Villaraigosa Calls for Cutting City Jobs, Retirement Benefits
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivers his State of the City' address. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
One-third of the jobs targeted by the mayor in his $7.2-billion budget are currently filled, including 159 civilian clerk and secretary positions at the Los Angeles Police Department. The rest of the layoffs would take place in other city agencies, including the Department of Animal Services and the city clerk's office.
City Councilman Eric Garcetti said he would oppose the push for more layoffs, saying civilian city employees have repeatedly made sacrifices to solve the multi-year budget crisis. "Creating a climate of fear among our employees is a dangerous path," he said.
Garcetti, who is running to succeed the termed-out Villaraigosa, said he is especially worried about reductions in the number of civilian clerks in the Police Department, which will see a major portion of the layoffs.
"I do not want to see our police officers behind desks. I want to see them on the streets. They need critical support to do their jobs and [LAPD clerical staff] are as critical to public safety as the officers in the cars," he said.
City Controller Wendy Greuel, another mayoral candidate, also spoke out against the budget, saying the city can and must do better than making more job cuts. "Layoffs as a first resort not only does a disservice to the city's workforce, but it also fails the residents of Los Angeles, because reductions in the workforce equate to reduction in services," she said.
The city faces a $238-million shortfall, with more expected in the next few years. As he called for reductions to the Police Department's civilian workforce, Villaraigosa also laid out a plan that could allow the department to bolster the ranks of its officers by absorbing the security force that patrols city buildings and parks. Under Villaraigosa's proposal, about 97 sworn police officers at the General Services Department, which has a security force to patrol city buildings, could become LAPD officers. The consolidation could push the number of police officers on the force past 10,000, a goal long sought by Villaraigosa and the City Council, depending on how it is executed.
Meanwhile, in a reversal from previous years, Villaraigosa called for the addition of six new ambulances at the Fire Department during peak call-load hours, as well as the hiring of new firefighters in 2013.
Since 2009, the mayor and the council have cut more than 15% from the Fire Department's budget, resulting in a hiring freeze and a reduction in fire trucks and ambulances from more than a fifth of the city's 106 stations. In a presentation to the Fire Commission in December, department officials acknowledged that emergency response times had increased in some parts of the city as a result of the cutbacks.
Scrutiny over the department's response times, as well as ongoing problems with its emergency dispatch system, also have plagued fire officials in recent months.
To address the dispatch problems, Villaraigosa's budget calls for the replacement of a key piece of equipment, which budget officials said would cost $12 million. He also called for the funding of a third-party analysis of the department's deployment.
Villaraigosa is hoping to help close the budget shortfall by tapping $29 million in new revenues from ambulance billing and $48 million coming from the elimination of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
His proposal also:
-- Expands library hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
-- Adds funding for 50,000 new pothole repairs.
-- Cuts the budget for the mayor and City Council by 8%.
The City Council is expected to take up the budget in the next few weeks.