They blinked at layoffs. They blinked at eliminating or slashing funding
for the disabled, for the elderly, for Neighborhood Councils, for
Environment Affairs, Arts, Culture, for just about everything that was
proposed to stave off bankruptcy.

They blinked and squinted in the face of the daunting task they face of
cutting spending, cutting staff, streamlining government.

Watching hour after hour on Wednesday of the City Council confront the
truth of what they have wrought was like suddenly being transported to a
strange planet where everything works backwards.

Are they crazy? Or is it us for allowing them to get away with creating
such a calamity?

The confusion, the ignorance, the vacillation, the nonsense — it was
amazing. Even more incredibly, their efforts over eight hours of budget
cutting actually increased the deficit from $208 to $212 million

They didn’t even know they have allowed nearly 60,000 households to pay
nothing for trash collection even as they tripled the fee for every
other single family home in the city with a broken promise to hire more

They didn’t know there’s no other community in California that gives
more than a 30 percent reduction to the poor. They didn’t know their 100
percent subsidy was putting the Sanitation Department $7 million in the
red even with the massive increase on everybody else.

They didn’t know because it was just one of a thousand irresponsible
acts that allowed them to turn City Hall into a political machine that
pandered to segments of the population and their concerns while they
gave away the city in sweetheart deals to unions, contractors,
developers and consultants.

They didn’t know and they didn’t care because they were big shots with
free cars and fancy suits and perks and staff serving their every need.

Well, those days are over and they are scared to death. What are they
going to do if they lose these cushy jobs, become lobbyists or maybe
parking attendants at the city lots they want to sell to cover a small
fraction of the deficit they created?

You couldn’t help but have a laugh when they asked bureaucrats to verify
the eligibility of the 60,000 subsidized trash fee beneficiaries or
found it was illegal to ask contractors to take a 10 percent cut in what
they’re paid in exchange for preferential treatment on future contracts.

They were near tears when they heard there are only 300 jobs open at the
Harbor, Airport and DWP to protect the 1,000 to 1,500 city workers who
might be laid off. But that didn’t stop them from putting off starting
the six-month process for layoffs for at least a month and possibly
forever, if the majority gets its way.

And it didn’t stop them from urging those proprietary departments to
cancel contracts so other city workers’ jobs can be saved even if it
costs more or adding to the massive unfunded pension liability by adding
500 more workers to the 2,763 already getting sweetened retirement checks.

As the hours dragged by and they got giddy from having to put in a full
day of work, it became clearer that there was a certainly rationality to
what they were doing.

Their political machine was leaking oil, the tires were flat, the body
rusted out. They knew that from the Council Chambers packed with
hundreds of volunteers and workers and people dependent on critical city

They were desperately trying to put the machine back together again to
save themselves by assuring all the constituencies they really weren’t
going to pay for the failure of the city’s leadership, that they plan
put forward on behalf of the mayor by City Administrative Officer Miguel
Santana would never touch them.

All they achieved was the waste of even more time, after months, years
of dilly-dallying while the financial problems got worse.

Santana told them with remarkable calmness that $200 million emergency
fund is needed to cover this year’s deficit and needs to be replenished
with the $100 million from selling parking structures and every other
dollar they can scrape together.

It was necessary, he said, and not just in case of there’s the usual
natural disasters. Credit agencies have already downgraded the city and
will do so again unless they see money in the bank and a long series of
credible actions or the cost of borrowing will rise sharply.

And that’s the real plan. The city intends to borrow billions to pay its
current bills. It’s ready to sell off future revenue sources to pay its
current bills. Its looted every dollar in special funds to pay its
current bills.

And tomorrow? There’s no tomorrow, they will all be termed out and
living high on their city pensions. It’s the rest of us that will have
to live with what the havoc they are creating.

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