Cross-posted at RonKayeLA.
With one foot in a cast and the other in the political grave, Antonio Villaraigosa hobbled into the lion’s den of San Fernando Valley unrest Monday night and offered a little song, a little dance and a lot of seltzer down everybody’s pants.
Mostly, he seemed preoccupied by the merciful end to his reign and his pain at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2013 – a fact he kept bringing up during an hour-long performance before a crowd of 200 Valleyites who attended the Daily News Town Hall with the mayor at Reseda High School, an event that is part of the newspaper’s celebration of its 100th anniversary year as the "Voice of the Valley."
Editorial Page Editor Mariel Garza did her best to push Antonio on the critical issues facing the city, its residents and businesses: City Hall’s overspending and under achieving.
What she got was the well-worn narrative that everyone in City Hall is using to conceal their failure:
We are victims of circumstances largely beyond our control, the economic meltdown. We are in the same boat as every other big city in America and done a better job than any of them in dealing with our budget problem. We have dealt with $1.5 billion deficits in the last three years and made enormous progress by eliminating 4,600 jobs out of the 14,000 civilians paid from the general fund. We have gotten concessions from city unions to increase their contributions from 7 to 11 percent for pensions and health care.
You have heard it all before, if you’re listening at all, to the City Council and the bureaucracy’s financial managers.
The narrative is partially true and largely lies.
When you give sweetheart contracts to city unions over two and three decades providing wages, pensions and health care with costs that exceed your revenue even in good times, you are not managing the public’s money prudently.
When only 400 of the jobs eliminated were done by layoffs and most of those part-timers and the rest are achieved by a sweetened early retirement package and transfer to the DWP payroll at higher salaries, you are not managing the public’s money prudently.
When you bludgeon the remaining civilian workers into paying something for health care for the first time by promising to cover all the future soaring costs of health care until the day they die, you are not managing the public’s money prudently.
When you boast about adding 800 officers to the LAPD like you promised when you tripled the trash fee and don’t mention you’ve taken that same number of cops off the streets because you can’t afford to pay them overtime or have them doing civilian desk jobs and civilian jailers jobs, you are not telling the truth about where all those millions went and about what was really achieved.
But who cares? You’ll be gone at the stroke of midnight June 30, 2013.
Dakota Smith, the Curbed LA blogger turned legit reporter for the Daily News, saw through the mayor’s presentation and ignored it, preferring to focus on the audience’s concerns.
Worries about a possible sewer tax. Concerns about budget cuts at a Porter Ranch fire house. Frustration at a lack of adequate mass transit.
The concerns aired at a Daily News-sponsored town hall with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Reseda on Monday night reflected the worries of residents living in a cash-strapped city. And to the 200 people who attended, Villaraigosa offered little solace, repeating over and over: The city is broke.
"There’s a finite pool of money here," Villaraigosa told the crowd. "Everyone has to shoulder the burden."