Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Councilmembers Cardenas, Alarcon Dismiss NC Budget Recommendations

CityWatch, Apr 12, 2011
Vol 9 Issue 29

As the City of LA stares down an impending budget deficit of $500 million next year, Councilmembers Cardenas and Alarcon responded to the recommendations of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates by dismissing them as naively optimistic and dangerously misleading.

“All I want to do is thank you for your efforts,” said Cardenas who then launched into a defensive diatribe that took the Budget Advocates to task for proposing the collection of unpaid debts.

While arguing for the complexity of the budget process, Cardenas revealed his greatest concern, the fear that the public will might walk away thinking “These are such simple solutions and all it took was these people with their volunteer time to tear into the budget and they did it better than the people who are paid to do it!”

Alarcon jumped on the defensive wagon with a straw-man attack, pointing out the folly of assuming that the business of collections has the potential to yield maximum returns. “At the end of the day, it’s never what it appears to be” he cautioned as he did the math and explained “debts of $200 million might only result in collections of $100 million.”

The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates have spent the last six-months on a journey that included meeting regularly with the Mayor’s office along with department heads from throughout the city.

The NCBA recommendations were first given to Mayor Villaraigosa, then presented to the City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee which forwarded them to the City’s Administrative Officer for comments, and then to the full City Council.

Neighborhood Councils are not the only ones to confront the City of LA’s budget crisis with recommendations that are then presented to the Mayor and the City Council for consideration.

The Commission on Revenue Efficiency (CORE), chaired by Ron Galperin, was formed by the City Council a year ago and consists of seven members who are experienced in the fields of revenue collections and revenue enhancements. The CORE Blueprint for Reform of City Collections includes 65 specific recommendations for reform.

The Coalition of LA City Unions and the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City engaged in the process with 2010 recommendations entitled “A Strong Budget for LA" which offered a $432 million plan for balancing the budget.

It should go without saying that not all recommendations will yield maximum results but that hasn’t stopped some members of the City Council from focusing on obstacles rather than solutions.

Literally everybody, including those in the Mayor’s office, the City Council, the Budget Advocates and the City Family, have all experienced difficulty in getting hard data and current information on the city’s assets, revenue, debts, and hopes of balancing the budget.

While most agree that this is no way to run a great city, the “LA is just to big!” defense continues to serve as an impediment to a comprehensive data driven journey to a balanced budget that puts the city family to work delivering the city services that the people of LA expect and deserve.

The Mayor is scheduled to deliver his proposed 2011-2012 budget to the City Council on April 20th, a deadline that is set by City Charter. The City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee will then begin budget hearings on April 27th, a process that takes weeks.
The City Charter also provides that neighborhood councils exist "to promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs" and that "each neighborhood council may present to the Mayor and Council an annual list of priorities for the City budget."

BudgetLA convenes this Saturday, April 16, in Hollywood and features a “State of the Budget” program that includes Deputy Mayor Larry Frank, CORE President Ron Galperin, and Neighborhood Empowerment GM BongHwan Kim.

Julie Butcher and Paul Hatfield will offer two different perspectives on the City of LA’s labor, pensions, and healthcare obligations.

Jay Handel, Dr. Dan Wiseman and Heinrich Keifer will present the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates recommendations.

BudgetLA is "a grassroots campaign fighting to develop a sustainable budget for the City of Los Angeles" and is open to the public.

April 16, 2011
10 am to 1 pm
First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood
1760 N. Gower Street
Hollywood, CA 90028

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net. )

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