While the primary election to replace termed out City Councilman Tom LaBonge is 14 months away, there is no shortage of candidates who have tossed their hats into the ring.
But before we even pay attention to their campaign propaganda, we need a better understanding of how each candidate proposes to address the city’s financial plight. Next year, despite record revenues, the city is projecting a deficit of $250 million because of the never-ending increases in salaries, benefits and pension contributions. The city must also contend with a four-year cumulative deficit of more than $700 million, an unfunded pension liability of $10 billion and a deferred maintenance liability north of $10 billion.
Each candidate must be prepared to answer three very simple, yes-or-no questions.
Will you take contributions from the unions that represent city employees?
In the past, most of the members of the City Council have had a blatant conflict of interest when considering compensation issues supported by the campaign-funding union leadership. This has resulted in exceptionally generous compensation packages for the police and firefighters, the city’s civilian workers and Department of Water and Power employees.
Do you support the Pension Reform Act of 2014, the proposed ballot measure sponsored by Chuck Reed, the Democratic mayor of San Jose?
If approved by the voters in November, the city will have the ability to amend future benefits of existing city employees through the collective bargaining process. It will not impact benefits earned to date.
Do you support a Live Within Its Means charter amendment?
This will require the city to develop a Five-Year Financial Plan, pass two-year balanced budgets, and over the next 10 to 15 years, fully fund the City’s two pension plans as well as repair and maintain our streets, sidewalks, parks and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure.
Needless to say, the aspiring politicians and the downtown political establishment and their cronies will not appreciate being put on the spot. They will tell us with a straight face that they are worthy stewards of our hard-earned cash. But a history of budget shenanigans and the buildup of massive unfunded liabilities tell us that we would be fools to trust City Hall. We must demand answers so that the next two generations of Angelenos are not burdened by our failure to rein in the financial excesses of City Hall.
Jack Humphreville is on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, chair of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a budget advocate.