(*Updated: Council President Eric Garcetti says item 17, better known as the furlough plan, will be continued to Friday’s council meeting.)
It has been been an emotional, passionate day in the John Ferraro Council Chamber in City Hall today, with hundreds of union workers, business owners and Angelenos speaking before the Los Angeles City Council, urging them to address the fiscal crisis without harming employees, residents or city services.
As of 2:30 p.m., council members remained in closed session, discussing how much money the city could receive if it agrees to turn over the operations of city-owned parking garages. When the city budget was approved last year, it assumed $53.2 million in cash thanks to the parking deal.
Six months into the fiscal year, there is no parking plan in place. Instead, Los Angeles’ books have a multimillion-dollar deficit that is likely to lead to more furloughs for city workers, who have already dealt with 26 unpaid days this fiscal year. An additional 10 furlough days could save $20 million, according to the city’s top budget official.
In discussing the difficult choices before them, council members all said how frustrated they were with almost every aspect of the process.
Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she favored the parking plan and did not want to go ahead with the furlough proposal.
“A furlough is another word for a pay cut,” she said. “When you look at your salaries colleagues, could you really manage two months of a pay cut? I think that’s really asking a lot of our employees, to take two months of a pay cut in this economy.”
Expanding on that, Councilman Greig Smith connected the cuts in wages to cuts in services. The Los Angeles Fire Department, which has been forced to shut down engine companies and reduce paramedic services, was identified by Smith as a department that has been jerked around by the council’s demands to save $10 million, and then another $10 million on top of that.
“(Union president) Pat McOsker and I agree totally – we have ruined our fire department. We cannot allow this city to do that. We cannot be part of that,” Smith said. “We’ve disrespected that chief; we’ve disrespected the men and women of that fire department. We’ve got to cut this stuff out.”
In saying that, Smith indicated he was ready to go ahead with layoffs.
Councilman Bernard Parks found himself in a similar boat.
“We can choose to kick it down the road and let it explode on somebody else’s foot or we’re going to end up with a situation where we’re going to have to make some serious decisions because we’re running out of time,” Parks said.
Council President Eric Garcetti laid out the four options before council:
- Go to market and see what companies will pay to sign 50-year leases on nine city-owned parking garages.
- Go to market and see what companies will pay to sign 50-year leases on city-owned garages with limitations on what can be done in Hollywood, Westwood and downtown.
- Walk away from the leasing plan but evaluate how to make more money from garages. This could include advertising in garages or increasing the hourly parking rates. The city would then borrow against these assets.
- Furloughs and layoffs.
The first option would generate the most amount of money for the city, Garcetti said.