The Table Has No Legs

PERSPECTIVE - Next to “kick the can down the road” the most overused expression in the mayoral forums is “going to the table.” 


I already expressed my frustration with the former; now it is time to take on the latter. 

Just as Wendy Greuel was the primary utterer of “kick the can,” she apparently has a penchant for tables, too. Perhaps she serves beverages in cans to her guests at the dinner table. That’s OK. It is what she serves to the public unions at the bargaining table that’s the problem. 

In a forum last week televised by KCET, Val Zavala of So Cal Connected asked Greuel about the support she is receiving from the DWP’s IBEW 18, the union that represents the most highly compensated employees in the city, Zavala acknowledged what critics were saying about Greuel: that she was “bought and paid for” by the union. 

Greuel denied the characterization. She attempted to defend herself by referring to how she has stood up to the DWP through her audits. However, none of her audits had anything to do with the IBEW and its manipulation of the City Council. The audits were directed at DWP management practices involving the use of P-cards and how the DWP Board attempted to hold back the transfer of the utility’s surplus to the city’s general fund. Neither issue had anything to do with the IBEW. 

What the record does show is that Greuel supported the last round of DWP wage increases that have contributed to our rising utility rates. She supported Measure B, which would have guaranteed the IBEW jobs to install solar panels throughout the city – that is, with no competitive bidding, at the highest labor rate around. The IBEW contributed $250,000 to her campaign for City Controller. It is highly likely the union will contribute much more to her mayoral campaign with the latest pledge. 

The IBEW knows what good table service is…and they tip handsomely. Greuel is serving them fine wine in crystal goblets, not Two-Buck Chuck in cans (soon to be $2.49 Chuck). 

Zavala challenged both Garcetti and Greuel about relying on a growing economy to end the city’s fiscal woes, a position they have put forward time and again. She asked what they would cut if economic growth did not occur. Neither one answered the question. Greuel reiterated her unsubstantiated claim of identifying $160 million in savings and Garcetti emphasized his tax relief designed to win back automobile dealers to the city. No mention of cuts. 

By contrast, Kevin James, Jan Perry and Emanuel Pleitez provided specific examples of the cuts they would make. All involved wage and benefit reform. That’s common sense given that 85% of the general fund is related to compensation. It is worth noting Garcetti acknowledged the 85% share, yet he dodged any mention of further reform beyond the negligible measures previously negotiated at the “table” (there it is again). 

The most telling question of the evening was when the candidates were asked if they would renegotiate a scheduled 5.5% raise for city employees scheduled for January 2014. All but Greuel voiced an unqualified yes – even Garcetti. Greuel’s answer was that she would go to the “table” and “talk to them about it.” Not quite the stuff of hard-nosed negotiations. But what do you expect of someone vying for an endorsement from the SEIU? 

KNBC TV sponsored a debate Tuesday night. The positions did not change and, in the case of Wendy Greuel, her words were almost a verbatim replay from Thursday’s forum. 

There were more references to the table. 

To paraphrase a famous quote from Abraham Lincoln: a table without legs cannot stand. 

Wendy Greuel and her colleagues in City Hall cut them off and sold them for scrap wood in a feeble attempt to balance the city’s budget. If she is elected, you can expect the table top to go next. It won’t be needed because even the semblance of labor negotiations will be a thing of the past.


(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as Treasurer for the Neighborhood Council Valley Village.  He blogs at Village to Village, contributes to CityWatch and can be reached at: –cw





Vol 11 Issue 10

Pub: Feb 1, 2013