City Hall Needs to Hear From You

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Three
months ago, the City of Los Angeles teetered on the edge of insolvency.
City leaders appeared unable to eliminate the $500 million budget
deficit and lead Los Angeles out of its budget morass. Since then,
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council made the tough
decisions that will prevent another near-term fiscal crisis.

However, City Council members have come under increasing pressure to
back down from making many of the tough cuts. Now it’s time for the
business community to speak up in support of their efforts and help
keep Los Angeles on the right financial track.

The recent budget deal demonstrated that Mayor Villaraigosa and the
majority of the City Council are serious about facing down our deficit.
With the help of Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and City
Controller Wendy Greuel, City officials cut $500 million in spending.
More than three-quarters of this amount represents long-term annual
savings.

The approved budget reduces the City’s workforce by 3,500 positions.
This was achieved through early retirement incentives, eliminating
positions that were vacant, and approximately 300 actual layoffs.
According to the CAO, the city’s workforce will soon be at the same
level as it was at the end of Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration –
nearly 20 years ago.

As every businessperson knows, layoffs are the most difficult decision
we have to make. But because the City’s workforce grew by 5,000
positions over the last decade and the majority of the City budget is
personnel costs, a reduction in personnel was essential to overcoming
the structural deficit of the City’s budget.

It should be noted that members of the City Council are still under
pressure to not lay off any employees and save the 5.75 percent pay
increase that any layoffs will trigger in the current City labor
agreement. While this trigger will add $26 million to this year’s
budget, the raises would go into effect eventually anyway because they
were already agreed to as part of a long-term labor contract approved
several years ago.

It is important to acknowledge the severity of these budget cuts. There
is no corner of the City that will be immune. The reality is that
libraries and recreational centers will be open fewer hours. Tree
trimming and pothole repairs will be delayed for months. Many programs
that benefit children and seniors will be impacted. These are
gut-wrenching decisions. However, as in our personal and business
budgets, the City of Los Angeles must reduce the services that it
cannot afford. 

For City businesses and residents, we cannot be passive observers at City Hall.  Now is the time for each of us to pick up the phone or write an e-mail to our Councilmember.

Tell them that you understand and support these tough decisions. They
need to hear from you. Otherwise, there will be little incentive to
make other tough decisions that will be necessary in the future. 

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