Los Angeles City Council and Villaraigsoa Increased Workforce, Raises In Face Of Budget Crisis (*Updated)
The Los Angeles Times over the weekend looked at how the city of Los Angeles continued to add employees, dole out raises, and pad pensions even as today's budget crisis -- L.A. is headed for a nearly $700 million deficit in summer -- loomed. (And last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tried unsuccessfully to get you to pay for some of that in the form of a Department of Water and Power rate hike).
(*The Times piece makes similar points to those reported in the Weekly's late March piece by Gene Maddaus on nine things the city could have done to avoid the budget mess).
"It's a head-scratcher," Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation economist Jack Kyser told the Times. "If you know that tough times are coming, you should be ultra-cautious. You've had ongoing warnings about the magnitude of the downturn and they haven't been listening."
Indeed, the Times piece notes that warnings about the impending deficit started coming in 2007, but Villaraigosa and the City Council approved sweetheart raises for the 22,000 members of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions at a cost of $255 million over five years.
The fiasco that was the mayor's attempt to raise DWP rates by more than 28 percent for some -- a proposal that was rejected by the council -- pointed to the city's spending problems: When it faces serious consequences for its gluttonous ways, including adding 3,000 workers to the city payroll in the last decade, it looks to increase revenues instead of bringing spending only what it has to spend.
"Every time there's a discussion about reducing the workforce, like there is now," Councilman Bernard Parks told the Times, "we have elected officials looking for money to make it go away."