LA WATCHDOG - Why does any sane person want to be Mayor of our dysfunctional City with its structurally unbalanced budgets, its severely unfunded pension plans, its lunar cratered streets, and a fiscally irresponsible City Council whose members cannot see past the next campaign contribution from the self-serving bosses of the City’s politically powerful labor unions?
In 11 days, we go to the polls to elect our new mayor, either Councilman Eric Garcetti or City Controller Wendy Greuel. Unfortunately, based on their policies regarding our Department of Water and Power and the City’s budget and finances, neither of these two long time City Hall insiders is qualified to be our next mayor.
Garcetti is rightfully critical of Greuel’s abject failure as Controller to audit the $250 million IBEW Labor Premium and all the other very expensive concessions and work rules that campaign funding Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy has extracted from Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council. But that is not unsurprising since the IBEW was the largest contributor ($250,000) to Wendy’s 2009 campaign for Controller.
And now given the millions that Union Bo$$ d’Arcy has “invested” in The Pixie’s campaign, DWP Ratepayers may be inclined to vote with their wallets.
But The Prince is no saint as far as the Ratepayers are concerned. In 2008, as President of the City Council, Eric was a leader in placing Measure B on the ballot. Fortunately, voters rejected the Mayor’s Solar Initiative that would have cost Ratepayers billions because of the monopoly that would have been granted to the notoriously inefficient IBEW work crews.
As the leader of the City Council, Eric was also instrumental in approving significant increases in our water and power rates that targeted homeowners as well as a new labor contract that resulted in even higher wages for the already very well compensated employees. He is also encouraging an acceleration of DWP’s already very expensive solar energy programs.
To date, neither candidate has said that they would limit IBEW wage increases, require DWP workers to contribute to the cost of their very generous health care and pension plans, or oppose the IBEW’s exclusive role in building, running and maintaining the DWP’s renewable energy projects in Los Angeles and throughout California.
Nor has either candidate demanded a full review of the recommendations of PA Consulting involving labor savings and more efficient operations that have been whitewashed by the politically ambitious Jose Huizar and his Energy and Environment Committee.
As for the City’s finances, neither candidate has developed a long range financial plan to address the Structural Deficit, the $11.5 billion unfunded pension liability, or the more than $10 billion that is needed to repair our streets and sidewalks and the rest of our failing infrastructure.
Rather, they are unwilling to adopt specific long range plans or even comment on the misguided plan of Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino to raise our real estate taxes by up to 6% to pay for the $3 billion of bonds need to repair our failing streets, knowing full well that the streets are the responsibility of the General Fund.
To her credit, Wendy has published a plan for balancing the City’s budget where she has identified $179 million of savings and revenues. While some of her savings are questionable, there are significantly better than the Prince’s platitudes that lack any specific plans or savings.
Furthermore, as City Council President for six years, Eric continued the policy of “kicking the can down the road” and failed to engage in meaningful budget and work place reform. Even his efforts at pension reform, while infuriating the overly sensitive civilian unions, were modest, resulting in savings of only $15 million in the fifth year.
However, voters are once again questioning Wendy’s independence, wondering what she promised in return for the significant campaign contributions by the unions representing the cops, firefighters, and civilian workers.
On the other hand, she has won the support of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, not only because of her policies and private sector experience, but on account of Eric’s hostile attitude towards business as witnessed by his unwavering support of the Exclusive Trash Franchise plan.
Based on their past performances, their failure to confront the IBEW, and the lack of clearly defined financial plans, both The Prince and The Pixie receive failing grades.
Whoever wins the election is like the dog that catches the bus. What now?
While many at City Hall are giddy over the $325 million increase in General Fund revenues and the 15% returns that are anticipated this year for the City’s two pension plans, the City still has massive financial problems: a budget that is based on $100 million of yet to be agreed to concessions by labor, an $11.5 billion unfunded pension liability, and over $10 billion of deferred maintenance on our failing infrastructure.
If our new mayor fails to address the exceptionally difficult issues surrounding the budget and the City’s long term financial prospects, the odds of raising taxes and of a second term are both remote.
(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: [email protected]. Hear Jack every Tuesday morning at 6:20 on McIntyre in the Morning, KABC Radio 790.)
Vol 11 Issue 38
Pub: May 10, 2013