Less than a week after 55% of the voters flushed City Council President Herb Wesson’s proposed permanent half cent increase in our sales tax to 9½%, a well-placed City Hall operative quipped, “Proposition A is just the beginning of the discussion on increasing taxes.” 

True to form, on April 3, only four weeks after the election, the City Council’s Public Works Committee held the first of six scheduled meetings throughout the City to discuss the sorry state of our streets.  It will also include discussions about how we will have the opportunity to pay $4.5 billion (including interest) over the next 29 years to finance the repair of the one third of our streets that are in either poor or failed condition. 

Under the City’s proposed scenario, this would require a 4% to 5% increase in our real estate taxes.

But what you will not hear are the details on how our streets (and the rest of infrastructure) were short changed because the City had to finance an increase of $1.4 billion in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions.

Nor will you hear that increases in labor costs over the next four years will exceed the growth in revenues by $300 million, resulting in the continued failure to adequately repair our roads.

Nor will you hear the about the recommendations of the City Administrative Officer and the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates that would result in revenue growth and operational savings of over $200 million a year.

Nor will you hear about the sale of the Convention Center and the public private partnership of the Zoo that would save the City $75 to $100 million a year.

Nor will you hear about other public private partnerships for the operation (not the sale) of the City’s parking facilities, our golf courses, or selected animal shelters or the maintenance of our parks and trees.

Nor will you hear anything about budget, pension, and work place reform.

That is why these proposed meetings are a waste of time.

While Harbor Council Member Joe Buscaino deserves credit for highlighting the need to repair one third of our lunar cratered streets, we do not need to listen to City officials drone on for 90 minutes about the obvious sorry state of our streets and the City’s near insolvency.

Nor is the two minute public comment worth the aggravation.

We need solutions, not political rhetoric and showmanship.

Before proceeding, our two wannabe Mayors, The Pixie and The Prince, need to present their detailed operational and financial plans about how they intend to fix our streets (and the rest of our infrastructure).

We also need to get a better understanding of the City’s 2013-14 Budget, starting with the Mayor’s Proposed Budget that is due on April 20 and ending with the Adopted Budget that must be approved by the Mayor and City Council by June 1.

A more effective approach would be to set up a committee of concerned and knowledgeable citizens to review and analyze the state of our streets and make recommendations on how to finance the repair our 6,500 miles of roads and 800 miles of alleys.  This committee must also address the future maintenance and repair of all our streets.  Unlike the Mickey Kantor’s City Hall centric LA 2020 Commission, this group would work with Buscaino and other City officials and would consist of a cross section of qualified Angelenos that do not owe their livelihood to Herb Wesson and City Hall.

Over the next several months, we will be bombarded by calls to raise taxes and fees in order to fund the escalation in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions, starting with the Mayor’s Proposed Budget and most likely including the recommendations of the not so independent LA 2020 Commission.

For the most part, all the proposed increases in taxes and fees will require the approval of the voters, and in some cases, two thirds of the voters.  But without real reforms, the odds of the voters of Los Angeles approving any increases in taxes or fees are remote.

The rejection of Proposition A by the voters of Los Angeles is just the beginning of the discussion about budget, pension, and work place reform.

Crossposted on City Watch