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The Tax Dollars Shell Game: What to Save & Cut

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Photo by Tracy_O via Flickr

Today, Mayor Villaraigosa is set to release budget recommendations for the next fiscal year. He already said we are $406 million short this year and like last year, there will be much discussion and debate at the city council level of what to save and what to keep cut. Here are two lists, a top 5 of what to save and what to cut.

What to Cut and Slash

  • Political Salaries: There are five Public Works Commissioners who are paid around $150,000 a year. The problem is, they are politically appointed by the mayor, not hired or voted in by the public. Do we really need a department with five highly paid bosses? Salaries should be cut to what these positions earn, not what these positions are favors for.
  • Rec & Parks PIOs: If you don't use it, lose it. The Rec & Parks Department has two Public Information Officers who do what only one could guess what they do because doing outreach with the public apparently is not one of them. We're not saying to fire these two, but to get them trained in how to really do the job right. And for that, they need to spend a week with the fire department.
  • Promotional Crap: If you want to save the budget, add in cutting all those promotional squishy balls, pencils, rulers and other rat pack freebie giveaways. Unnecessary. Get a corporate sponsor to buy them for the city.
  • Regional City Halls: Is seven city halls not enough? The city has approved spending money on building a city hall within a mile east of Downtown's city hall. And that's not all, the Valley is slated to get a third city hall while South LA will get their first (which may be the only appropriately placed one).
  • Get Lean & Mean: There are some commissions that people think are a bit too fluffy for city government. Millions are spent on the likes of the Human Relations Forum, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the AIDS Coordinators Office. By no means do these offices should go away as they do important work, but like other departments in the city, support staff should be combined and have automated systems to support all these endeavors. What Should Be Saved and Increased

    • 3-1-1: One of the most important tools Los Angeles is has is their 24-hour operator manned information line where you can connect to anywhere in the city and report all sorts of problems. 3-1-1 is a three-phase plan, but has yet to get the funding to grow to its fullest potential.
    • LAFD PIO: Brian Humphrey and the three other Public Information Officers at the Los Angeles Fire Department have taken what little they have and made it stretch further than any other city department. The four of them have communicated over 3 million impressions of fire incidents in the last couple years, informing citizens, media and the Department of Homeland Security major incidents instantly. This is the example that needs to stay put and spread throughout the city.
    • Community Beautification Grants: These grants, awarded to citizen groups to improve their neighborhoods for projects like community gardens, murals, landscaping, etc, are sometimes the only hope a neighborhood has to improve and engage a better life.
    • CERT: Every year the Community Emergency Response Team is slated to be cut and every year it gets fought and stays. Why would you want to cut a program that has trained over 60,000 people to assist not only themselves, but the city in an event of an earthquake. Already, CERT members supplement the fire department's staff during red flag days and act as look out crews when power lines are downed.
    • Graffiti Removal/Bulky Item Pickup: This goes back to Chief Bratton's "Broken Windows" theory that if resist minor crimes such as graffiti and illegal dumping, then more severe crimes drop. Cutting this would be like cutting the LAPD.