As our city careens down the road to insolvency because of the failure of our elected officials to address the ever–escalating labor costs, we must demand that the candidates for mayor provide us with detailed written answers to the following question:
What is your plan for balancing the budget; repairing our streets, our sidewalks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure; and funding our pension plans?
Unfortunately, none of the three City Hall insiders running for mayor have provided any plans on how to eliminate next year’s $216 million deficit caused by the $300 million increase in labor costs. Nor have they addressed how to reform the city’s two pension plans that will require the city to increase its contribution in 2017 by 50 percent, to $1.3 billion, representing 26 percent of the budget. Nor have the insiders developed a long–term plan to repair our streets, the second worst in the nation, and our sidewalks.
But City Hall excels at blowing smoke in our face, touting workforce and pension reform. They conveniently forget to tell us about the billions it will cost over the next 15 years to fund 5,000 fewer positions. Nor do they tell us that the employees’ increased pension contributions equal to four percent of compensation are more than offset by a 35 percent increase in salaries during the Villaraigosa reign.
Rather than make difficult decisions, Herb Wesson’s City Council has authorized a ballot measure to increase our sales tax to a staggering 9.5 percent, one of the highest in the nation, in order to fund increased wages and benefits. But this is just rewarding bad behavior, allowing the city to continue to “kick the can down the road” to insolvency.
It is time for insiders Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Jan Perry to join outsider Kevin James in supporting the Live Within Its Means charter amendment. This would require the city to develop and adhere to a Five–Year Financial Plan, pass two–year balanced budgets based on generally accepted accounting principles, and, over the next 10 to 15 years, fix our streets and the rest of our infrastructure and fully fund its pension plans.
Don’t be afraid to pop the question to the wannabe mayors. And don’t be bashful about asking follow up questions if you are not satisfied with the answer. After all, it is your city.
Jack Humphreville is on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, chair of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a budget advocate.