Southern California -- this just in

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

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa orders 1,000 job cuts to stem city budget crisis

February 4, 2010 |  4:57 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa moved Thursday to eliminate 1,000 city jobs and begin planning layoffs of city employees, one day after the City Council failed to muster the votes to do so to deal with an ongoing budget crisis.

“We’re living beyond our means, we have difficult choices to make, we must protect our economic future,” Villaraigosa said during a late afternoon news conference. “Unfortunately, instead of making progress, we are headed in the wrong direction. That ends today.”

“If you think I’m not going to move ahead, you don’t know me well,” Villaraigosa told reporters. “I don’t do this because I want to, I do this because I must.”
A day after the City Council delayed action on the job cuts for 30 days, Villaraigosa sent a letter to department heads stating he would first use powers provided within the City Charter to eliminate jobs, moving as many employees as possible to other vacant positions.

Villaraigosa's budget team believes that at least 360 workers can be cut by moving them into other posts not affected by the budget crisis. Those jobs would be in agencies such as Los Angeles World Airports and the Department of Water and Power, which are not part of the cash-strapped general fund, which pays for basic services.

Two city officials said the mayor’s layoff action would most immediately apply to members of the Engineers and Architects Assn., which represents roughly 6,500 city employees, as well as workers who are not represented by any union.

The city’s labor agreement bars Villaraigosa from laying off workers with the Coalition for L.A. City Unions, which represents another 22,000 civilian employees. That process cannot occur until July 1 at the earliest.

The city’s budget shortfall is $212 million this year and will be at least $484 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The actions are expected to save up to $50 million this fiscal year, said Villaraigosa Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo. Between that savings and the major's push to privatize city parking garages by the end of June -- which the Villaraigosa administration predicts would raise between $100 million and $200 million -- the vast majority of the city's budget shortfall could be covered, he said.

"The No. 1 priority here is protecting the reserve fund. It's unacceptable to have a reserve fund at or near zero at the end of this fiscal year," Szabo said.

Victor Gordo, a lawyer for the labor coalition, warned that the city would face financial consequences if it tries to lay off his organization’s members starting July 1. That’s because the coalition’s agreement requires the city to give long-delayed raises in the event of layoffs, he said.

“We believe that’s too costly to the city” to carry out, he said.

-- Maeve Reston, Phil Willon and David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall