalized in time to generate money for this year’s budget.

Rosendahl called the parking plan a quick fix, saying it is the equivalent of selling off assets to pay for new employees. Although Villaraigosa’s budget team said the city could get $80 million from privatizing its parking assets, Rosendahl said the Department of Transportation has no idea what those assets are worth. “There’s no $80 million out there, period,” he said.

--David Zahniser and Phil Willon