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L.A. city layoff proposal advances but fails to win committee support

February 2, 2010 |  7:35 am

A plan to close Los Angeles’ budget gap by eliminating at least 1,000 positions in Los Angeles city government is headed to the full City Council for consideration Wednesday, but it failed to win majority support from members of the council’s budget and finance committee. 

In addition to a $208-million shortfall this year, the city is facing a $484-million deficit in the 2010-11 fiscal year. The city’s top budget analyst, Miguel Santana, has warned council members that credit rating agencies are closely monitoring their actions and that the daily cost of delaying layoffs ($338,000) is equivalent to four more positions that will need to be eliminated to balance the city’s books.

But on Monday night, three council members said they were not ready to vote for cuts of that magnitude. Only the committee’s chairman, Councilman Bernard Parks, and Councilman Greig Smith supported advancing the layoff plan.

Councilman Jose Huizar said he believed layoffs were inevitable, but still needed to do “a little homework” to understand the proposals.

“I’m not there yet; I may be there on Wednesday,” he said.

At first, Councilman Bill Rosendahl voted in favor of the layoff plan, but moments later he switched his vote, stating that he needed further clarification about whether jobs could be preserved in several departments, including human services, disability and environmental affairs.

Throughout the evening, Councilman Paul Koretz said he was not comfortable with eliminating 1,000 positions “until we actually have our priorities straight.”

“When we’re still hiring in some areas of the city budget and we’re laying off in others -- we’re hiring police and laying off firefighters, I don’t think we have our act together,” Koretz said.

Santana clarified that while his proposal would do away with 64 firefighter positions, those firefighters would be moved out into other vacant jobs in the field.   

Frustrations flared during the 11-hour session that ended after midnight. Rosendahl and Koretz led efforts to block the elimination of the city’s human services, environmental affairs and disability departments. At one point, Rosendahl warned city budget analysts that doing away with the disability department was “pennywise and dollar foolish.” 

Several minutes later, when Rosendahl and Koretz again teamed up to oppose dissolving the environmental affairs department, Smith questioned whether his colleagues were ready to show leadership on the “tough choices.”

“I’m seeing an erosion of being willing to do the hard things that we have to do in the next few months,” Smith said. “We’ve talked about it a lot, and now we’re presented with those opportunities to do those hard things and people are saying, ‘I don’t want to do this; I don’t want to do that.’”

“It’s the reality, folks, that’s where we are right now,” Smith said. “If you want to start picking and choosing every single department that comes here and complains, then we’re going to come out of this right where we were expecting to be on July 1st: We’re going to be out of money, out of cash, and bankrupt.”

-- Maeve Reston

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