End City Hall’s “Pay to Play” Kleptocracy

LA WATCHDOG - There is a raging torrent of cash totaling $20 million flowing into the campaign coffers of the candidates for Mayor and the City Council, including independent expenditures of $2.5 million for Wendy Greuel, courtesy of IBEW Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy, the business manager of DWP’s domineering union, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing the City’s cops. 

But as far as City Council President Herb Wesson and the leadership of the City’s unions are concerned, the most significant issue on the ballot is Proposition A, the PERMANENT half cent increase in our already regressive sales tax to a whopping 9½%, one of the highest rates in the country. 

 

This $200 million, “feed the beast” tax increase is needed to fund a portion of the $750 million increase in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions over the next four years and to provide the leadership of the City’s unions with additional leverage to extract even higher salaries and benefits from our cash strapped City.  

These unreasonable financial demands by the campaign funding unions do not include the “absolute need” for even more restrictive work rules that will make it almost impossible for the City to engage in badly needed budget, pension, and work place reforms. 

As of Friday, the Yes on Proposition A campaign had raised $1.1 million, including $500,000 during the past five days.  

Overall, Herb Wesson, his partner in crime, Tim Leiweke (the Chief Executive Officer of AEG of Farmers Field fame), and their cronies anticipate that they will be able to extort another $900,000 from the unions (who have already contributed almost $300,000), city contractors, real estate developers, and other special interests that are dependent on valuable contracts or concessions from the City. 

To date, almost half of the “pay to play” contributions have been from real estate developers, including Alan Casden, a controversial Beverly Hills entrepreneur who has had previous brushes with the law over laundering campaign contributions.  

More to the point, Casden is in midst of trying to permit an oversized mixed use development on the Expo Line at the intersection of Pico and Sepulveda that is adamantly opposed by the surrounding community because of the increased traffic generated by this monster project will overwhelm their already clogged streets. 

The Yes on Proposition A campaign is so desperate for cash that it has even hopped into bed with the same billboard operators that are threatening to sue Los Angeles for over $100 million if the City does not permit over 100 intrusive digital billboards. 

The Yes on Proposition A campaign intends to use the $2 million in “pay to play” contributions to blitz voters with targeted mailers and a series of misleading radio and TV ads that are intended to scare voters into approving the PERMANENT half cent increase in our sales tax to job killing 9 ½%. 

However, despite claims to the contrary, the City is able to balance its budget without any layoffs of cops or firefighters and without service cuts. 

According the City Administrative Officer’s report of February 7, “City at the Crossroads,” the projected budget deficit of $216 million can be reduced to $100 million as pension contributions will be $45 million less than projected while revenues will be $70 to $80 million more than anticipated. 

The remaining budget deficit can be eliminated by entering into previously discussed Public Private Partnerships for the Zoo, the Convention Center, selected animal shelters, the golf courses, and the operation (not the sale) of the parking facilities, and, as suggested by several candidates for Mayor, by requiring modest contributions by the 70% of the City employees who contribute nothing for their very generous healthcare benefits. 

The City might also consider the more efficient operation of the Fire Department where the average position earns more than $200,000 a year in salary, overtime, and benefits.   

As voters consider how to vote on Proposition A, it might be worthwhile to remember Mayor Villaraigosa’s pledge that the tripling of our trash fee was to pay for 10,000 cops. 

So why do we have to pay again? 

 

Without doubt, the City will be back again asking for more and more of our hard earned money, whether it is to fund increases in union wages and benefits, unfunded pensions, or the repair of our lunar cratered streets. 

But now is the time to end this “pay to play” kleptocracy at City Hall and Vote NO on Proposition A. 

Rather, we must demand that the Mayor and the City Council engage in real budget, pension, and work place reform by placing on the ballot a charter amendment that requires the City to LIVE WITHIN ITS MEANS by developing and adhering to a Five Financial Plan, pass two year balanced budgets based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and over the next ten years, fix our lunar cratered streets, cracked sidewalks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure, and fully fund our pension plans.

 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee,  the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: lajack@gmail.com)
-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 17

Pub: Feb 26, 2013