LA WATCHDOG--The Los Angeles Times 2019 Wish List for 2019 listed 25 changes they would like see, of which only one involved City Hall.
But our City is in a world of hurt as its finances are a mess: an annual budget that is already $50-$100 million in the red; $10 billion of deferred maintenance on our lunar cratered streets and broken sidewalks, our parks and their bathrooms, our urban forest, and the rest of the deteriorating infrastructure; unfunded pension liabilities approaching $20 billion (66% funded); and a Structural Deficit of $1 billion a year for at least the next four years.
At the same time, Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson have their heads firmly buried in the sand, blinded by the City’s record revenues and their own ambitions.
Here are 19 changes for ’19 to help the City reverse its downward financial slide.
- Prepare for a slowdown in the economy and a downturn in the stock market.
- Hire a City Manager or Chief Operating Officer to oversee the inefficient, poorly managed, and bloated operations of the City departments. Eliminate the politically appointed Board of Public Works.
- Establish an independent, fully funded Office of Transparency and Accountability to review and analyze the City’s budget and finances, to make constructive recommendations on financial and operational matters, and to inform the public and the media as to the state of the City’s budget and finances.
- Develop and adhere to a Five-Year Financial Plan that addresses departmental operations as well as the unfunded pension liability and the City’s neglected infrastructure.
- Pass three-year balanced budgets based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
- Eliminate the Structural Deficit where the increase in expenditures exceeds the growth in revenues.
- Establish a transparent and independent Pension Commission to review and analyze the City’s two underfunded pension plans. This commission will also make recommendations to curtail the rapid increase in required annual pension contributions and to eliminate the unfunded liability within 20-25 years. This would include lowering the investment rate assumption, allowing employees to opt into a defined contribution plan, accelerating contributions to the plans, and increasing employee contributions.
- In the interest of transparency, disclose the February 2016 memo on the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (“DROP”) prepared by the City Administrative Officer that shows that DROP was never cash neutral despite promises to the contrary.
- Increase the size of the Reserve Fund and the Budget Stabilization Fund to $620 million over the next five years. This is equal to 10% of General Fund revenues, an amount recommended by the Government Officers Finance Association. The current balance is $450 million.
- Say NO to the demands of the campaign funding leaders of the City’s public sector unions. Say NO to any new labor contracts that will increase the budget deficit or add to the Structural Deficit.
- Benchmark the efficiency of the City’s work force and its management.
- Develop a plan for “managed competition,” where City work crews are compared to those of independent contractors. This may result in the downsizing of the City’s bloated work force. According to former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, “It is not government’s obligation to provide services, but to see that they are provided.”
- Develop a plan to repair and maintain our 6,500 miles of streets and 900 miles of alleys.
- Disclose in real time the sources and uses of cash associated with the Mayor’s Fund and the discretionary funds of the Councilmembers.
- Disclose in detail the budgets of the Mayor’s office and Council offices, including the sources of funding for the 400 staffers.
- Develop modern management information systems. These will result in increased efficiency and productivity.
- Base promotions and pay increases on merit. Eliminate automatic step increases in salaries.
- Develop a more efficient and less costly method for developing Permanent Supportive Housing for the homeless, following up on the constructive November 9 memo from Miguel Santana, the former City Administrative Officer and the Chair of the Proposition HHH Citizens Oversight Committee.
- Implement the recommendations of Controller Ron Galperin regarding the inefficient hiring practices and policies of the Personnel Department.
Will Eric Garcetti continue to put his own personal ambitions ahead of the needs to the City?
Maybe that is why we agree with the modified recommendation of the Times that applies to City Hall:
“A mayor of Los Angeles who generates more headlines for his work on the [City’s budget, finances, and operations] than for his visits to states with early presidential primaries.”
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)